“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jer 33-3 NIV)
Time passes and the signs accumulate, pointing more and more directly toward Alzheimer’s. Although some are ambiguous—anger, for example—others are more obvious, like the questions and confusion.
This morning brings a new one. Mom can’t put on her shoes
First, she couldn’t find them.
“Shoes, Baby!” Dad’s voice was loud enough to rattle the teacups as he rose from the table to get the shopping list off the refrigerator door.
Mom lifted her napkin and peeked at the table beneath it, then said, “They’re not here.” So I brought them from the closet and set them on the floor by her feet. With a smile on her lips but not in her eyes, “Thank you, child,” she said.
Now she sits, still barefoot, bent at the waist, knees apart, with her hands dangling over the shoes. “I don’t know,” she says. “Are these shoes? Are these for me?” She sits back and, one at a time, lifts each foot about half an inch off the floor.
Confusion takes on a whole new meaning. I turn toward Dad, lift my eyebrows, frown. “How long has this been going on?”
He’s walking out of the room and gives no response beyond a slight pause and a shrug of his shoulders beneath his blue plaid shirt.
Shoes, Mama. You taught me how to put them on. I bend down and, with strength that could come only from the Lord, I manage to laugh while I put the shoes on her feet. But I have to turn away and wipe my eyes before I stand up again.
The familiar question runs through my mind again. How long has Dad been hiding this? We live in the same town and visit regularly. My husband and I come here; Mom and Dad come to our house. Yes, even before our fatefull trip to Colorado, a few things had caught my attention, but I just chalked them up to Mom getting older.
What I see in this moment is more than Mom aging. Much more than the fatigue and depression Dad says she feels. How long has Dad been hiding Mom’s condition? Or hiding from it?
And why didn’t I see the big picture? Most of the changes I noticed were small, like Dad always answering the phone, Dad finishing Mom’s sentences, Dad’s handwriting on the shopping list instead of Mom’s.
But some changes were bigger. Mom used to cook every night. But for months now, the freezer has been stocked with frozen dinners. Dad brags he and Mom have a new variety every night.
Even the abbreviated vacation to Yellowstone, two years ago. Dad said they wanted to take their time, enjoy the Park and every sight along the way, so my husband and I were set to keep an eye on their house for three weeks or so. But the trip lasted just five days: two spent driving there, three coming back to Texas. Dad wouldn’t talk about it. All he said was, “Your mother changed her mind.”
I should have realized something was wrong, should have cornered Dad and made him talk to me. If I had, would Mom be able to put on her shoes today?
I’m careening toward shame when the chorus of guilt is suddenly silenced. Instead of “should have, should have,” I hear the Lord’s words: “Before [you] call I will answer; while [you] are still speaking I will hear (Is. 65:24).” His hope. His comfort. His promise to be here. With us.
Squaring my shoulders, I step back into now. “Ready to go get some groceries, Mama?”
“Ready,” she says. Holding on to the table for balance, she lifts one foot high and points it at me. “See? I have these on!”
Her smile is triumphant. In Him, mine is, too.
Thank You, Father, for reminding me it’s not good to look backwards. Standing firmly in the present, facing forward—that’s where I need to be. That’s where I can help. And that’s where You always meet me, offering Your wisdom, Your power, Your comfort, Your strength. Here and now. Always. Thank You, Lord.