Facing Forward

“The truth will set you free.”   (John 8:31 NIV)

We do not have to surrender to the fear-breathing monster that lives in Mom’s mind. With the Lord’s help, we can fight it. But before we fight it, we have to face it.

I come to my parents’ house almost every day now. And almost every day, I see the quality of their lives slip a little farther downhill. I feel myself sliding too, toward confusion and panic and smothering sadness.

Their days have changed dramatically.  Mom, formerly a perfectionist in the area of housekeeping, sits for hours at the kitchen table or on the loveseat in the den, smoking cigarettes, staring at the television.  Dad used to spend the daylight hours working, outside if possible, on the lawn or the house or his vegetable garden. Now he sits in the house watching Mom watch TV.

Even more distressing than their lack of activity is the drastic alteration in Mom’s appearance. She used to manicure her fingernails weekly; now they’re long, jagged, dirty.  She wears the same clothes for days at a time.  Her blouse is usually stained with food.  And worse, much worse, is the way her clothes smell. Is she no longer aware of needing to go to the bathroom? Or is she just choosing not to go?

This morning while I pour my coffee, I’m shocked to hear Dad comment, with a distinct edge in his voice, that Mom takes a bath only when he insists, and sometimes not then.

“And when was the last time you washed your hair?” he asks her.

Marveling at Dad’s lack of tact, but happy he’s finally speaking up, I take my place at the table, between them as usual.

Mom doesn’t answer. Instead she reaches slowly toward the ashtray and picks up her cigarette.  With her elbow planted on the table, she holds the unfiltered stub between index finger and thumb.

Then WHAP!  Her other hand slams palm down on the table.  Coffee sloshes out of my cup. The fire falls from the cigarette and lands on the tablecloth.  Instinctively Dad reaches over and puts it out with his hand.

“Stop talking about my hair!” Mom shouts.  “My hair is fine!”

As I mop up my spilled coffee, my almost bald father glares across the table at Mom, who is glaring back at him from beneath her oily gray-brown hair.  

Today is the first time I’ve seen Mom as loud and aggressive as she was a couple of weeks ago in Colorado. But maybe she acts that way more often than I realize. I wonder yet again what happens when I’m not here.

I’ve asked Dad, but only in the most general terms: “How are things, Daddy?” His answer is always the same. “Fine. We’re doing fine.”

Now he rubs his palm, sighs, and turns back to the TV.

This isn’t “facing it.”

Something has to change.

Lord, please help me face the truth. Things aren’t ok. Mom and Dad aren’t fine. And I’m afraid—of what these changes might mean, what a doctor might say, what we might have to do to take care of Mom, what might happen next if we just keep pretending. So many might’s. But here is more truth: You are powerful—beyond all uncertainty, beyond all my fear. Beyond human knowledge and human strength. Thank You for shining your mighty light on the truth, Father. Help me believe that it will set us free. 

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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 alzheimershopeandhelp.wordpress.com. 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.

5 thoughts on “Facing Forward

  1. Your writing is amazing! You bring this reader into the room with you, sitting at the table with tears in her eyes…for you, for your dad and for your mom. Thank you for courageously sharing this part of your life with us!

  2. It’s beautifully written and heartbreaking. I feel bad that I had no idea how bad it was when you were going through it. My heart breaks for you. Thank you for sharing your pain so others can learn and heal.

  3. The truth of this dread disease is indeed heartbreaking. For all. Even after these few years I know it rakes the scab off the pain. Keep speaking the truth, Kathleen. That’s why God allows us to go through difficult times. So that we can encourage and tell them to keep on keeping on. With God’s help, they can persevere.

    DiAne Gates

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