Alzheimer’s Diary…..A continuing lesson in love

And above all these put on <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>love, which <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>binds everything together in <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>perfect harmony. And let <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called <sup class="crossreference" value="(E)”>in one body. And <sup class="crossreference" value="(F)”>be thankful. Colossians 3:14

I have probably tacked this verse onto the beginning of posts more often this year than any other. Have you put on your love today? This past year, I have had to start over time after time, day after day. As most of you know who read my blog on a regular basis, we are working on year two of Elaine’s Mom living with us.

It’s been tough, to say the least. Hygiene is an ongoing issue more and more. We are working on week 4 with no shower, again. The last time, Elaine had to physically get in the shower with her because she refused to put water on her head. And she was washing with shampoo. Incontinence is also a problem. She refuses to wear the undergarments so bedding has to be changed often….laundry done several times a day.

Because she has been increasingly combative, her dose of Anti-psych drug was doubled just this past week. We noticed the rage has been just barely contained….it’s always just under the surface. The pacing and the agitation seem to go hand in hand.

It is disheartening and sobering for Elaine to realize that right now if her Mom were not on the Seroquel she would be in a lock down unit as we speak. Her Mom still knows very well where she is, but when her Doctor tells her that if she won’t let people take care of her she has to go somewhere where they can, he is met with indifference, a shrug of her shoulders.

It has been a constant challenge for both of us to do that “putting on love” thing Paul is talking about. And I am on another trip to California to see my family on Sunday. It’s hard to be the one always left behind. For two years, she has had to watch others travel, go on weekend trips, vacations. That is what caretakers face every day…….for them life has stopped. They feel just as chained as if they were in stocks.

And how can life still feel like it’s at a standstill, when the workload never stops?

Please pray? For wisdom, and strength to bear up. To keep laughing somehow. To know when to say “when.”

Pray for strength and grace for me as well. That I can be the right kind of support. Too often I feel like the check marks on my own personal report card are screaming out a big red “fail.” But God knows my heart, thankfully.

I take comfort in the fact that He hears my prayers of forgiveness uttered after every exasperated blown out sigh……He knows we are all dust after all, nevertheless a kernel of God keeps us all preserved for eternity.

Praise God.

And more and more and more, we are craving the peace, the harmony that used to fill the house. We still have it for the most part, we just have to fight for it where before it was effortless.

Here is the magic formula that works for any and every situation:

Love + Peace = Harmony

I will need until every last breath to put it into practice.

Letting our light shine

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:15

I need to give a shout out today to my best friend….yes, I am “using you” again, Elaine.

She has been on the job for only a few weeks, but she is shining her light in the workplace already. This is why I love her. She doesn’t wait for an opportunity, she just naturally shines. She already found out who the “Jesus Saves” truck belongs to in the parking lot at the school. Then she found out who “Jesus Saves” vehicle number 2 belongs to, (his wife). And she was so glad, because she really likes him.

The kids talk to her, like little doors they swing right open for her. They pour out everything, and sometimes too much. And so do her co-workers. She has already found out their stories. She finds out because she talks to them, much like Jesus did, I imagine. And she doesn’t ask just to be asking, she asks because she cares, and that shows.

The other day one co-worker hit another’s car in the parking lot and just left. Elaine knew how upset she was, so she stayed after work and buffed it out for her. When the co-worker came out to her car expecting to see the ugly scrape, she was astonished to find that she couldn’t even see where it had been hit. That’s my friend. That’s how she rolls. She just says, “I just do what I would like someone to do for me.”

That’s what Jesus was talking about when he said we were supposed to shine our light so that everyone in the world could see….

And I have watched her do this at every job she has ever had. Every company she has worked for. She gets to know the person who empties the garbage by name and never fails to greet them. Because she knows that person emptying the garbage is worth just as much to God as the big boss.

The other day when her training was complete, she went to Bosa donuts and bought 3 dozen for everyone she works with. They were astonished. “For us?” They said. Not only that, she didn’t buy cheap donuts, she went to buy the best because she wanted them to know she valued them and how they helped her along at a new job.

Just like Jesus made the “best wine” at that wedding.

She doesn’t brag about herself, so I will. ……..Lucky for her, she has a friend who blogs.

A bus filled with blessing

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:3

She had almost forgotten about the application she had filled out for the bus driving position……almost but not quite. She was sitting by the computer when the phone lit up with an incoming call. The phone is turned all the way down so her Mom won’t run and answer it. In the past she had agreed to things over the phone “Oh, yes, you can come and service the air conditioner….” It has happened before.

It was the Apache Junction school district calling. She couldn’t believe her ears when he said, “How soon can you come in and see us?” For years, every now and then we would pass a bus and I would hear her say, “I would love to do that.”

For the past year and a half, her Mom has been her full time job, and it has been hard, especially for someone who has worked all their life.

So she went, and of course they loved her. Especially when they found out about her driving experience. They wanted her so badly they even pulled strings to get her in the August session of training.

And the schedule is such that she can come home between routes to check on her Mom……..and, it’s only just around the corner!

“This,” she said, “Is the first job that I have felt in a long time that is from God.”

I have waited for this, I have prayed for this…..for my dear friend who lives her whole life for others.

Whose hands are still partially numb from her last project for someone else.

Last night we sat at a restaurant as pictures came through my phone……there were two completed Mr. Potato heads, one my brother did and one my niece did. I smiled as I read the texts. “Sometimes, you just have to take time out to play Mr. Potato head with your girl,” he says.

As I scroll through, the phone rings in my hand and it’s my Mom.

“I was just having a glass of wine and thinking of you,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” she said, and she laughed. “Well,” I said, “I happen to think it’s a good thing, since I am having one too.” And we laughed together and she told me about her day. And I told her about Elaine’s new job…..

She whooped and hollered over the phone………”Oh, that is so great! She is just right for that job.”

Later I get a text from my brother. My Mom must have told him…..”CONGRATULATIONS to Elaine, Wooooooohooooooo. Bus driver for kids? Perfect. I am so happy.”

This, I think, is what it’s all about.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice. And I think of what a cornucopia is life. Some days so full of hardship you just want to sit in a corner and never come out, and then, blessings so rich that all you can do is lift your hands skyward.

Praise God from who all blessings flow.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
I was driving down the freeway when it hit. I felt that familiar feeling……..the shallow breathing, the knot of tears forming in my throat. They come sometimes without warning. It started as an ordinary task in an ordinary day. I was following Elaine because she was taking her car in.

I held it at bay, at arms length, because I have to get stuff done. I think it’s just life piling up sometimes, and it has to come out somewhere, sometime. I am no stranger to this feeling. It has always been with me.

One of the very first times I can remember was when I caved during a Christmas play at church.

I had one line, I don’t even remember what it was. Because all of a sudden all I wanted to do was get off that stage……I strained my eyes through the bright lights and all I wanted was to find my parents. And then I did.

The road blurred through tears. I breathed little puffs of air. I turned off the freeway and onto the street. Off to my right was man on the sidewalk wearing flip-flops, a Hawaiian shirt and shorts….and a guitar strapped around his shoulder. He was carrying on a very animated conversation, with himself.

Laughter bubbled up through the tears a little hysterically, I thought……..”I hope that’s not gonna be me someday soon.”

Then I thought of my childhood friend Mary. Mary of the big blue eyes and wonderful reading voice.

It was always either her or me the teachers chose for reading out loud. I still remember her singing a solo in a school fashion show, she sang “After the Ball” in a blue dress. I don’t know what happened with Mary but many years later my folks told me she would skate down the street in a full hockey uniform, helmet and all. She never played hockey a day in her life.

She died recently at my age, only 53. She had a daughter and I would love to see her.  I wonder if she had Mary’s eyes, and liked to read. I hope she will be okay.

Don’t we all dance a bit close to the border of crazy at times? I think you kind of have to, to live this life we all live.

As I caught sight of Elaine’s jeep through the maze of cars, right in the midst of my panic I thought…….”Thank you Lord.” Because all my life I have never had to go through this feeling alone, and some people have.

And this wonderful friend has been with me through so much. And I will tell her about this, and she will say, “Well, maybe you are a little bit crazy, but I understand, and everything is gonna be fine.”

Because after all, God has us. He really does. 

The Dangers of Assumption

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9,10
Do me a favor today? If you live with someone, walk across the room and  grab their hands and look in their eyes and ask them if everything is okay. Even if you think everything is alright.
They may smile, shake their head and pull away, or think you’re being silly. They might giggle or laugh self-conciously. But then again they might surprise you and words might come tumbling out. Words they have been waiting to share.
Chances are, if you are living with someone, you have settled into a routine of what you call normal. Maybe one person is more silent, and the other one’s the talker. And usually it works. Life hums along. But when stress and life and circumstance come beating against the door, the seismic pattern shifts. All of a sudden what worked yesterday, is broken today.
Maybe it happened so gradually that you didn’t even notice. But now the silence is deafening and you, being the quiet one, pull in even further. You think maybe leaving them alone in their silence will fix it…..make the problem go away. But it never will.
If someone you love is quiet and they usually aren’t, something may be drastically wrong, and more silence won’t fix it.
They will wonder why you are leaving them alone………They will wonder why you are leaving them to battle it out all my themselves…….They will wonder if you care at all.
Learn from me……..I have made this mistake in the past, and I am sure I will again, of assuming that everything is okay, and then being shocked into awareness that things are very much not okay.
Leave a note in your wallet if you have to. Take it out and read it again and again.
Then do what it says.
Talk.

The cake tells the story

After years of vain familiarity, some distant gesture or unconscious behavior, which we remember, speaks to us with more emphasis than the wisest or kindest words. We are sometimes made aware of a kindness long passed, and realize that there have been times when our Friends’ thoughts of us were of so pure and lofty a character that they passed over us like the winds of heaven unnoticed; when they treated us not as what we were, but as what we aspired to be. Henry David Thoreau

I am so thankful today that I have such a friend, and today I celebrate her life, her Birthday. There are so many things I would like to give her, so much she deserves. If I could I would give her a trip to Paris and a dinner under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel tower. And a full moon smiling…….And then I would whisper a prayer to God to have the stars do a little dance. Cause sometimes, as she so often says, sometimes you just gotta give it a little dance.

Or I would buy her an East Coast cruise to tour every single lighthouse.

What I would most like to give her right now is freedom, which she doesn’t have. Freedom to get in the car and go somewhere, anywhere, overnight. She is doing what she has to do right now, even though it is incredibly difficult. She is living what Ann Voskamp so aptly describes as the Hard Hallelujah. Where faith meets reality.

I know that every day she meets Jesus, because she can’t do it without Him. Even with Him it’s tough. This cake tells the story of her life as it is right now. Her Mom asked what the cake was for, and then for the umpteenth time, she asked her whose Birthday it was. Really, that was partially my fault. I put up the Birthday banner way too early. You learn not to do that with Alzheimer’s.

Her Mom stayed in the kitchen and Elaine figured out why soon after when she came out with a piece of cake and said, “That is good cake.” At least she said it was good.

Months ago I had put in for this day off, her Birthday, so we could hang out like we usually do on her special day. Then there was a scheduling conflict with someone else and they would have had to come home from out of state early. She said, go ahead and let him have the day. That is just how she is. That’s why I love her so.

I don’t like to imagine my life without her joy, her laughter, her unique brand of sunshine. She loves God and He loves her. She is God’s kid through and through. You can tell by what she does.

It’s in the way she loves people. It’s in all the little things she does when nobody except God is watching. She is the one who sees the baby carrier in the beat up car and finds the weary parent and slips them a twenty. She’s the one who pays for the Sonic order behind her. She’s the one who hand delivers bowls of cut up watermelon for the neighbors.

And every time she makes ice-cream cones, she makes three more to take next door.

She’s God’s kid. She notices when people need help, need to talk, need a listener. And she gets busy and does something about it. Not a dispassionate noticer, not her.

She’s my best friend in the world and I wish everyone could have the pleasure of knowing her. She is truly, the friend everyone would like to have.

I know she will be embarrassed by this, but after all, best friends are for shining the spotlight on each other. She has been shining the light on me now for 23 years, and I thank God for her everyday. Her life is a blessing.

Happy Birthday Elaine!

A Roomful of Royalty

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:18-20

As my feet hurriedly slapped down the stairs after work last night I was thinking about where to go. I had destinations in mind. Birthday business. Tomorrow is the Birthday of my very best friend, and as all best friends, I wish I could give her the moon. I know how tough this past year has been for her. There are so many things I wish I could do for her, so many things I wish I could give her……And she would deserve every one.

I thought…….She deserves a roomful of Royalty. A party to end all parties, a true celebration of her. Then I remembered that there will be a very special guest indeed. He is already making plans to attend. How could I have forgotten?…….Oh, Lord. I never want to forget you, please forgive me. The Holy Spirit, ever a gentleman, stands back and waits until I remember that He is the highest court in the land. Who else do we need?

It’s gonna be quite a party indeed.

Invite Him today, into whatever you are doing. He is there in the midst of it, my friend. He is the third person at your table for three, you business meeting, your commute, your life…….

Thank you Lord, for everyday with you is a celebration.