31 Days of Aging Grace ~ Dazed and Confused

Day Six

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

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9 thoughts on “31 Days of Aging Grace ~ Dazed and Confused

  1. Pingback: 31 Days of Aging Grace « Heart's Home

  2. Brooke,
    Powerful words, “Thank you”. I see God working in and through you. Thank you for being faithful. You inspire me, I am enjoying this daily challenge you have undertaken and getting to hear more of what is inside your head.
    Now back to my tomatoes……………..they neither talk back or hurt me, they just sit there and in their quietness say” do something with me” thank you Lord for an abundance of tomatoes this year and grapes (which we stayed up to 11 pm picking off the stems to dry and make raisins for our winter oatmeal breakfasts). Thank you God for blessing me with friends like Brooke, fresh produce, and internet communication.
    Karen

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    • Thank you, thank you, Karen. Are you sure your tomatos don’t talk back?? 🙂 I miss all that beautiful produce you shared. But I am happy thinking of you enjoying your garden and grandkids. I didn’t know you even made your own raisins?!! You amaze me.

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  3. When writing is so good that I miss the words and see the story behind them, I am awestruck. This is one of those times, Brooke.

    My father had Alzheimer’s. Near the end there were rare moments, like a light switch being flipped on and then off, when he recognized me. And what he conveyed in those moments was sadness. It helped me to remember that who he was in all the other moments wasn’t the “real” him. Although we hate to “lose” people as they disappear into their dementia, I think it must be devastating to be the ones losing control over their own minds. The resentment, anger, fear and frustration is vent upon those who are closest to them. In some ways the later stages of AD are easier on the family because I was told he no longer knew what was happening to him.

    These thoughts don’t address what you’ve written about, but I do hear what you’re saying. I’m glad, amid everything, you’re discovering snippets of things for which to be thankful. From Ann Voskamp: “All’s grace.” From Sara Frankl: “Choose Joy.” (Do you know Sara’s story?)

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    • Carol, thank you so much for sharing about your father. When I get really frustrated I try to remember how hard it must be for her – can’t even imagine what’s going on inside. I read once that a person may say something like “I hate you”, but what they really mean and feel is “I hate my life”. I don’t know Sara’s story… so that’s a must read I can tell. And I love Ann Voskamp. I read her book when it first came out and started my list of thanks. For the first several months here I couldn’t even look at her book or write my list. Weird. But I am back to it:) And thank you for the lovely compliment. I treasure that.

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  4. Written with heart and soul and deep, open honesty. Avoidance. I tend to handle tough issues with avoidance, too, seems easier. This is challenging – to realize that what I am avoiding now may grow and fester into a much more complicated, difficult problem down the line. Ouch. Good words, makes me think hard.
    Your last paragraph, about your journey with God, yes, beautiful.

    Two of the minor characters in my story are women in their nineties, who live in a “home.” They still have their mental capacities, but weren’t able to live alone anymore. (Oh wait – you haven’t met them yet…you will this week).

    You are doing a good job, at home and with your writing. I appreciate you!

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    • Ooh, thanks for the advance peek of new characters in your story 🙂 Yes, I’ve wondered if things would be different now if there’d been some confronting of issues earlier in this particular relationship. But we’ll never know.

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