It’s 105 and she’s out on the swing in the carport. I see her, swinging back and forth, with her dark glasses in place. The motion helps the Alzheimer’s patient much like the rocking helps the Autistic child. As I watch, I am struck by how tragic it all is.
You learn early on to pick your battles, like with children. No matter how you say that it’s just too hot outside, she says it’s not that bad. Sweat pours down her back. Daughter tells her she has to come in, and she does, but she is not happy.
It’s been a gradual decline for both of her folks for about the past 6 years. First, he barricaded the house up. Then the threats started –calls to the police, and eventually, to his own daughter, the only one who has cared for them for years. He told her he would kill her if she crossed the threshold. Nothing prepares you for that. Even though your mind tells you it’s the Dementia talking and not him, it still hurts.
And when she finally got into the house, it was beyond bad. Her Dad went into a nursing home and will never come out. Her Mom stayed behind in the home for a while, coming to our house to stay at night. But then the house sold, along with most of what was in it.
She’s been with us for a year now, swinging out front, and pacing. It’s a little bit like living with a very large 4 year old, except you can’t tell her what to do. She leaves the door open because she gets cold in the house, and she throws her bottled water down the sink because it gets warm.
When confronted, we are met with an indifferent shrug but mostly we just do damage control.
As I watch her now, through the window, I put myself in her position and I try, really try with God’s help, to be patient and kind. I recite 1 Corinthians 13 and I see how difficult it is now, to really love like Jesus wants us to. Being out of our comfort zone and on edge is the new normal.
I see my best friend suffering through all this alone, because everyone else has fled the scene. I get angry, because it is so not fair. I want to tell her to just let go. To get out from under all the criticism and demands and unrealistic burdens her Mom placed on her from early childhood on. But she tells me, “If I give to them what they gave me, that would make me just like them, and that is not who I want to be.” She is living out what it means to treat someone the way you yourself would like to be treated. It’s called Grace, pure and simple, and anything but easy.
Seeing her Mom the way she is today, totally at the mercy of the daughter she herself was not there for, the fleshly person inside me rises up and says that this is cosmic justice being played out. What I now see, now that God has opened my blind eyes, is that this is what Jesus gives us. What He gives me every day, grace that I never gave Him.
On very tough days it feels like it’s a fight to the finish, “It’s either gonna be her or me, most likely me,” she says. And when you read the statistics of caregivers dying while taking care of a loved one, it’s daunting. But I know she will be just fine, because God’s promises are true.
The Bible says: “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 10:11
And when the time comes that she can no longer take care of her Mom, and it’s only a matter of time, she will have peace that comes from knowing she did all she could do.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25: 35, 36
Editor’s Note: Read part one of this story… when life goes on