Seeing miracles makes us long to see more. Watching for them gives us hope. A sudden “yes,” a change of mood, an easy meal—no matter when they occur, miracles make caregivers stronger.
“It’s OK.” It seems we say it to our loved ones maybe a hundred times a day. Do they believe us?
“It’s OK, I’ll help you.”
“It’s OK, I’ll clean it up.”
“It’s OK, let’s try again.”
“It’s OK. It’s OK.” Do they ever believe us?
Sometimes Mom did. How do I know? She told me so. If we watch those we care for closely, they’ll tell us lots of things. Not the way they used to, but in the ways they still can.
Evening was a difficult time for Mom. Each night brought a question that wouldn’t let her rest, and our answers didn’t always satisfy her.
“Where is our car? Is it safe?”
“It’s OK, Mom. It’s in the garage. Very safe.”
“It’s outside? The car. Where is the car?”
On and on.
I could give different answers or try to change the subject, but usually Mom remained unconvinced. Eventually I found more success by showing instead of telling. “I’ll go check on it right away.” I’d go outside, open the garage door, close it, come back inside, and say, “The car’s fine. Thank you for reminding me, Mom.” That might be the end of it. Or we might begin again almost immediately.
Each evening, I worked toward only one goal: to convince Mom that everything was OK. Pat her hand, hold her long, nicotine-stained fingers in my short, square ones, and assure her, “It’s OK, Mom. We have it all taken care of.”
Eventually, bed time would come. Sometimes welcome, often not.
“I’m not tired.”
“That’s OK, Mom. Let’s just get ready. Then when you are tired, you can just go crawl under the covers.”
“I’m ready right now. And I’m not tired.”
So, time for the ultimate strategy. The irresistible force which could almost always move my well-nigh immovable mother. I called it “Keeping a Secret from Dad.” I’d stand up, turn to my father, and—whether he was awake or not—say with dramatic volume, “We’ll be back, Dad. You stay right here. We don’t need you to come with us.”
Then, turning back to Mom, I’d wink several times, extend my arm to her, and say, “Mom, I need to show you something back here in the other room.”
Two women headed for the bathroom to share secrets. It was indeed OK. Once we closed the door, my whispers and giggling kept Mom’s attention on me and off our lengthy clean-up procedure. By the time we left the bathroom, Mom was truly tired.
As we walked arm-in-arm to her side of the bed, we passed the large black and white portrait of my sister and me, made four decades ago at a time when my parents could scarcely afford it. We passed Dad’s closet, perfectly arranged, the shoe-shine basket front and center on the top shelf. We passed the chair that held the turquoise and white package of disposable underwear, ladies size medium.
As soon as we rounded the end of the bed, Mom would reach for the wooden rail Dad attached to the wall to help her steady herself. She always commented on it. “Isn’t this nice? Your father made this for me. It’s new. Don’t you like it?”
Finally we were in place.
“OK, Mom, just sit right here.”
After rearranging her feet, looking at the bed, and saying “OK” a couple of times, she perched on the tiniest edge of the mattress.
“Good, Mom, but let’s sit way back. We don’t want you falling out of bed!” I would laugh.
She’d look up and say, “Oh, child, what am I thinking? I’m sorry.” And then she would stand with difficulty, re-position herself, and sit back down in precisely the same spot.
“That’s OK, Mom. Let’s try it again.” If it was just too hard for her that night, I’d virtually pick her up and put her in a safe position, slide her stiff legs up, help her unbend, pat and smooth and smile and say, “There! How’s that? OK?”
Then my reward. The reward for this long evening. The reward that made it all OK—these months, these years of saying goodbye. The reward that still consoles, comforts, wraps me in memories of mother and child and child and mother. The reward. I can hear her yet.
“Oh, that’s fine, child,” my mother tells me with a smile like soft sunlight. “That’s really fine. Thank you so much, child. I just don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Well, you don’t ever have to worry about that, Mom. I’ll be here.”
I’d bend down, so far down, and kiss her cheek that still smelled of cigarettes and soap as she closed her eyes, the sunshine smile setting on her face.
“Child.” Did she remember my name? It didn’t matter. I think she knew I was hers. That made it OK. That made everything all right.
The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night (Ps. 121:5-6 NIV).
Father, we know that every good thing comes from You. Thank You for the miracles You show us through our loved ones. Guide our minds and hands and words, Lord, so that we may show them Your love and care.