Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Pocketful of Jewels

Well it’s been almost a week since our last post. I feel like a very bad blogger. We were at my parents over the 4th and when we got back home neither one of us felt very well for a few days. I blame all the smoke we inhaled from sitting around the fire with the fam. Honestly, on my part, part of me not feeling well is a weariness and an impatience that has prevented me from sitting down to write. And it’s not like I can’t think of anything to write about; in fact I have a gazillion ideas running through my head for blog posts. But I seem to lack any focus. So, in hopes that I don’t torture you with listless rambling, I will try keep this very late blog very short (well, short for Carla anyways).

Last Thursday Mark and I were at my parents’ home to help my dad in the garden and with some yard work. My mom, who has Alzheimer’s, usually stays on the couch with her cross stitch through my visits (or anyone’s visits). I usually spend some time with her as she watches GSN and I tell her about my life and ask her about her day. I always give her a lot of hugs and snuggle her as much as possible, even when she acts like she doesn’t want me to. I don’t get very much of a response from her most of the time. I am always happy when she calls me by my name. Most often she nods and smiles at me. Most often when I tell her I love her she responds with a “I love you too”. On a bad day she says, “huh?” or “what?” a lot and may not say I love you, on a good day she responds positively to my chit chat and might even tell me about going church or exercising.

On Thursday I told her I was going to go out and pick strawberries (the two previous summers she picked strawberries but this year she hasn’t been interested or ha simply forgot her fondness for gardening) and she seemed to be interested in this. I asked if she wanted to join my nephew and me and she said yes. As I walked out to the strawberry patch my dad encouraged her to follow and when she got there I showed her what I was doing and it seemed to register immediately with her. A task I was going to partake on my own quickly turned into a family affair with my mom, nephew, and sister picking strawberries and dad cultivating the garden (Mark was mowing the large lawn). My mom and I shared a bowl and we even engaged in some simple banter while picking. She was like her old self- she never did anything half way and she was still very motivated to pick every ripe strawberry she could find. I even showed her the rest of the garden and convinced her to pick some raspberries with me too. I hadn’t had such a good day with my mom probably since our wedding. If Alzheimer’s has taught me anything it has taught me to treasure the unexpected gifts of clarity; it has taught me to be so grateful for the little things and soak up the joy of the good days.

On the 4th, Monday, just four days after my day picking strawberries with my Mom we spent the day with my siblings, aunt and cousin, and parents at my parents “farm”. The 4th of July is like Christmas in my family, it is always a big deal with lots of food, games, and fireworks. This year the crowd was smaller and the activities were less but it was still a very relaxing, enjoyable day. I was still reveling in the social, communicative nature that my mom showed on Thursday and was disappointed that all the hubbub of the last few days had taken its toll on her. She wasn’t very verbal and she certainly didn’t seem to understand a word I said, responding with “huh?’ and “what?” to every statement or question I made. She kept asking my sister and I if were leaving soon and didn’t interact with the family very much at all. It was not a good day for mom.


My sister and I talked a bit about that and she said how the day before was similar. My sister mentioned that she couldn’t remember the last time she experienced a good day with mom. My sister who isn’t very open spoke these things with a distance and almost coldness that I recognize as a protective wall. If she can’t remember a good day with mom, then she can’t be disappointed when she experiences a bad day. I, however, experience the pain of disappointment because I tuck the good days into the pockets of my heart like a treasured jewel. There are times that I wish I were able to be like my sister and hide the jewels away so that I don’t have to compare the bad with the good. But there is something about me that refuses to let go of hope; refuses to let go of positively and optimism. My identity in Christ clings to hope and new life. I see my day in the strawberry patch with my mom as a gift and my hope in Christ allows me to look forward to more days and gifts like that. Because I believe in God’s supernatural ability to heal my mother and to in His power to give us the time we need to communicate our love to her a lot my family thinks I am emotionally unprepared for my mother’s demise and eventual death. I will admit that I sometimes wonder about my ability to walk in the Hope of the Lord and in the reality of my mother’s disease. But if my small collection of jewels makes me unprepared for the death of my mother then I think I’d rather be joyfully unprepared.

What do you think? Do the bad things in life negate the good? Is it easier to distance ourselves from hope than it is for us to cling to it? Is anyone really prepared for the death of his or her parents?