“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.

“…I don’t have to worry about you anymore…”

With Facebook, if you are not familiar with it, you are given prompts each day as you log on to your account, to view posts from that same date in years gone by. They will show you things you have posted on that same date, each year you have had a Facebook account. It is kind of cool. And today I was reminded of some blog posts I had put on Facebook. One was from just two years ago and it was about me and my dad, communicating on a different level. I remarked that we were communicating as peers, and not in that authoritative/subordinate thing we get into with parents. And I was rejoicing. Because it was so very different.

I actually remember dancing with my dad like this. We were on vacation, I think we were up in Northern California, near to Lake Shasta. We were staying at this lodge/hotel place and each evening, we got fancy for dinner (well, it was the 1950s and that is how you did dinner in those days. Fast food had not been invented, yet. I have a story about that, too!). And the orchestra played that wonderful song, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” by Maurice Chevalier, and my dad asked me to dance with him. It makes me cry to think about now. What a precious memory. I believe we have photos somewhere from that vacation. My dad is the same number of years older than me, that I am from my oldest son. And so I measure things with him, to my relationship with my son. I can clearly recall my son and I at this stage, too. Soon, he will be at the same place with his daughter. It’s one of those “circle of life” moments where disparate things gel into a linear relationship and you can clearly see how connected they are.

Ahhh…the 1970s. Gotta love those pants. Yeah; that happened. And something happened with me and my dad. We argued – a lot. I spent a lot of my teen years on restriction for some broken rule or another. I totally get that phase. I cut my long, long straight blonde hair into a Dorothy Hamill haircut. And entered college. When your world explodes because your knowledge is exploding, relationships at home explode. It seems like pretty much all of my friends had explosions here and there with their parents. My parents were “too old school” and too “out of touch,” and being British, just weird. And funnily enough my youngest son recently told me that he and his brothers all think my husband and I are “old school parents.” I sort of took that as a compliment. Ha-Ha. I don’t think that was the reaction he had expected!

Me and my Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut exploded into the world. And my dad was often left out, shaking his head at my choices and decisions. Somehow, in amongst all that exploding that was going on, I kept finding myself at Church in some form or another. I went to the Mormon Church, I explored Judaism, I loved Zoroastrianism. (Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago). I drove my parents nuts when I left my law/medical leaning education for Anthropology. They stopped supporting that exploration because they could not see how it would do anything for a career for me. I compromised by majoring in Forensic Anthropology and Physiology, with a minor in Biblical Archeology. That way, I was still in science (to make my dad happy) and yet I could study history in a concrete way. It made, and still does make, for interesting conversations. I can even recall arguing with my grandpa (my dad’s dad) about Scottish Rite Masonic influences in society, the evils of smoking, and his problem with unions. And my dad always stayed out of those! Ha-Ha! Smart guy! I did cause some concern when I entered the Catholic Church in my late 20s. I think he still has doubts about where my faith is. But regardless of where I stand or where he stands, I still share with him my faith. I share the Psalms with him, and many of the Scriptures that bring me peace, hoping he can grab onto some of that, too. I had sent him an email a few weeks ago, with all these quotes from the Scriptures for him. I thought if he printed it out, he could look at it and find comfort. I did not realize then, how poorly his health had become and that he no longer uses his computer, or even reads. So now, I share verbally with him, when I can.

These day, however, conversations with my dad are never predictable. He has Parkinson’s Dementia, or Lewy Body Dementia, or Parkinson’s with Lewy Body Disease. Whatever way you slice it, my dad is fading away. And very quickly. In many LBD (Lewy Body Disease) patients, their ability to process information and be cognizant in a conversation becomes greatly hampered, until there is no true conversing going on. They suffer hallucinations and become easily paranoid. They can also become increasingly angry and violent. And because of all of that, I am mourning my dad already. He is still with us, but his decline is becoming so very rapid. He is 90 years old. And he has admitted during his lucid moments, that he is just tired. And it makes me sad. The man I danced with can barely walk with his walker. Sometimes there is humor in that, because he did fall last week and no one saw him laying in his driveway. He could not get up but happened to have his camera with him. So, being the creative guy he is, he laid there taking photos of ants and dirt and other bugs. (He loves Macro-photography). He remembered what had happened and related it to me, all the while laughing about it. It was one of our good conversations.

And today I am psyching up to give him a call. Because with this disease, we just don’t know how he will answer the phone. Last week he did not want to talk at all…he was in an angry phase. And a day before that, we were laughing at his walker episode in the driveway. And I have to prepare for those bad days. I pray for good ones, but I prepare for the bad ones. I have also come to realize that quality of life is truly a concern. With all the dementia styles in our extended family, I have come to see that quite often, if our loved ones knew how they were behaving, they would be mortified. And so I pray for them to find peace. To find calm. To find gentle. And to feel the love we have for them. And I find myself expecting the man in the photo below, whenever I speak to him. But I need to drill it into myself, that is not who answers the phone. Today, I am sad about that. Life is going on and moving past us. I recall a conversation between my dad and his dad. We were walking into a party to celebrate my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. I was carrying my oldest son on my hip as a baby. My grandpa said to my dad, “Well, son, I guess you’re old enough now that I don’t have to worry about you anymore.” We all laughed as my dad said, “Gee, thanks, Dad. You do realize I am 60 years old, right?” And here I am, ready to chat to my 90 year old dad, and I am 60. There’s that “circle of life” thingy again…cue the music from the Lion King…I’m going to call my dad, now. Love you, Daddy. I do. Already missing you…and missing the “us” we didn’t get to have.