Hi! Whoever You Are

Mama sees me on the loveseat. She shuffles over to join me and sits down. She pats my back and says, “I like you.”

We cuddle awhile and she looks so cute that I take out my phone to try and take a selfie of us. She sees herself in the phone and smiles and wiggles her fingers in a wave as she says, “Hi, whoever you are!”

“That’s you, Mama.”

“That’s me? I didn’t know that.”

And I ponder how I often have the same thoughts when I look in the mirror these days. What’s with these gray roots and age spots and wrinkles? Where did they come from? Who is this person?

Maybe it will help my attitude if I follow Mom’s example and just smile at my reflection and wave and say, “Hi, whoever you are!”

And if that doesn’t make me laugh, I can always remind myself that Mama says she likes me. And that makes everything better.

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Soul Level Love…When Words Fail

I’m visiting Mama and I say to her, “I love you.”

And she looks at me with a serious expression and asks, “How can I tell it?”

“Because I’m here, Mama.  I’m here visiting you.” Mama still looks at me, questioning. Unresolved.

How do I help someone who has so little clarity know how loved she is? Can she still understand love? And I think, maybe mentally she can’t.

But maybe the spirit of a person can feel and know things that the mind can’t comprehend.

Babies die in orphanages, when their physical needs are met, just because they aren’t held enough. There is a lack of love and affection, and their spirits know it and often they fail to thrive and die.

And I’m guessing that the spirits of those with dementia can also know if they are loved and wanted. And I want to learn to communicate on a soul level with Mama. So that even if she loses all language abilities she will still be comforted by the presence of love.

But how? And I think about this and I wonder if it’s a lot like showing love to a baby that has no language. Maybe it means lavishing as much physical affection as Mama seems willing to accept. Maybe it’s sharing food with her and singing to her. Maybe it’s praying over her and reading to her. And talking to her and showing her things that might be interesting to her.

I’m sure it’s being aware of her needs… Comforting her when she’s fearful. Gently cleaning her when she’s messy. Wrapping her in a soft blanket when she’s cold. Staying close and watchful always. It means trying to cure anything that hurts her. And taking delight in anything that gives her joy.

Because souls can understand things, even when brains fail and words fall short. And I pray that God will show me how to express love to Mama’s spirit so that she will always know how treasured she is. And how very much I love her.

The Sweet Shocking Dentist Appointment

I dreaded bringing Mom to the dentist yesterday, and ended up shocked with such an amazing surprise!

But first we had to go through the battles.

Battles of getting Mom dressed and getting her out to the car and into the car. This has become ever more challenging. Mom was leery of going down the few steps to get outside. My daughter Annie and I were both holding onto her.

Mom seemed like she wanted to get into the car, but didn’t remember how to. I finally manually put each of her hands in the right places and picked up one foot and put it in the car for her. Then Annie helped from inside the car and I helped from outside and we were able to get her in.

When we arrived at the dentist’s office we put a gait belt on Mom before we got her out of the car, and were grateful we did. The walk inside was short, but felt painfully long with her shuffling, sometimes unstable steps.

When she was called in for her exam we had another challenging walk and then we had to figure out to help her sit on the dental chair. Mom wanted to climb up on it on her knees and once she was on it, it was a project to keep her there. She wanted to go home. She wanted her Mama. She kept swinging her feet back to the floor and attempting to stand up and leave.

The dental hygienist was brushing Mom’s teeth with a regular toothbrush when the dentist came in. Mom wasn’t too happy about any of this and shouted and swore some. Dr. B. talked to Mama and then boldly put her gloved finger in Mom’s mouth to feel her gums and examine her.

That was very brave of Dr. B. And risky. Mom clamped down on her finger and Dr. B. said, “Ouch!” and yanked her finger out. (Oh dear.) After that Dr. B. put a rubber guard in Mom’s mouth, so when she bit down it was into the guard and not her finger.

The exam was short and Annie and I struggled to get Mom back in the car and took her home. Another stressful ordeal. And then again to get her out of the car and into the house. We were all exhausted after all this. Annie stayed with Mom and I went back for Dad.

I am sitting in the waiting room, trying to release the stress of it all while Dad is in his appointment, when Dr. B. comes out and finds me. She said something like, “It looks like it’s really tough to get your Mom in here. Next time I’ll just plan to drop in at her house and examine her there. I think she would be calmer then and it would be easier for everyone.”

“You make house calls?” I say in amazement.

“Not usually, but there are exceptions.”

“You would do that?” She pats my hand and smiles and nods.

I’m tearing up. “That is SO kind of you! That is SO generous of you!”

Then she tells me we can figure out the date for Mom’s next check-up, and that she would come over on her day off or whenever to see Mom and examine her.

And I am blown away by this generous offer. What a heart! She’s only been Mom’s dentist for a year or so now, after the previous dentist moved, and she’s offering to make a home appointment!

What a surprise! What a blessing! What a gift! There are some beautiful, compassionate people in this world, and Dr. B. is one of them! Thank You, Jesus!

A Time for Every Purpose

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Mom sits by me on the love seat. I start singing our song. “I love you…” I pause, waiting for Mom to sing her part, “…a bushel and a peck.”

But instead she says, “You do?! Thank you! Go ahead!”

I try some of our other songs, but none of them are connecting with Mama today. I start naming her nine siblings with many pauses. She only fills in one name…Charles.

“Who are you?” she asks me.

“I’m Cheryl.”

“Oh, Churl. Okay.”

“What’s your name, Mom?”

“I don’t know,” she says.

“Are you Nina?”

“Not really.”

“Are you Nina Faye?”

“Yeah. That’s right.” And then she shouts, “Nina Faye, where are you?”

“Mom, look…here’s some pictures.” I hold out my phone to her. “See, my son got married yesterday! Bo is married now!”

Mama looks at the picture and says, “Good gracious!”

I long to connect with her. I start counting, “One, two, three…”  I stop.

After a long pause Mama says, “Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine…” And something about that simple counting reassures me.

And I realize that a part of me believes that if I can just keep Mama responding to “our” things that I can somehow keep her with me.  That if I just try hard enough I can keep the shadows away and somehow keep the sun from setting.

And I think of the wedding last night. The love and the tears, the dancing and feasting and laughing and joy. And I’m grateful there is a time to laugh and a time to embrace and a time to love.

And I know there is a time to weep and a time to mourn and a time to lose. And I know they are coming. But I can’t bear to think about it. So I trust my Heavenly Father to give me grace one day at a time.

And now Mama leans her head against my shoulder and grows quiet and falls asleep. And I’m thankful for a time of peace and a time to keep. And a time to treasure.