My mother-in-law shares her birthday with my grandson, Christopher. He is her first great grandchild, so that makes it even more special. This is an honor her mother also got to share with Christopher’s mother, my daughter Corrie. It is an unusual statistic indeed. My mother-in-law turned 80 years old today, but if you ask her, she is 65. You see, my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease, and she often lives in her own little world.
On any given day, if you ask her what she did that day, you will get a variety of answers, from doing laundry or other household chores to going to work. This is the really odd one, because she never held a job outside the home. Still, she thinks she worked in an insurance agency. Probably because I am an insurance agent. She thinks she works at a school, but I’m not sure where that one came from since we have no teachers in the family. She has also told us that she babysits on occasion, and we are pretty sure she thinks she is watching her granddaughters, as it has been girls and the only girls of that age don’t live here. I have found that the best thing to do is go along with the stories she comes up with, but some of them really take me by surprise, making it difficult to come up with a good answer in the conversation.
Sometimes she gets a little frustrated when we tell her it is time for bed. She always thinks it is too early. By the time we finally get her up, she is mad at everyone for “being so ornery” to her. That is the bad part. The good part is that by the time she is in bed, she is back to her sweet self and thanking you for getting her to bed, because she doesn’t remember that she was mad at you, not 10 minutes ago. I have been told that many Alzheimer’s patients are aggressive, and I am thankful that, at least up to this point, she is not one of them. Very little bothers her, and in reality the only things are exercise and bedtime. Oh, to have that be my biggest problem.
A sad side to Alzheimer’s Disease is that every once in a while, she gets an inkling of the fact that she should be able to remember some things, and when she can’t, she asks, “What is wrong with me?” That is so hard to take. It makes me want to cry for her, and her situation of moments lost. She still has many of her memories of the distant past, but she doesn’t always have her present life. From one moment to the next, something happens, and then for her it is gone. She doesn’t know that her younger son got married in June. She doesn’t realize that her grandchildren are grown adults…moments lost.
Christopher, my first grandchild, turns 15 today. He was born on his great grandmother’s birthday, Bob’s mother. That is unusual in itself, but when you add the fact that Christopher’s mom was born on her great grandmother’s birthday, and that grandmother was the mother of Christopher’s great grandmother, you have an unusual occurrence indeed. And, when you add to that the fact that he was the first great grandchild, and his mom was the same, it gets to be even more rare. This has been a fun fact in the family for years.
Christopher was the first in a series of grandbabies that I couldn’t wait to get. Moments after his birth, my daughter Corrie said, “We made it mom!!” I said, “Made what?” She said, “You are a grandmother before you are 40.” I had always told the girls that I wanted to be a grandma before I turned 40, because I was so ready for that next step in life. And, yes indeed, we made it…twice. I was 39 when Christopher was born, and didn’t turn 40 until that April.
Christopher was, nevertheless, a bit of a “culture shock” for me, in that I had been raised with 4 sisters (no brothers) and then I had 2 daughters (no sons) and suddenly there was this very different kind of child in my life. Christopher is all boy. He is into sports, cars, and of course, girls! As a boy he was rough and tumble, and filled with
energy. I wasn’t used to that type of personality…but he changed all that. His favorite sport is football. He loves to take out the quarterback…and it doesn’t make any difference to him how big the guards might be. He simply has no fear!! Girls are so different that that, so I was quickly initiated into a new world. Soon, I was very used to the antics of boys, who I have learned are very different from girls, indeed.
Now, my first little grandbaby is turning 15 years old. He is tall and strong, with a deep voice like his dad’s…just one more thig that I have to get used to. That little boy voice is gone forever, as is the little boy, but he has turned into a wonderful young man, who makes his grandma and grandpa very proud!! Happy Birthday Chris!! We love you very much!!
During the years of the Great Depression, people had to do whatever was necessary to make ends meet. The backyard garden became a necessity, not a hobby. Hunting and fishing really became a vital part of life, not just a pastime. People had to make their own repairs around the house, rather than hiring it done. People put blankets up for curtains, and made their own clothes. I suppose it was like a move back in time…to the time when their ancestors didn’t have a store to go to, or a repairman to call, so they did what they had to do, on their own. I would imagine that there were a lot of repairs that the repairman would have scratched his head at…just trying to figure out how it ran at all.
While the things the people of the Great Depression era did were a bit unusual, and were an essential part of making ends meet, they were also a part of their independence. They didn’t want a government handout…even when they had to take it, they didn’t want it. They were used to taking care of themselves. Nevertheless, jobs were scarce, and often required the men to travel for work, leaving their wives and young children to run the farm. School became a luxury, because the kids were needed at home to plow, weed, and harvest the crops to put food on the table. Nothing was wasted either. They cooked the feet, tongue, and even brains of an animal for food. They didn’t necessarily kill an animal, if all they needed was the feathers for a mattress. Can you imagine plucking the feathers from a goose while it is alive?? I would be afraid it would come after me, but it was well known then, that the feathers would grow back, just like our hair, of course, cutting our hair doesn’t hurt.
Tough times can make or break a nation and it’s people I guess, but if we are a people, determined to make it on our own, and help this nation be great at the same time, then we can be a nation who can handle difficult times with grace and dignity. If we become a nation of people who are willing to sit back and let the government take care of us, then we will be a truly poor nation indeed.
Years ago, when my husband, Bob had just started his first job, his family took a trip to California. It was to be the first time Bob didn’t go along on the family vacations, and I’m sure it felt odd to the whole family, but perhaps none so much as his little brother, Ron. As the only two boys in a family of six kids, Bob and his little brother had a bond…or maybe it was simply the need for an ally. Two boys against four girls doesn’t always bode well for the boys…especially when two or all of them are older than you. Bob has two older sisters, and two younger sisters, and finally 14 years after his own birth, Bob got his little brother, Ron. Needless to say, the girls dominated the household for the most part, and for most of Bob’s life at home.
The family set out for California, leaving Bob to work, and hopefully, stay out of trouble. The trip was fun filled, and as most vacations do, it went by far too fast. They were sightseeing and visiting family, and just having a great time. All this was so new to Ron, who was just a little guy, and so when the time came to start back home, he was clearly not the happiest person in the group. He wanted to stay longer. Home was boring. It meant going back to the same old everyday things…no more fun and exciting new things to see and do.
The family tried to explain to him that they had to go home. His dad had to work, and the girls had to go back to school in the fall. Their had a house and all his toys back in Casper. Nothing seemed to work. Finally in a last ditch effort to convince Ron that they simply could not stay on vacation forever, the said that Bob would be lonely if they never came back home. Ron had seemed to have an answer for every other argument, but they thought they had him on this one…not so!! Ron was quick to solve that problem as well. He quickly explained, “Just send for him in the mail!” I’m quite sure that took them all by surprise, and while he didn’t win the war to stay on vacation, I think he might just have won that battle, I mean…how can you argue with logic like that.
Having been a caregiver since October of 2005, I find myself coming face to face more and more often with the Winter of life. It is the time in someones life, when they have far fewer days in front of them that they have behind them, and in many ways, I find that sad…especially when it is my parents or in-laws that I am talking about. I understand…all too well…that life on this earth is finite, and that we will all leave here one day, but still, it is hard to face that day as it applies to my parents, in-laws, grandparents and other loved ones in my life. I guess I just don’t like change very much and especially when it means having a loved one get old and leave this life.
Change is, unfortunately, inevitable, and their is nothing we can do to stop it, or slow it down even. Like the seasons, life has a cycle that cannot be changed. Like Spring, bringing newness to the Earth, birth is also a new beginning, and young life. Summer is the youth and young adulthood, Fall is middle age, and finally, we arrive at Winter, bring late life and finally death. I have never liked Winter in any form…be it weather or life cycle. It is a depressing time to me that always feels sad.
The only consolation is that we have the promise of eternal life in Heaven, and I know that I will see my dad again. It was never about a lack of belief that I will see him again…it is more about the wait for Spring…eternal life, that seems so long. When we are the ones left behind, the wait seems to take forever. I’m not in a hurry to leave this Earth, I just wish that the getting to Heaven could be sooner. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that is exactly how I feel about the Winter of life.
The loss of a loved one always seems like the end of the world as we know it. So often we wonder how everyone can just continue to go on doing all the things they normally do, doing new things, smiling, laughing…living when life for your loved one is over…at least in this world. After my dad passed away, I found myself feeling like something was terribly wrong in the world, because my dad was no longer here. It almost felt like his life had been put on hold, but that wasn’t it exactly either. For a time, I tried to picture Heaven, and what my dad must be doing, and while we all do that on occasion, I know that our idea of Heaven is like poverty compared to what Heaven really is. What comes to my mind most now is almost like a different dimension…like they are floating somewhere above us in an alternate universe.
No matter where or how I picture my dad, I simply can’t envision him back here on earth with us. I can see him, in my mind, when he was here, but not going forward from that last moment on December 12, 2007 at 12:00pm. My mind simply cannot convince itself that he is here, and that is the thing that breaks my heart so badly. So, where do I go from here? How do I heal from that? Does the pain get to be less and less over time? I almost don’t want to think that it does, because that would mean that I have accepted what has happened, and I don’t want to do that.
I was watching the show, “Touched By An Angel” the other day, and there was a young man going through exactly what I have been going through since my Dad’s passing. On the show, an old man who had been his dad’s butler, gave the best advice I have ever heard. When the young man asked him how he was supposed to get over the loss of his dad, the old butler said, “You never get over it…you just get on with it.” Truer words were never spoken. You can’t get over a loved on like to do a cold or the flu. You can’t go on like they had never existed. They were here, and they were a huge part of your life, and that has forever changed you. You are who you are because of the influence they had on your life, as well as the influence of so many other people. You will never get over them, but you must move forward with your life. So that is what I must begin to do now. Not to get over my dad, or his death, but to get on with…life, just as he would have wanted me and all of his family to do. Thank you, Dad, for all you did to prepare us for life…I love you Dad!!
As a caregiver, I can understand fully just how easy it can be to hit the breaking point. Sometimes it comes with irritation, or worse, screaming at the person you are trying to help, but just as often, it comes in the form of an argument with someone else…one that has nothing to do with the things that are bothering the caregiver at all. Usually the breaking point happens over something that is so trivial that you wonder what your problem is. And sadly, so does everyone else. Basically it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s just that last thing to happen in a series of events that have been adding stress upon stress, to the point that you just have no more patience.
Caregivers tend to hold it all in for as long as they can in an effort to keep on keeping on. There is no way out of the situation…you are needed, and you would not leave your loved one without the help they need. You love them. So you simply pull yourself up by the bootstraps, take a deep breath, muster up every bit of adrenalin that you can, and you go on. It’s all you can do. Then, without warning, something hits that last straw point…that breaking point…and you find yourself losing that control you have worked so hard to maintain. It’s like watching yourself explode. You would stop it if you could, but it is beyond that point now. Your mouth is engaged, and your mind has already quit thinking rationally. It is probably the darkest, most horrible, single act that a caregiver can perform, and one that none of us want to do. We already know that we will have to apologize for acting in such a way…after all, it wasn’t the fault of the patient or whomever it was that we have just unloaded all those pent up feelings on. They were simply the last straw.
Not only do they not know what they did wrong, but they find themselves wondering why they never knew that you were insane before. You aren’t, of course, but you are overworked, and you are tired, and you are emotionally drained. The person you have always known to be strong and capable, has suddenly changed into a weak and needy person, and that has turned your life upside down. It is enough to make anyone go seemingly insane. You had always thought that your parents would always be your parents, and they are of course, but they are also your patient, and your responsibility. The tables have turned, and in the process, your life has hit a turning point too, and you don’t know what to do to fix it.
There really is no way to fix it. You find yourself in a position of having to accept that your parents will never be the strong people they were. That part of their life has passed, and the future…the winding down of their lives has been set in motion. Even if it was just a day ago that they felt fine, there is no going back that one day. Time marches on and we have to go with it. We have to learn to make the best of what we have now, and take care of ourselves well enough that perhaps we can avoid that next breaking point…because if we can’t, we will once again find ourselves looking at someone who has no idea what they have done to us. All they know is that the person they love is somehow furious at them, and it breaks their heart…at which point, we lose all that anger, wish we had not let things get out of control, and begin the process of repairing the relationship again with that all too familiar apology.
A couple of months ago, I lost a pin that I really liked. It had 2 Calla Lillies on it and it was delicate and beautiful. I searched high and low for it, at work, in my car, and at home. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Being a Christian, I believe that the devil has no right to steal things from me. I believe that God takes care of me and my things. His word promises me that I have power over the devil, and since the devil came to steal, kill, and destroy, what was happening to me was wrong. I prayed over my pin, telling God that He knew where it was and asked Him to reveal it to me.
During the next couple of months, I thought about my pin often, but it still had not been returned to me. I had not had to stand this long for a lost item before, and I wondered what to do about that. I know faith works, and I didn’t want to pull back my faith, and yet, I had no pin. I just kept putting it out of my mind.
Yesterday as I was getting some things out of my car after work, my attention was caught by something at the back edge of the driver’s side seat. There, staring me in the face, was my pin. I was ecstatic!! I wanted to jump up and down. I knew God would never let me down, so if the pin had never been returned, I would have to face the fact that I had failed in my faith stand. I really hadn’t much thought about the pin, and certainly not enough to be pressured to pull back my faith with some silly remark about how I guessed it wasn’t going to be returned. I had simply put it out of my mind for the most part. But, God is faithful. And words are alive. The words spoken in faith two months ago, were not forgotten by God, He didn’t put it out of his mind by saying it was too hard. No, God and I are in covenant, and He never takes that lightly. I, His child, had spoken in faith, and managed for two months not to pull back my faith, so God in His never-changing, perfect sense of responsibility and obligation to perform His word, did His part and brought it to pass.
My pin returned, I went about the rest of my day with a lighter heart and an ever growing understanding of how true to His word my God is. Thank you Father, for your faithfulness to me. I know that my God loves me and cares about every area of my life, from the biggest to the smallest detail. How awesome is that? I can roll the care of anything in my life over onto God, and He is faithful to supply every need, and even cares about my desires. Every little thing in my life is important to God, because He loves me and we are in covenant together. God always keeps up His end of the bargin.
Have you ever noticed that when you don’t think you like someone, even if you don’t really know them, your thoughts constantly fall in the realm of the negative? And the more negative thoughts you think toward them, the more you don’t like them. And not only that, but the more you think those negative thoughts, the more the person actually becomes like your thoughts. It’s hard to explain how that could happen, but I’m sure it has something to do with how those thoughts transfer into our attitude, our conversation, and if that isn’t enough, they keep us thinking more negative thoughts toward that person. Pretty soon the relationship is beyond repair.
This same scenario can play out in the lives of our children if we are not careful. Children can be frustrating at any age, and when we think angry thoughts toward them concerning their rebellious ways, and those thoughts turn to feelings that we display toward our children, they can begin to think that they never do anything right, or that we hate them or are disappointed in them. So they can rebel further, and a cycle begins to take shape. Sometimes kids think they can’t ever please us, so why try.
I don’t mean to say than we shouldn’t discipline our kids. They need rules and limits, and it would be wrong not give them these things. But once we have done so don’t think harsh thoughts about them. Think good thoughts about them again. They will know that you love them and are proud of them, in spite of their mistakes.
When I was a young girl, I dreamed of the things I would do and the places I would go when I got older. At one time I thought I would move to Germany, and while there, I was going to marry a German man and live happily ever after. I discovered the German language in junior high school, fell in love with the country and I still love it today. Well, part of the dream came true. Bob comes from a strong German background, and we have lived happily ever after. As to moving away, well that didn’t happen.
Bob and I have both lived here since we were very young, and after marriage, we have stayed right in the same town. He had a good job, and our families were here, so we just never moved away. As the years went quickly by, the kids grew up and had families and stayed right here. We would never want to leave the kids and grandkids. Then our parents were suddenly older, and we were needed to help them. The time to move away…well, it became just a distant memory.
I suppose many people would think I missed out on a lot by living in the same place as I grew up. By never moving away and living somewhere exciting. But, while my life might seem boring to some, I have had the benefit of a close family. My mother was born here, and spent all her life here except the first five years of her marriage. Her family have all lived here except for a couple of them who lived away for short periods of time. See, I bowl with my cousins. My family has a family Christmas party every year, and we have to rent a hall to hold us all. My boss says I’m related to half the town, and he might not be far off. Many of my clients are relatives. I work with my daughter and granddaughter. I attend the sporting events of my grandsons. It takes three rows of chairs to hold our family at church on Sundays. I might run into my family at the mall or Walmart. Many of my friends on Facebook are relatives. And, my sisters are some of my best friends.
Yes, my life has been spent surrounded by family in one form or another. I grew up around grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I guess some people would think that boring, but there is something to be said for knowing what is going on in your family’s life. Something to be said for getting to know the babies, and knowing your grandparents through the years. Something to be said for being there for the good times and the bad times. Something to be said for being where you are needed. Yes, some people would say I have really missed out on life, but to that I would have to say, “I haven’t missed a thing. I have been blessed with the best life there is. A life of contentment, knowing right where I belong.”