“… a day is like a thousand years…”

You know, progression is progression. It is movement. Getting from A to B. From the beginning to the end. Our lives are ones of progression. From birth to death. We make progress in so many things, in all areas of our lives, at our own rate. Some seem born “an old soul” and some are the “eternal teenager.” I like to joke that many grow older, only a few also grow wiser. Ha-Ha.

The doctor told me that my Mom was progressing in this experience of Alzheimer’s. And that she is. The rate of progression is what is flooring me. Once she said Mom was progressing, it seems like it has sped up. I am not sure if it is because it was brought to my attention, or if things are speeding up. I noticed how little Mom is able to function in public when we had to deal with her dog bite, the stitches, and working with an OT to come up with something Mom would not take off, so her skin could heal. She could not recall she had been bitten, had stitches, or who this guy was, coming in and out of the room like he knew her! LOL. It was interesting, because my husband was with me and got to see it, too. So I know I was not exaggerating or making things up in my head. She had no concept of what was going on, but would give pithy comments, trying to make people laugh and forget she was clueless. Mom is what they call a very “social” Alzheimer’s patient. She can fool people pretty much all the time in public places. But once you sit with her for a couple of minutes, you know there is a problem.

And today, it became so obvious. Mom is having trouble determining color. She thinks blue, black, brown, purple, forest green…you get it…the darker colors, are all black. Helping her choose clothing is becoming quite the production. Sigh. She had a proper temper tantrum today. She had chosen some adorable summer capris a few months ago, but now she will not wear them because they are not long enough, and she says it is not summer. Today she saw clouds. So in her mind, clouds = rain = cold. So, her outfit ended up being long, black pants, knee-high trouser socks, undershirt, long sleeved blouse, a cardigan sweater just in case, and open-toed shoes (Yeah, with socks). Now, I am not sure if you know this or not, but we live in Alaska. There is an ongoing debate about how hot it is in the summertime for us, compared to some of the Lower 48 states. Suffice it to say, 75 is a hot day. Just trust me. It was a capri and flip-flop day, complete with the A/C in the car. But not for Mom. The decision-making took over 45 minutes. But I learned which clothes I can get rid of, and which ones we keep. Her closet is shrinking. So that is sort of a win-win. Mom got to wear her black slacks, and I know which clothes I can toss.

And then we had to shower. Since she has lived with us, each time she showers all I hear about is how she always (she speaks in superlatives and I have learned to let it go…well, I am learning to let it go) had showers with a hand-held shower head. We finally got one when we got her incontinence supplies and my wonderful husband installed it this weekend. My walls were soaked. The floor was soaked. I was soaked. The bathmat could seriously not hold another drop of water. Mom had no idea how to use this device. I learned quickly that I will be the one using it. Honestly, the only thing she used it for was to rinse herself, especially the nether regions. I had to remind her to use soap. And shampoo. And each time I spoke to her, she would turn and spray the water in the direction she was facing. I finally took it from her (telling her I would help her rinse off) and directed the process.

And then it was time to put on her make up. I have come to realize the brows are so dark and exaggerated in part because she cannot see very well, but also because who she sees in the mirror is about 65 years younger than she really is. Regardless of what is going on in her head, and her hand as she applies all her powders, etc it is a process. The progression is very slow.

Finally, we were ready to leave. It was 4:00pm when we backed out of the garage. It had taken my Mom 4 hours to get ready to leave. This was a new Alzheimer’s World Record. And people like doctors and others laugh when I tell them 3pm is early for an appointment! They truly have no idea.

Our shopping spree to Mom’s favorite thrift shop in search of more appropriate clothing yielded 4 blouses and a pair of slacks. And it took 2-plus hours. She was exhausted. And funnily enough, so hot she asked me to put down the windows and had no objection when I finally closed them and blasted the A/C…it was 75-degrees and my car was boiling. But that was all for the day. The processes we had to go through to yield the new clothing had taken their toll, and she just could not function any longer. I drove through Panda Express and got her favorite String Bean Chicken (its mine, too) and we went home. It took her over 2 hours to eat. She was just so tired. It is now 10:30pm and she is finally in bed. And I am wide awake, musing over all of this day, and how truly far she has progressed in such a short time. I am stunned, actually. She said she just wanted to be home. Usually, she loves to shop. Loves interacting with people. Not today. Not today. And maybe not tomorrow. It is our new reality. I am struggling with it.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

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“Count it all joy…”

This week has been an emotional one. My mom had her stitches out – yay. And that was on her right hand. This week, she tore the skin off her left hand. Sigh. Doctor put on steri-strips and a dressing. On top of that, we have her wear a pressure glove. This morning, out she walks in full make-up and perfume – no glove. No bandages at all. Has no idea where they are. Nor did she know why we needed her to keep the glove on. I had to go on a treasure hunt. Found some of the bandaging. None of the steri-strips. Found the glove inside the closet. The tape was on her dresser. She had hidden things around her room. And she had no clue she had done it.

This week we had an appointment with her primary care doctor. And because we are so blessed in all of this, her doctor happens to be a gerontologist. She totally gets all of this. And this week, we were blessed with a 2.5 hour appointment with this wonderful doctor. She was able to analyze mom pretty quickly this visit. We have not seen her in about 6 weeks. The decline was noticeable and measurable. Mom could not converse, nor could she answer any memory questions. None of them. The doctor looked at me, turned her chair, and said, “From here on out, I talk to you. I am so sorry.” And we chatted about mom and her marked decline, further down this rabbit hole of Alzheimer’s. The doctor has removed all her medication, in a pattern. Right away, her statin, vitamins, and Arricept were stopped. She replaced all that with a Flintstone vitamin in the morning and at night. Then she added Tylenol with every meal. Mom’s chief complaint is arthritic pain. Next week we stop her Namenda. If that goes well, we will be changing out her antidepressant for one that will help with inflammation. The doctor told me mom is entering the final phases of Alzheimer’s and at this point, the medication is no longer doing much for her. Statins are even sort of silly at this point. Sadly. And I realized, as we sat with the doctor, mom did not participate and did not even notice she was not participating.

One of the things the doctor suggested was buying mom a stuffed animal to hold. The one above is the one she chose. We walked into the store and right to the stuffed animal aisle. She was “oooing” and “ahhhing” over them. But once she saw this one, that was that. She cuddled it, told it she loved it, and carried it throughout the store. Now, if you knew my proper Kiwi (New Zealander) mother, you would know how out of character this is. The doctor said that as Alzheimer’s progresses, the person needs touch and comforting. Some women, who were very motherly in life, prefer to hold and carry dolls that look like newborn babies. Mom, not being the particularly motherly type, preferred this kitten over a babydoll. I sort of teased the doctor, thinking she was nuts. But mom adores this kitten. The night we brought it home, she arranged her kitten on her bed. When she went to bed, she made room for it on her pillow. Then she cuddled it. I asked her what she had named it. She looked at it and exclaimed, “It’s like she is just watching me. Oooo, I love her. I think I will name her, “Honeybun.” I kissed her goodnight and petted her kitten and told “Honeybun” goodnight. Her response was to sigh and speak quietly to the kitten as I closed her door.

My mom is slipping away so quickly. She moved in with us last Labor Day weekend. In that short amount of time, Mom has gone from a “stage 5:” to a “stage 7” – which is the final stages of this horrible disease. She is here. Very much so. But her abilities to participate in life have greatly diminished. She cannot follow a television commercial. She does not understand a half-hour comedy show. Her comments run the gamut from, “This show has been on for so many years,” to things like, “I think I know this person,” or “I love sports, because it is just there and you don’t have to figure it out (so telling, isn’t it??), to things that have never happened that she insists are historical fact. Sigh. She cannot figure out how to pour a cup of coffee and add cream to it. She cannot cut her own food (she claims it is because her arthritis is so bad). She cannot get dressed without supervision because she falls over. She can no longer match colors. She needs help bathing and toileting. She cannot plan her clothing, or her day. She has no idea when I say to chew the Flintstone vitamins that I mean to chew them like food and not swallow them like a pill. She says they are too hard to chew and she might break a tooth. When I told her they were children’s vitamins, she was insulted. But then she laughed and chewed it, saying they taste good. Ha-Ha.

Mom loves flowers, plants, animals…just finds the joy in nature. We went to a Peony farm where they let you pick the flowers for $1 each. They are so pretty. They taught us what to look for in a bud and how to ensure it would open up in a vase. Mom could not be bothered walking the farm or participating because it had drizzled just minutes before and even though it was 75-degrees and we were sweating, she said it was too cold to go outside. She waited in the car while my grandchildren, daughter-in-law, and I chose and cut peonies. I put the peonies on the table in an old vase of my mom’s, and waited for them to open. My youngest son’s girlfriend brought us a few more, and we added them to the vase. Mom thought they looked and smelled lovely. Then she noticed the cloth on the table. It is a map of New Zealand. Oh my word. Flowers were eclipsed. She cannot stop looking at this cloth, remarking on how she used to live there and wants to go back, but says, “Everyone I knew would be dead by now.” And she approaches it several times a day to actually smell the flowers (she has forgotten the tablecloth because it is sort of hard to see),and each time she is in shock over it, commenting with all the same sentences, down to the same inflection and tones – it is truly instant replay. And it brings her as much joy each time, too. It helps stimulate her memories, and it is so good to see.

To make mom happy, and to try and make her feel pampered, once a month we get her a mani-pedi. Well, I just don’t think this is going to be practical any longer. I talked with the doctor, telling her how I had gels put on her nails, trying to save them. But they keep peeling away and cracking, splitting from bottom to top. The doctor says it is because she plays with them too much. She told me to stop the gels, cut her nails short and to round them so they are not sharp against her very fragile skin. And if it makes her happier, put stickers or bright polish on them. She told me to use Vick’s VapoRub on her feet at night to help with nail health. But to keep everything simple. Keep her comfortable. Keep her fed and happy. And that is about all, from here on out.

When the doctor told me mom had reached this stage, I was rather shocked. I mean, I knew she had progressed, but not really how far. Its hard to put into words. I am sad. This is new territory. Alzheimer’s, and the other dementing illnesses, are rough – for all of us. So, we square our shoulders, and we move forward. We hold the hand of our Loved Ones, and we get through this. One moment at a time. One memory at a time.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”     James 1: 2-4

“A good measure, pressed down…”

I haven’t written anything bloggy in awhile. Life has a way of interrupting. Ha-Ha.
“To everything there is a season.” When you read the Scriptures they prepare you for life. They really do. It always seems like the ones I need to read somehow come to my attention. And I then go to the Bible and read the entire verse, so I am sure I get the fullest meaning I can, and then am able to apply it better to my life.

And I have been contemplating life. I have been so stressed out. Not sleeping. Stomach churning. I had thought my life would ease up a bit as I got into my sixties. But it seems like it has only pressed down and become more concentrated. Certainly not an empty nest or decreased responsibilities. Ha-Ha. Nope. Not at all.

And trying to think, all these verses come springing into my head. I am looking for blessings being poured into my lap. Oh I do! But instead, I am picturing God, sitting up there, watching me and thinking, “She needs more work. She needs to be pressed down a little more. She needs more refining.” And He’s laughing. And sending me experiences that test my knowledge, faith, state of mind, creativity, and love. I have been seeing myself get pretty down. So I have tried to giggle through these experiences. Some days it works; some nights it does not.

I have always loved that painting above, by Thomas Blackshear. It helps me when I feel like I have tripped and fallen again. And when I am facing things that hurt, or are causing me to be depressed. It comforts me because even though the young man is holding the nails and the hammer, Christ is forgiving him and holding him up. We all do things that hammer those nails into Christ. Sometimes we fall short of who we know we can be. Sometimes we ignore the right thing and do the convenient, easier thing. Sometimes we ignore our faith for the world. The Lord knows all of it, and He is still holding us.

This past week has been eventful and stressful. My mom was bitten by a dog we were hoping to foster. We spent hours upon hours at Urgent Care. When a person with Alzheimer’s gets an injury, it changes the entire world. For them, and for those who care for them. It took so long at Urgent Care because mom kept touching the wound after they had sanitized it, not realizing what it was. She did not understand what had happened, nor why she was where she was (which was an operating room). She kept insisting in putting a bandaid on it and just leaving. We finally were able to get her to leave it alone long enough for the PA to stitch it back together. Within the hour, and while still in the car on the way home, she had torn through a stitch. The PA had asked me if she was on blood thinners, because she was just bleeding so much (she is not). Her skin is so fragile, the stitches are stronger than her skin and when she moves, the stitches stay put and the skin moves, pulling away from the stitches. The bleeding is pretty extensive. And she keeps forgetting she is injured, how she is injured, and where she is injured. We had to re-visit Urgent Care and were able to work with an Occupational Therapist who devised a glove/brace so we could immobilize the area, allowing the skin to knit and heal, and to keep unwanted bacteria out of the wound. This morning the brace was missing and when I located it and tried to put it back on, she asked me if she had broken her arm. No recall of the past few days. At the OT, it became apparent her short term memory is now at about 1 minute and with my husband there as well, it helped me realize how quickly and how much this has progressed. Sadly, we have realized she has absolutely no recall. I have had to remind her every couple of minutes that she cannot move her hand, and that, “Yes, she has stitches,” and that she can “take it off in another week.” Every couple of minutes, all day long. I am tired. And this stress headache is becoming an old friend.

It is amazing to me how quickly this has happened! Just a few months ago we were doing facials, shopping, having lunch. Now she cannot remember what I said a moment ago. And I have been so-so-so worried about this wound. Keeping it clean. Not allowing more bacteria into her world. UTIs are a way of life with Alzheimer’s and two in two months is two too many! And so I am not sleeping. Not eating right. Having panic attacks. Because Alzheimer’s is getting very, very real and very, very quickly, very real. And I am sad. And I am scared.

I am already missing my mom. We can no longer carry on fruitful conversations. We cannot even comment on the weather, because she gets confused. Having so many hours of daylight here in Alaska is also messing with her head. Getting her to bed some nights is almost impossible. Getting a good night’s sleep, for me, is becoming more and more rare. I am emotionally fried, and pretty tired. And mom is becoming more and more immeshed in her world, which is about 1953-ish. When I remember that, our chats are easier! Today, she looked at me with clear eyes and said, “I can’t believe how much I can’t remember” and smacked her head with the new brace.

Alzheimer’s – this dang terminal, degenerative brain disease – is a lose-lose disease. Mom loses her life, and I lose my mom. I have spent most of my adult life living in a different town from my parents. My mom has always been a prickly person. Sharp tongued and stubborn. Not an easy woman to live with. But when she is gentle and kind, you know you are so very loved. She was the best mom when we needed that. She could comfort like no one else. And I know deeply in her heart, she lives for her kids and grandkids. And having to go on in life without that in my life? Well, I had not given it much thought. Today, it is all I can think about. My loss. My pain. And how I mismanage this journey so many moments, of so many days. Thankful my God is behind me and holding me up, even when I am undeserving. Because His love is unconditional. And I am learning that my love for my mom is becoming a better reflection of that. Because this disease is becoming more of a reality the worse it becomes. And the less my mom becomes, the more I need to be. I am tired. But I can do this. We are all called to care for our elderly and infirm. It truly is the very least we can do.

“…He who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”

I am not considered old, but neither am I all that young. I have 5.5 grandchildren. My youngest child is almost 20 years old. And when I chose to join the “twitter sphere” I think I shocked even myself. I figured out how to actually use it. And even funnier, I like it. You get the info you need in far fewer words. Sort of funny, considering I am a rather wordy person. (So yeah, I love to gab…lol).

And the downside of living life via twitter, or Facebook, or “cliff notes,” is that you miss the entire story. At least on twitter, when you click on something, there is a link to the whole story. But how many people even want to know the entire story? I love the “sound bite” simplicity, but I certainly do not base decision making or opinion forming on just 140 characters – which is the maximum allowed in a “tweet.” But how many of us do rely on second-hand information, or just a short explanation to base lifelong choices on?

When I try to discuss my faith with people, I can drive them crazy. Why? Well, the joke is that converts are like former smokers – annoying in their exuberance and knowledge. Ha-Ha. And I have gone through many iterations of faith until I found a place where I felt comfortable, secure, and certain. So when I dive into that conversation, I have tons of information to share; information obtained in literally decades of searching. And it can be daunting to someone not expecting that. Like the term, “verbal vomit.” We learned that in a marketing course I took. The rule is to not overwhelm someone new. Just give them enough to go on, enough to make a decision on, and the entire picture will become clear as they move forward. (Hopefully purchasing what you are selling). Sharing with people about any subject requires the person with more information to not overwhelm those he is sharing that information with. And this applies to every, single, walk in our lives. Seriously. Just think about it for a moment.

And this year is an active year in many arenas in my life. We are expecting a new grandchild and that gushy, exciting, joy in new life fills our days. We cannot wait to meet him or her! We have the continued progression of my parents’ walk through dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. We have that last child working his way into the world and maturity. We are working in our new yard, trying to encourage growth and seeing little bits of flower buds and things blooming. It is pretty exciting. We are also active in some political campaigns here in our own state. And that is fascinating. Then there is our country and all that is happening. Misinformation can be found in every subject of my life I mentioned above. Every, single, one.

So how do we combat misinformation, fake news if you will, in our lives? Or perhaps the lack of the full story? That is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Jumping to conclusions with very little fact to back it up is a common problem with humanity. And in this day and age of hyper-electronic media influence, emotions are riding high.

One of my theories is that all this social media and tweeting and whatnot is allowing us the advantage of not having to face the people we tweet or twitter or whatever about. We are several steps removed from the object of our comment. I was recently speaking to some people, face-to-face, and we were lamenting the fact that people are forgetting how to have civil conversations. In the “me”-centered culture in which we live, people feel entitled to have smooth sailing in all things. When someone upsets their apple cart, they react so inappropriately and over-the-top. There was a report of a girl’s softball game that had to be called because the parents were going nuts in the stands. They showed video of parents jumping off bleachers, attacking one another. Over a girl’s softball game. The emotions were far beyond a game. Far beyond.

I have been learning so much about narcissists and how it has affected my life. And now that I am learning the definitions of it, the actions of narcissists, and how it has affected my life, I am starting to see it everywhere. Perhaps giving our kids trophies for signing up to play a sport is having repercussions we did not expect. Instead of boosting their self-esteem, we have created a generation of kids with over-the-top expectations of what life truly is like. Once it does not go their way, they react in ridiculous ways.

There is a particular young man who is in the news, and his entire story makes me crazy. Each time I see him on the news or in another article, I want to grab him, put him in a time out, and re-educate the boy. He is so self-important and so disconnected to real life, that I pity him. His adult life will be fraught with discord and disappointment. Because life is not meant to be 100% your way.

It seems like no one likes to stop and listen, to contemplate, or actually learn, before launching into a response or action. The media today is full of sound bites. Like tweets in all aspect of life. People do not pursue the subject through all its iterations, back to its beginning. Considering the electronics in our lives were supposed to make our lives easier, to me, it seems like it is far more complicated. No one has patience for much of anything. And I am starting to love the idea of disconnecting from social media, from dropping out of the rat race, and just enjoying my surroundings and the people I come into contact with. My only hesitation is that I would lose contact with so many friends, because we live in a place that is pretty isolated. But, on the other hand, maybe that is okay. People who are true friends will always remain that, regardless of our proximity. Partially because we got to know one another prior to this age of instant everything. We took the time to learn about each other, spend time in one another’s company, and become familiar with them. Now, it’s friending or unfriending for the least thing. It’s adding to or deleting from your friend’s list. It is sharing soundbites without communicating. It is skipping truth for expediency. It is reading only tweets and no longer engaging in the process of reading novels. We have become quick-tempered and shallow people. And it makes me sad.

I have no expertise; I don’t have answers. But I do observe and contemplate. And I come to some conclusions, for me. I am trying to speak less and listen more; to help when needed; to remain aloof when needed; and to be present when asked, but to be unseen when not. I am trying to remain connected to my quiet faith while living in a noisy and angry world. I am trying to act with dignity when vulgarity is common. I am trying to be honest in a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13). And give a Godly example in a world run rampant with self-indulgence and dishonesty.

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10: 33-39

Peace. Quiet. Respect. Thoughtfulness. Contemplation. Resolve. Truth. Love for one another. Lofty goals? Yes. But they are eternal goals. And I am praying that as I follow tweets or read quick snippets of information, that I can pull myself above and out of the miasma, and remember God’s loving me so much, He died for me. For you. For those who believe in Him. Much more important than some of our misplaced anger these days. Sigh.

“Because anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

(James 1:20). 

 

“The world revolves around them…”

I am probably not in a good place to be blogging, but I have to get this out. Whether anyone reads it or not, I need to express myself. It is cathartic. I need to purge these emotions, or I will explode.

Not to beat around the bush, but today I blocked my father’s phone number. It is harsh, yes. But this man is so toxic to my life, I did something I should have done years ago.

My relationship with my father has always been fraught with drama. As far back as I can remember, I put him on this pedestal, and I worshipped the man. He always told me to not be like my mother, and whenever I did anything remotely like my mom, he would chastise me. And I was made to be ashamed of that. Whenever my mom would yell at us, and usually slap us, she would then tell us we had to stay in our rooms until our father came home. And we would have to sit and be quiet. I mean no sounds, no playing, just sitting and waiting. Sometimes it seemed like forever, but my dad pretty much was home by dinner time every night. He will tell you he worked 80 or more hours a week, and went to school full time, so he was not home very often. But not to my mind. By at least 8 years of age, he was home every night. Of course I was a kid then! But we had three wardrobes: school, church, and play clothes. And they could not be worn for other things. Once designated school clothes, you could not play in them. So after school we put on play clothes and played until it was time to get ready for dinner. Then we would have to wash/shower and then we had to be quiet, neat, and clean for when dad did come home. Every night. So, when my father arrived home to discipline us, we were clean and changed, and my brother and I loved it. He never spanked us. I can recall once or twice in my entire life. Rather, he would just talk to us. On and on he would talk. We would go into a coma after about 10 minutes. He droned on and then it was over. We actually preferred being slapped across the face. It was horrible and demeaning, but then it was done and mom was okay, and it only took a couple of minutes. Dad would lecture and brood – he didn’t snap out of it like she did. His discipline was usually mean. He would find what you really loved and take it away. I have never forgotten it. I promised myself I would never do that to my children.

My father expected me to become a doctor. And I tried. But I did not have the killer instinct required in the 1970s to compete in medical school; especially as a woman. I loved history and science. So I majored in Forensic Anthropology/Physiology and minored in Biblical Archeology. He did not support that college major. My brother did not even finish junior college, choosing instead to work for my dad, which my dad supported and funded. And I was on my own. Paid my own rent. Worked to put myself through college. For 10 years, finally giving up because I just could no longer do both well. Even after all those years in school, he repeatedly told me that even with all the education I had gained, that I was wasting my life. Why? Because to his extreme irritation, I chose to spend my life as a wife and mother. He also told me that even though he thought I was intelligent, that if he did not agree with how I was raising my children, he would sue me for custody because “grandparents have rights, too, you know.” At the time, I announced to him we had chosen to homeschool our kids. He thought it was ridiculous and who did I think I was, educating my own children?! Years after they had all completed school and have wonderful, full lives, he conceded the we had done a good job raising our children. Gee. Thanks.

I have not seen my father in more than 15 years. He chose to move to the other side of the country, away from his entire family, and moved near a step-daughter. None of his grandchildren from the marriage he had with my mother know him. They could not pick him out of a crowd. They all know he is bald and has a beard. That is pretty much it. My youngest son is almost 20 years old and he has only seen my dad twice in his life and has no memory of him. The last time he laid eyes on my dad, he was 5 years old.

My step-sister (who he moved to be near) and I had an interesting conversation. Because I have had trouble with my dad, I have always tip-toed and been careful about revealing much, or letting my step-family get close to me. Well, we had a heart-to-heart not too long ago and she explained that she has realized that my dad is a narcissist. I really had to stop and think about it. And I realized, she nailed it perfectly.

nar·cis·sist
noun
  1. a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.
    “narcissists who think the world revolves around them”

I have always known my dad was obsessed with what he did and who he associated with. He has always labeled people – he always defines their heritage or their skin color or nationality, and then their degree. Sort of like, “Dr. John Smith, he’s this black man I made friends with last week. He runs the entire neurology department at NYU.” Always has to associate things like that about everyone. Even if they are poor and uneducated, he will comment on that, as well. When he calls or we have a conversation, he starts by asking how the family is and how I am, and then he waits for a moment, patiently listening to my sparse details, and launches into the real reason he called – him. He doesn’t really care what I have to say. He never has.

I have given my father 61 years of chances. Sixty-one years to just be my dad. As I have tried to explain, kids do not care what you do for a living. They just want you to be their parent, hold their hand, and love them. Regardless of the choices adults make, kids just want a home and family, mom and dad, and safe space. My father cannot define himself without an hour-long explanation of his career highs and lows, accomplishments, and sacrifices he has made for the world. My father always wanted to change the world in some small way, and to receive the accolades for it. But he never really did. Oh, he was an engineer who worked on the space program and other flight projects in the 1960s. He left that, worked to become a doctor of medical engineering and then worked in healthcare. He did some amazing things with pressure sores and seating for the disabled. He made and lost a small fortune. He worked a lot of hours. We either had a comfortable living or were pretty broke. Life was up and down.

I always wanted my dad to be proud of me. He has, on occasion, told me he is proud of things I have done here and there. But I was always made to feel I was not quite good enough. Never quite measuring up. And certainly not as good as my male counterparts in this world. Because, I have realized, since talking with my poor stepsister (she gets to take care of my dad and her mom, both of whom had forms of dementia) that not only is my dad a controlling narcissist, but he is also a misogynist. It took me over 60 years to get it. He loves women, a lot, but as women. Not in careers. Not as equals. And most of the women he dealt with in business soon grew tired of his treatment and ceased a relationship with him. He would see them as sex objects, but not as equals, and certainly never as superior. And in all his grief about not having a relationship with my sons, he has never expressed the grief towards my nieces, my daughters-in-law, nor my granddaughters. Nope. Only my sons, my brother, my husband. The men in the family. One of my sons said to me that he realized his grandfather was only finally interested in him because he had a degree and would finally be interesting enough to talk to. I cannot even property express how sad that made me…and how true it seems.

The crux of our most recent conversations was that my dad is right, I am wrong, I am a horrible person and each time he hung up on me today, his last comment to me was, “I will see you in hell.” Yeah. From my dad. (After than second one, I blocked his number). He has never accepted the fact that he is not “the most honest person you will ever meet” because my dad has cheated in business, he has cheated in life, and he has cheated me out of a relationship with him. He had an affair on my mother with his secretary, who is his wife. He has loads of regrets; yes. He has said more than once that he has made lots of mistakes and leaving my mom was one of them. But he always comes back to the same saying, “I know I am right. And I am right until you prove me wrong.” About everything. Well, telling him I know he had an affair, and that my mom shared his goodbye letter with me wherein he told her he was tired of us “leeches” in his life, and that he no longer wanted any part of it, did not fit his narrative. LOL.

So what can I garner from this? What is my take-away? Well, number 1 is that I never wanted the same toxic relationship my parents had with one another. My mom is also a misogynist. Weirdly enough. She treats me far differently than the men in our family. Far differently even than my husband and son who live in the same house. And she is too old to be taught anything differently, especially since she has late-stage Alzheimer’s. (I think that is something that came out of the 1950s expectations of marriage). So I married a man who adored his mom and his sister and was standing shoulder to shoulder with his sister, not relegating her to the back row. He respects me and has my back, 24/7. And secondly, I was not going to allow this sort of horrific attitude to influence the way I raised my own sons. I would not raise them to be like my father, nor his attitude towards women. And I have tried to make sure that my sons know they are loved and adored, that I could care less what careers they have, so long as they love God and the lives they are making for themselves. And that my boys would love getting up every day, making their way through this world as caring and competent male citizens. This is a world full of ugliness, but also of love. And I want my kids and grandkids to know love, above all. And then acceptance – full and complete, no strings and no qualifiers. I will not allow my father and his mental illness affect any more family members. I have now opted for no contact. Ever. The End. I will forevermore stop expecting Lucy to allow Charlie Brown to kick that football, because she never will.

 

 

“…a time to plant…”

We spent time this weekend in our yard. Hubby was rototilling in the back and I was planting baskets and pots in the front. It was a glorious weekend. We had all the doors and windows open and I was able to wash the front down, even the windows. The birds were tweeting. The clouds rolling through on a gentle breeze. It was such a gorgeous day. When you live in a snow state, you love spring and summer. It’s the time of year when you put your screens back on your windows, so you can open them wide, letting in fresh air. It is hard to explain to people who live in moderate climates, how precious days like these are to us.

Spring and summer are an important part of life. They are times of growth and birth, learning and developing. We are outdoors more, and we are exploring our world. We take advantage of camping and fishing, hunting and long drives in the sunshine, windows down! We are planting seeds in hopes of a plentiful harvest. We are churning up the dirt and exposing old roots, taking them out and smoothing the soil, praying for growth. We water, fertilize, and enjoy watching and tending to our sprouting, young plants. You can feel the life just humming through the landscape.

It is also the time of year up here when we are gearing up for political primaries. There are lots of community events to attend. We’re having almost weekly parades, bar-b-ques, and fund raisers. There are lots and lots of outdoor markets and places to go where you can meander through booths, while listening to local bands, and munching on local delicacies. You can actually meet and speak to your state and local representatives, mayors, and occasionally, governors and senators. And candidates who want to replace them. It is so fun to get out and see neighbors and friends from other towns descend on an event and just have a good time. I love living where people appreciate the clean air, the beautiful green countryside, and enjoy the camaraderie of living in small towns. Kids were running all around this past Friday at the local “Friday Fling,” playing along old railroad tracks, singing songs, and eating locally fried corn dogs and pork rinds.

We had such a joyous time, and the views did not disappoint. And it filled my heart with joy, watching my grandchildren running on those tracks with other kids, making up games and songs, while smiling the whole time. The sun came and went, and then decided to stay, warming us all. It filled me with warmth and happiness, to just be out and about.

My mom seemed to enjoy herself, too. She interacted with complete strangers, and I am sure none of them even realized she has Alzheimer’s. She can fool the best. But those of us who know her, we understand it is all show. Mom had no memory of the band playing or the wonderful gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches we enjoyed. She had no memory of the grandchildren being there, or playing with their new puppy, or laughing with my daughter-in-law’s mother, even as we walked to our car. She had no specific memory of the day at all, or even the past 10 minutes. But she was happy. She was tired. She had been fed in many ways by that excursion. It was good for her soul, even though she had no memory of it in her mind.

Mom may not have many summers left. We all have our days numbered. We all have fewer days left than we think we do. A dear friend of mine just did not wake up the other day. No warning of illness. Nothing. She just did not wake up. I was gobsmacked. I was stunned. I was crushed. I cried for hours after learning she had died. She was a gentle, loving woman who adored her family, her faith, and her new life in retirement. Her family has been left devastated. Everyone who knew her is feeling this loss. It has been horrible. And the day we went to his lovely Friday Fling, my friend had not woken up. I was determined to be out. To enjoy life. To love my family. To savor these moments. My friend had just moved to a new state and had experienced her first snowy winter and was in awe and in love with her new life. I am so glad she got to experience that satisfaction. It was good for her to know she had chosen the right path for her and her husband. It was such a blessing, even if her death was sudden and tragic for those of us who loved her well.

Alzheimer’s disease is often called “the long goodbye” and it is an appropriate moniker. Taking care of my mom is teaching me so much. Being right is not important, if a kindly and loving silence is better. Doing things in the right way, right order, or preferred method, not important. Wearing winter clothes in summer? Go for it. Orange eyebrows? Well, those I did fix. Ha-Ha-Ha. But I am realizing that in the day to day, moment to moment world of Alzheimer’s, there are very few spring and summer days, and lots of winter. Lots and lots of winter. So for me, her primary caregiver, I need to help bring more summer and sunshine into an ending full of winter. Mom doesn’t share the joy of plants or growing things, but she will enjoy the sun on her face, while I garden. So it’s a win-win for us both. Each of them, my mom and my girlfriend, had their spring and summers. They reveled in them when they could. One fell into her winter in one night, to her eternal rest (and may her memory be eternal). My mom is slowly falling into her winter. I could use all sorts of analogies about open windows and closed windows, spring cleaning, and living in dark environments like we do in snow states, for sometimes months on end. But I think you can see where I am headed. It’s just that when I see the sun and feel the life all around me, the stark contrast with my mom’s sinking into Alzheimer’s is more and more obvious. And my learning curve has been steep, at times, with managing this disease. My most recent and steep lesson as been in letting go and just living the joy of each, short moment. And I am grabbing those fleeting moments and trying to bring summer sunshine to her.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

“…the grass of the field…”

Ever feel like you are pounding your head against the same wall? LOL. Or that whatever efforts you are putting in are futile, at best? Oh boy. Yes!!!

My husband mowed our grass for the first time after the winter. He used a mulching blade, so it would break up the grass. And he also cut it more than once, getting it to a nice length. And when he was done, it looked amazing. I used a week wacker for the first time. I had fun, going around the edges of the house. I had never tried to use it before, because it intimidated me. But I enjoyed it. I think it will be my new toy in the yard. And then Monday rolled around and the grass looked awful. It was all yellow and dried out!

So, being the good wife that I am (lol…that’s for you, sweetie) I got out the hose and set about watering the entire lawn. It takes more than a day, because we have a tiny sprinkler head, attached to our hose. We don’t have sprinklers up here, because they would freeze over winter. Anyway, I started about 9:00am, setting a timer for every 20 minutes. And I had managed to get almost 3/4 of the lawn watered. And then, as I was folding laundry, I realized I needed to turn a light on. Why? Because the sky was totally black and it looked like the sky was going to open up and the rain was going to fall. I ran outside and pulled up the hose, just as the first drops began. And guess what? It rained off and on all night, and is still drizzling today. And the lights are still on, because it is rainy. And I watered my lawn. Yeah; futile effort.

In my mind’s eye, I see an amazing garden, with the majestic mountains in the background. And I hope to work towards that. But the reality is dry grass. Ha-Ha. Oh, and a sink hole where my garden is going to be. And I do not want to beat my head against the wall, or pursue something with even more futile efforts. You know?

A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. Isaiah 40:6-7

 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12: 27-31

So am I watering in vane, because God takes care of it anyway? No. Because God tells me He will clothe me; He will take care of things. He also tells me “do not worry about it.” And so, I will keep on watering my field, seeking His Kingdom. I will keep on caring for these fragile things in my life. Is it just my garden still unplanted, or my grass brown and withered? Of course not. It is all of those I am charged with caring for – my spouse, children, extended family members, friends, community. They all get a little brown. They all have trouble poking through the soil that is life. But the Lord sends the rain. Sometimes the rain is at my hand, as I am charged with caring (watering) and my efforts add to those blessings of God. He certainly does not want us languishing on couches or indoors all day and night. He wants us out and about in this world. He wants us to care for all living things. And He will bless our efforts. Nothing is ever futile. The walls we bang our heads against will yield fruit, if we just stop to listen to the Whisper of God in our efforts. And our efforts extend out into our communities, one person at a time.

Take a deep breath, step to the left, and carry on. It is a new day. It is cloudy today, but today things were a bit easier, even without the sunshine. The Lord never gives us more than we can handle, futile feelings and all. The wall I bang my head against? That is from God, too. And I am working on changing my outlook, to accept it as His plan for my soul, and to be ever thankful.

Today is the first day of the Farmers’ Market this year, in our little town! It is cloudy and drizzling, but we are still going out and about. We can walk among neighbors, exchange pleasantries, and find joy in the bounty!!! After all, the farmers tilled the earth and watered the soil, too, rain or shine….