“I dipped my toes into the water and I got soaked to the bone…”

I dipped my toes..

As many of you know who read this blog with any regularity, I had my mom living with me, and she had end-stage Alzheimer’s. It’s been a year this month that she passed away. And I still have my dad. He lives on the other side of the country. His wife and stepdaughter had him admitted to a memory care facility. And he is mad. I mean he is completely pissed off.

He called me – twice in 5 minutes – yesterday, pleading for advice for a problem he doesn’t have and only imagines. Delusions are a part of his daily living. He ranted and raved at me for 1 hour and 35 minutes. I barely got a word in. Entering into Alzheimer’s World is like Alice going down the rabbit hole. I have been down some amazing rabbit holes with my mom, to be sure. But she got kind as the disease progressed. She passed over angry right around the time she was diagnosed. She accepted things. It still made her angry, but in some odd way, as she approached death, she got quiet and comfortable with herself. And she was great to be around. Not my father. My relationship with him has been chaotic at best. So very stressful. And each time he would nose his way in, my family would suffer. Because he treated me so poorly and my kids and husband despised him for it. And as this delusional aspect of dementia has grown stronger, he is more and more difficult to deal with. And I have not seen him in over 20 years – he lives on the opposite side of the country and was always too busy for me and mine. But now that he is alone in a facility, he wants me, his oldest daughter, to make things right. Like I have any authority whatsoever. He signed all that away years ago to his wife and his middle stepdaughter. Because of Hippa – I have no rights where he is concerned. And he is mad I cannot fix things.

Internet photo – but it looks a lot like my dad!

I tried to reason with him and finally got quiet. I had him on speaker on my laptop and actually played solitaire while listening to his rant. I didn’t bother commenting – it did nothing but fan the flames of his intense anger. It may seem strange that I am this bothered, but my dad has always been just out of reach for me. I never performed quite good enough; I was never thin enough; I didn’t become a doctor; I homeschooled my kids; we attended the wrong Church…it goes on and on. And my entire life I have tried to be the daughter that made him proud. Now, at 95 and in end-stage dementia with delusions, he tells me he loves me, he is proud of the life I have made, he thinks our kids are amazing adults, but he’s mad he has no relationship with any of us. His rant was pretty thorough yesterday. At one point he told me he never wants to talk to me again because I always make him so angry; in the next breath he says I’m the only one he ever wants to talk to because I challenge his intellect. *Sigh* It was a long, long, conversation.

The inner me…

I know he gets to me because I am still that 6-year-old girl trying to gain daddy’s love somehow. Dad was always working. And when he came home we were instructed to be quiet and not make noise or upset him. Mom had his gin-and-tonic waiting, all dressed and cleaned up, dinner cooking. Everything had to be clean and neat, because he was under so much stress. We had to be clean, dressed, and playing quietly, homework done, in our rooms. Dad was working most of my childhood on getting a man into space before the Russians. We lost that race; he had a mental breakdown. I was around 9 or 10 years old. Then we had to be really quiet! As my brother and I entered our teens, dad changed careers and had his own business. He was even more busy. Our lives were the dichotomy of feast or famine. LOL. We’d have lots of toys like boats and cars, and then we’d get food stamps. It was chaotic and nothing we could count on. We were forced to work at his plant on afternoons and weekends. It was all or nothing. And it still feels like that rat race when I speak with him. He is still on the treadmill… I wish he could have read, “Who moved my cheese?” It truly may have helped. I think dad is totally the “hem” character. If you haven’t, you should read the book!

Still chasing my cheese…keeps moving…

And so how do I help a 95-year-old who has delusional dementia, and who lives across the country? *sigh* For me, I go back to my faith. I have no authority in dad’s life to make any changes, for better or worse. That is in stone. I live literally 1000s of miles away and have not seen him in over 20 years. We were estranged for several years until this past year. Our relationship is basically one where he rants and I listen. I cannot affect any change in our relationship. My brother says we can never get our dad back, nor have any real relationship with him, other than to listen. Soon, we both believe, he will forget about us all together. Maybe that will be a blessing. And then we would wait for that final telephone call. I’m not sure. But I know this – God is merciful. My dad needs abundant mercy. And so I pray for that. For him. For me. For my entire, extended, messed-up family. I came across these lyrics today, and they made me smile and feel the love of God in my life. I will end this reflection with them:

I dipped my toes into the water and got soaked to the bone; I turned my gaze to my Father, and suddenly I was home.

I gave everything away and I became rich, indebted to the abundance that You so readily give.

I became obedient and my freedom flourished like a bird; I became selfless and fell even more in love.

I dipped my toes into the water and was soaked to the bone; I turned my gaze to my Father, and suddenly I was home.

Dipped my toes by kinnship

“But understand this….

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power. Avoid these people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Good Advice…

I have had a rather rough week. My mom passed away a year ago on Monday. It bothered me more than I thought it would. I can hear her voice and see her smile, and the way her eyes would crinkle up at the corners when she had a big grin on her face. I recall my stepdad telling us a story and mom leaning in and quietly saying, “Like I haven’t heard this one before.” And chuckling at her husband. He was an awesome story teller and even though he told them with great embellishment, we all enjoyed them, laughing all the while. He truly made my mom happy. Now they are both gone and I miss them being in my life so very much.

My dad is still with us. He is 95 and lives in a memory facility on the other side of the country. We chat now and then. This past weekend, he told me he was moving and was busy, and out of breath, packing his room up. I texted my brother, and he confirmed dad was going nowhere that he had been told. I texted my stepsister and her response was, “These are the delusions we live with. This is why he is where he is – we could not handle him any longer.” I had thought it was because of dementia and did not realize his dementia included delusions. It was a hard pill to swallow, as I have been enjoying what I thought were many lucid conversations with him. I spoke with him today and he had no memory of moving anywhere. He lamented that he had lived a good life, is making peace about death, and told me he is lonely. Told me no one comes to see him. And he misses me and wishes he were with me. (I have not seen my dad in person in about 20 years. So this was sort of a shock). He told me he wants me to come and get him and bring him to my home. He realizes I live across the country, but he said he is lonely for family. My stepsister told me that he tells her he does not speak to his kids, just his step kids. Sigh. Dementia. The long goodbye.

Dad’s under the impression that he has led a good life and that he is going to heaven. He also told me that after he hugs Jesus, he’s going to tell Him all the mistakes dad thinks Christ has made. Oh boy. Head-slap. His impression of himself fascinates me. And he knows he is in his last days, and he is beginning to realize that he may not awaken in the not-so-distant future. But he really has no concept of humility, nor of being subservient to anyone – especially if they don’t have the correct credentials. Dad doesn’t respect people very much who are not degreed or wealthy. Where he lives, there are at least 200 other people. He says they lack the education and only talk about farming, fishing, and hunting. None of those subjects interest him. So he sits alone, being miserable, watching birds outside his window and putting together jigsaw puzzles. Alone. In his misery.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent Icon

The icon above is one of my favorites. This is just a portion of it. I have a replica hanging next to the sink in my bathroom. Odd, do you think? Well, I chose that place so that each time I brush my teeth, I contemplate this icon. There are many rungs and there are pitfalls all along the way. Not all of us can hang on until we make it to heaven. Many are heading up there, but demons and choices yank us off. Before we die, if we are aware, we can make better choices and climb up that ladder, having a firmer grasp on our choice of heaven. Everything we do is a choice. And every choice moves us closer to God, or further away. It may just be a tiny step, but the direction is firmly one way or the other. Every, single, day we choose our steps. Every, single day.

In the world right now, life is chaotic. There are so many people making poor choices over and over again. Some people are at the ends of their lives; some are still so young. As I have aged, I have become more tolerant of people whose lifestyles do not align with mine. I choose to worship so differently than most of the people I have in my life, including my children, and other family members, and most of our friends. I do seem to be drawn to like-minded people in the areas of general faith, politics, economics, home life, etc. but they often worship differently. And that is okay. As long as their aim is upwards, towards God, I am good. Some of my friends dye their hair, whereas I do not. Some prefer trucks, while I drive a grandma sedan. Some are vegans, whereas I love my red meats. It’s okay to be friends with those different than us. However, as things get dicier and dicier, I return to the admonishment of St. Timothy above, “Avoid these people.” And in a way, it’s funny because my lifestyle precludes me from associating with many of those exhibiting those traits. Except for some family members. And there is the rub.

Sage advice,,,

I am deeply grateful for my life. I love my husband more than I thought I could love anyone. He is my best friend. He is who my world revolves around. We have amazing kids and grandkids. We live in a gorgeous place among the trees and mountains, streams and lakes. We have two amazing dogs that are accompanying us on this last journey. I have Medicare and just applied for Social Security. Times are slowing down. The glory days are behind us; peace is ahead. And still I ache over issues from family members. My dad is a case in point. We have not been close since I was in my early 20s. Once he left mom and chose to live apart from his family, that’s been his path. And it took him to the opposite side of the country. My youngest son only met him twice – once as a newborn and once as a 4-year-old. He is now 23. My kids have no relationship with their grandfather and he laments that – now. It never bothered him, up until he really started to age. (My kids adored my stepdad, so the roll of grandpa was fulfilled on my half. Their relationship to my in-laws was wonderful. They adored them. So that was great).

My thoughts center around the demented, aging population. How do they reconcile with God? My mom had no concept of God near the end of her life. Dad just thinks he knows better and would like to lecture God about the world. He has always been like that, which is why he flitted from denomination to denomination throughout his life. He could not abide preachers, thinking he knew more than they did. (He also thinks he has multiple doctorates, but that is part of his delusions). I had an Alzheimer’s counselor tell me once that the demented are at peace in their minds. They just don’t communicate out loud very well, and that God knows them intimately, and He knows their hearts. I was somewhat comforted.

Clinging to this for myself, and my loved ones.

And so I am trying to let this go. I seem to be on the verge of tears a lot. My granddaughter is getting three fillings in her teeth today – I wish I could be with her. I wish I could be out of my head some days and find peace. I am going to my grandson’s ball game later this evening. I will endeavor to find joy in the ballfields, amongst the sounds of the game and the children playing all around us. I will suck up the joy and youth and spirit and the life! God knows the hearts of His beloved. He will care for those I cannot care for. He loves us because we love Him. He knew us before we were even born (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…Jeremiah 1:5) and He will take care of us, as Isaiah reminds us above.

I leave all these thoughts with you because my brain is so busy and there is just so much rambling going on!! May the Lord bless you with peace…

This is for everyone in our lives, but especially our family and friends with dementia.