Mama said there’d be days like this…

20 04 2015

There are times that I really think that I’m getting agoraphobic…or truth be told I’m just a lazy caregiver.  I’m now living the reality that was my standard advice for new moms,     “If your teeth get brushed before noon – it’s a good day.”  Or I am suffering from Stockholm Syndrome – Ggma doesn’t complain any more if she’s in her pjs all day – why should I be any different?

A friend’s darling daughter included my name on the list of well-wishers for a surprise 60th birthday party for her mom.  We were high school friends that had reconnected after decades of radio silence. Panic set in immediately. I rarely go public.  At least, this kind of public.  My kind of public is my ghetto grocery store where they only know me with my unruly witch worthy mane yanked up on the top of my head.  I pulled off a miraculous appointment at a “shi shi la la” (Best Boy vocabulary) salon where I’m sure they thought I was a homeless woman who’d found a gracious patron to invest in a make-over.  The salon girls kept looking for the hidden cameras to pop out for the before/after money shots for a human interest story to be aired on local news at noon. Sorry girls. No cameras.  It was just me trying to get my act together in one small way. That at least made me feel like I’d be somewhat presentable for this crowd of sophisticated strangers.

My real insecurities go back to high school with this group.  In 7th grade, we’d moved from a very URBAN Gary IN to a very SUBURBAN Valparaiso.  Billy was blue collar – I mean really blue collar since his work shirt was blue.  Their dads were suits: school administrators and factory, restaurant and radio station owners.  Ggma worked for ten years as an administrative assistant to a foreman in one of those factories.  Another friend’s dad gave me my first of many restaurant kitchen jobs.

The appointed time to head out to the party had come and Ggma was all set up for me to be gone two hours.  She had my phone number plopped on her lap, though not actually sure she would have known the difference between the TV remote or the phone but she had the number and was very glad that I had friends who wanted to see me.

I entered the packed house, ducked my head and headed to the back of the room to await the moment of the surprise and find the one or two other familiar faces I knew would be there.  Someone yelled my name and I was embraced by birthday girl’s older sister who I’d not laid eyes on since 1971 or so. There were a few more of those reunions before the bday girl arrived. Surprising connections, things in common I never would have imagined, and memories long forgotten – were the things tucked in my pocket when it was time to head back to Ggma.

That sneak away refreshed me in whole bunches of ways.  It forced a much needed hair cut for one. Now two days later I’m at the end of what has been just another challenging Ggma day.

“Does she have a Mom?”  I had just disconnected from a FaceTime chat with Shop Girl, Donny Diva and Littles that Ggma had enjoyed.  “What?  Who?  Shop Girl?  Yes – ME!”  That pesky family tree thing again.  “I guess I never knew that, ” her voice trailed off in confusion.

IMG_4042Again, I’m in a room and wondering

if anyone will remember who

I am…

 

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squinting in a fog

6 08 2010

12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

The Message / Eugene Peterson / 1 Corinthians 13

Squinting in a fog.  I grew up hearing it “peering through a glass, darkly.”

After a Friday night wedding the Dr. and I had attended a few weeks ago, I decided to light the candles that reside in the fireplace during the warmer months and just sit quietly for a bit before pretending to sleep.  At the back of the grouping is a mirror and when I grabbed my camera just for fun, I toyed with capturing some reflections in that dark glass.

Those words quoted above are at the end of one of the most used portions of the Bible spoken at wedding ceremonies and this June and July between the Mrs.’ social calendar and ours – I’ve heard it in a couple of different recitations.  We all know those words so well that even the most casual knowledge of the sacred texts would be able to do a fair job quoting it.  The whole, “Love is this, love is that, love isn’t this and love isn’t that…,” is what  everyone knows.  But the words that come a little further down the page have caught my attention.  “We don’t see things clearly yet…”

Seated with the Mrs. at a banquet table last month, I must have explained a half a dozen times that the little fork nestled at the top of the dinner plate would be used for our cake later that evening.  With each time she asked the same question in a little different way, I felt the others around the circle squirming in their seats.  I know there are those who wonder if I am aware of how she seems to be “slipping”.  Oh, I’m aware that you are NOT aware of the following:

The statistics are sobering:

  • More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease today.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 5th leading cause for those 55 and older.
  • One out of every eight people 65 and older has the disease. And for those over the age of 85, this number jumps to almost one out of every two.
  • One fourth of all home care involves care for an Alzheimer’s patient.
  • Those with Alzheimer’s Disease are three times more likely to face hospitalization and eight times more likely to need skilled nursing care.
  • 75% of care is provided by family caregivers.
  • When baby boomers reach 65 in 2011, these numbers will skyrocket and an epidemic will be upon us.

That’s right…seated at our table of 8, the majority of whom were my age, more than one of us will be in the same boat in the blink of an eye.

Squinting in a fog…is she squinting or am I?  I feel like we need to get a bit of a grip on some of the basics so that we can teach our children how we want to be treated.  Many of us in this present boat are just beginning to enjoy the new role of grandparenting.  Seeing the world through new eyes can be so entertaining – so delightful – and so tiring all at once.

I find infinite stores of patience to wrap my hands around Donny Diva’s as he’s learning to stack blocks, or grasp a spoon, but do I sigh too much when I have to bend over to help her tie her shoes or open that pesky little milk carton so she can have her lunch?  He’s not talking yet – but before I turn around twice we’ll be having conversations about any number of things.  People aren’t generally reserved when talking to pre-schoolers and usually just let the conversation flow where it might.  But I see how easily the elderly, especially those who are known to have “issues” with their memories,  get sidelined from social conversations.

Why can’t that same rule apply?  Just go with the flow.  If she wants to talk about the same thing over and over again – she really doesn’t mind because she’s not remembering it.  If time-machine memory takes her back to her own wedding – let her go there.  If she mixes up the names of the father of the groom with the grandfather of the groom with the groom, just patiently retrace the family tree for her.  It’s just conversation people, it’s not brain surgery.

In the end  – we are all squinting in the fog…thinking we have a handle on life, we have it figured out, we have our course laid out before us and we just have to get down to the business of putting our noses to the grind stone.  Reality is – that we are all squinting to see our own reflections in that dark glass.  To God, Alzheimer’s or not, none of us has a clue as to what we’re talking about.  We do not know what our futures hold.  So while I’m here trying to navigate the pea soup (that’s what Billy used to call fog), I’m going to just do what that sacred text suggests:  while I’m waiting for the completeness, I’m going to trust steadily, hope unswervingly and love extravagantly…even if it means going to more weddings.

Oh, and here’s a great article to help with your next social gathering…and you might want to put a copy on your fridge for your kids to see before you forget!