Finding the Courage

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.  (Zech 4:6   NIV)

The picture behind the shattered glass shows a slim woman, my mother, wearing capri pants and a cardigan sweater. One arm, bent at the elbow, is slightly raised so that her wrist is about level with her shoulder. In that hand she holds a cigarette. With her other hand, she grasps the palm of a little girl maybe four or five years old, wearing jeans and a striped t-shirt. Because the little girl’s head is turned, you can see her wavy hair pulled back into a ponytail. My sister. She’s looking to her left, at another little girl, shorter, younger, three or maybe four years old, with short, kinky curls framing her chubby face. Me.

Earlier this morning, a travel commentator on TV mentioned the Grand Canyon. Dad wanted to remind Mom of our long-ago vacation there so he pulled the framed black-and-white photo out of a drawer. Mom studied the picture, said she didn’t know those people, and threw it into the kitchen where it hit the refrigerator before crashing to the floor. The photo itself survived, but one side of the wood frame snapped off and, of course, the glass broke.

Now, without a word, Dad picks up the frame. He taps it against the table; broken glass rains down onto the tablecloth. While he removes the photo, I dispose of the glass and when he goes out the back door, I follow.

In the garage, Dad retrieves the wood glue from a shelf. Then he opens a drawer, chooses a clamp from among the neatly arranged contents, and slams the drawer shut.

It takes all my courage, and then some, to stand between him and the door, blocking his exit. I’ve prayed for this opportunity, and I recognize the Lord’s power in the words I finally say.

“What if Mom didn’t have to be so angry all the time?”

Dad’s cloudy blue eyes meet mine for a second, two, shocked, I imagine, that I’m confronting him. I stand my ground, and he looks away, down to the floor. It’s littered with sand and grass clippings, a stray screw, a paintbrush in the corner by the worktable.

In his silence, I push my case. “Look at this floor, Daddy. I’ve never seen your garage this dirty. Never in my whole life.” He still won’t look at me. “And what’s with your tools? The rake’s just leaning against the wall and look—you never leave the hoe off its hook. Especially not with the sharp edge facing out.”

 Finally he speaks. “I know.” In his voice I hear the defeat I see in his stooped shoulders. “This garage is a mess. I’ll get out here and give it a good cleaning one of these days.” He moves to go around me but I’m not finished. I wish I were, but I know I’m not.

“When, Daddy? When will you feel comfortable spending three or four hours out here? You can’t leave Mom alone that long. She might decide she’s tired of your seed catalogues and put them in the toilet. She and Charley-Dog might head out the front door for a walk. Or she’ll make her point about medicine by throwing all her pills down the drain.”

 At last Dad raises his head. “She’s mad because she’s depressed. It’s not Alzheimer’s. She’s depressed.” He challenges me. “What’s a doctor going to do about a bad mood?”

“Maybe nothing,” I have to admit. “But maybe something! We won’t know ‘til we try.”

I’m as perplexed as Dad, so the terms of my persuasion must consist mostly of hope. Hope that Mom will cooperate with the doctor. Hope that medication can improve her life, their life together. “Yes, the doctor might say it’s Alzheimer’s,” I continue, “but even so, what if things could be better? What if there’s a way to help Mom and we don’t try?”

With his chin back down on his chest, Dad sighs. I feel myself weakening. I want to rescue him from his fear, tell him he’s right, Mom’s just tired, she’ll feel better in a few days, a few weeks maybe. But it’s not true. So I press my lips together and wait.

At last Dad looks up. “I guess we could give it a try.”

Hope. Is that hope I see in his eyes?

“Yes, Daddy, we can try! We can take her to the doctor, talk to him, let him check things out. Maybe there’s a medication that will help her lighten up. Maybe he can refer us to a specialist. Maybe with some medical help, Mom can be happier. Maybe both of you can have some peace. Maybe you can have your lives back.”

As we leave the garage, all the maybe’s echo in my head. I wonder—do I believe those things myself? 

I pray. I pray to believe. I pray for faith in God’s love. For strength to rest in His care and His power and His mercy. I pray for any kind of hope I can hold on to, and pass along to Dad.

Thank You, Lord, for convincing me to face reality. Thank You for showing me that truth is the right—the only—path to help.

Truth says Dad may indeed have to face his life without Mom in the house with him. Truth means I must finally grow up, be an adult with my parents, even if that means I may say or do things they don’t like.

But Truth also lives  in Your promise You will never leave us. In the hectic hours of day and the lonely hours of night, You will bring us Your mercy and comfort. That is Truth.

When You assure me of your love for Mom, for Dad, for me, I believe.



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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.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Courage

  1. Kathleen, what a poignant but needful post. Sooner is better than later to seek help when we face issues we have no answers for. I pray this message will be heard and responded to by those reading this blog.


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