I followed the van thru my neighborhood streets… streets I knew by heart. Wynooski makes a sharp veer to the left. I remembered that slightly “out of control” feeling as each son learned to navigate that curve in early driving lessons.
Suddenly, unbelievably, the van missed the left turn and smashed into a telephone pole. It came to an absolute, complete stop. The day was clear. How could they miss the curve in the road?
Fortunately, no one inside was seriously hurt. But they were dazed and confused. And the van was totaled, no longer drivable.
Every time I drive that road, I remember that day. It also paints a picture of how life changed so completely one year ago when my husband and I took on this role of caring for one who can no longer care for herself.
I was dazed by the sudden changes and loss in my personal life. I hadn’t really thought through, perhaps there was no way to know, what it would be like to lose the sense of accomplishment that job and paycheck give… to miss out on impromptu lunches with a son… to get in my car and just go… to attend my grandson’s baseball games… to enjoy daughters-in-law and grandchildren popping in for a visit… to go out to dinner with my husband on Friday night… just the two of us.
I was confused by her words and behavior… by her refusal to let me help when she clearly needed it. I read books about dementia. I talked to friends who lived through it. They all said the same things… “this is just a season of life”… “don’t take her words personally”… “just learn to let go”. It made me want to scream….
If this is a season of helping her negotiate the last years of life, why do I feel like I’m the one who is dying? How do you not take the words personally… where does the personality end and dementia begin? And what, exactly, do I let go of? My whole life has been sucked up into this… what do I have left to give… to let go of?
Life as I’d known it was totaled like that van. And I suspected at times, that God had abandoned me here.
But I kept praying… early every morning… with expectation… because that’s how I’d been taught. And because I had no clue of what else to do.
It wasn’t until I began to thank God for any little shred of a thing to be thankful for… that I felt relief.
It wasn’t until I acknowledged I was holding things against her from years gone by… that I felt any bit of breakthrough.
It wasn’t until I owned my part in the poor relationship we’ve always had… that I could see any hope of a future.
I had always countered her criticisms with avoidance. Neither criticism or avoidance are good ways to build relationship. And now it’s too late… to say those things that should have been said 20 years ago… to do those things I felt prompted to, but didn’t.
Dementia is a divide that neither of us can cross.
I’ve never been a statistics person… they give me headaches. But I would guess there’s a whole bunch of people providing care in similar situations. What my husband and I are doing is not unique.
For me the unique part is this journey with God… to trust He will show me, day by day, what little thing I can do to help her… to toss away my old life that isn’t “drivable” anymore… and to let Him build me into who he planned for me to be all along.
I’m glad I serve a forgiving God.
I suspect this may take some time…
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3