Ups and Downs

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.        (Neh. 8:10)

It’s over. I think we’re ok again.

Yesterday’s angry stranger, the one who looked just like Mom, is nowhere to be seen. This morning, the real Mom came out of the bedroom smiling, saying she was ready for breakfast.

So here we are, Mom and Dad and Mark and I, at one of Mark’s favorite diners. The smell of bacon and pancakes and the weight of the thick white coffee mugs are comforting to me. 

Again Mom doesn’t order; she just looks at Dad. Still, she’s smiling! The waitress pours another round of coffee. Mom eats her eggs slowly. She has a little trouble with the slice of tomato, so I cut it for her. 

I was certain we’d be headed back to Texas this morning. Instead, we set out on a drive through the Poudre River canyon. As we make our way up the winding road, some instinct tells me to keep Mom awake and alert. Beside her in the back seat, I maintain a continuous chatter, pointing to the fading blooms of miner’s candles beside the road and marveling at the pine and fir and juniper, their trunks twisted and gnarled among the boulders beside the river. 

We stop occasionally and walk a bit, Dad and Mark tramping ahead with boundless vigor. I hang back with Mom, walking slowly, resting often. Much of our talk consists of one of us saying, “Oh look!  Isn’t that beautiful?” to which the other replies, “Oh, yes!  It’s lovely!” That seems to be the full extent of Mom’s conversational ability, but she seems genuinely happy and I relax in her pleasure.

The only difficult incident of the day occurs when Mom and I make a visit to the bathroom on one of our stops. From the stall next to her, I can tell she’s using copious amounts of toilet paper. I ask if she needs help. 

I’m amazed to hear relief in her voice as she answers, “Oh, yes, do you mind?”

Disguising my dismay so as not to embarrass her, I help Mom clean herself. But I needn’t have worried. Showing not a hint of embarrassment, she’s like a child who knows she can rely on me to make things right.

I spend the rest of the afternoon smiling on the outside, cringing on the inside. In spite of my morning delight, we are most certainly not “ok.” I’m torn between the absurdity of pretending nothing is wrong and the despair of acknowledging the problems I’m seeing—little ones like not being able to cut tomatoes, and big ones like incontinence.

By evening, though, I’ve reminded myself that I can fight the unknown enemy. We can identify the source of Mom’s confusion and then consider our options to eliminate or at least diminish it.  

Now is the time to enjoy the last few hours of this fine day. Let tomorrow bring what it may. The Lord will be with us.

I’m never alone, Father. I’ve reminded myself of that so often these last two days. No matter where we find ourselves— mountains or plains, river or desert, in sunshine or rain—You are already there, waiting to answer the prayers we lift to You. Remind me, please, that I always have joy, because I always have You. You make me strong. Thank You, Lord.

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About atimeformiracles

I'm a writer. And a speaker. And an advocate for victims of Alzheimer's. I write about a lot of things, but right now Alzheimer's has taken center stage. You'll see some of my work on my blog If you're a caregiver, this blog is for you, from someone who has been in your shoes. I offer help in the form of tips and strategies gained through my personal experience. I offer encouragement in the form of witness: You are never alone. The God of all hope is always with you, and where He is, miracles abound. I speak to groups on the same subject, sharing helps and challenging caregivers to expect joy on the path through Alzheimer's. It's a rough road, but it leads through terrain of intense beauty. I can point out some of the miraculous sights along the way. In the U.S., a new diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made every 69 seconds. Please join me in praying for those suffering from the disease and for those who care for them.

6 thoughts on “Ups and Downs

  1. Great post, Kathleen. I’m trusting that God will bring a slew of folks to your blog site. Your insights will give help, understanding and encouragement to those following you down this rough road.

    DiAne Gates

  2. I think aging parents (most of them anyway) understand when they need help and welcome it from their children. I’m glad you had a nice day with your mama 🙂 Jane

  3. Aging parents and adult children- a fascinating mix and change of responsibilities and viewpoints. Kindness seems to be the basic element of success. Kindly remembering the fearful changes the parent is enduring is the test. When that test comes up negative- we’ll have another opportunity to right the wrong and practice kindness. And another. Hopefully, we’ll get it right!

    • Yes, Joyce, the shift in roles challenges everyone. And a loved one with Alzheimer’s cannot choose his or her response. That leaves the choice up to us, the caregivers. As you say so simply and clearly, kindness seems to be the best choice. Bless you!

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