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