Monday, I found myself standing in the garage staring at the refrigerator wondering what I wanted out of it. I opened the door and stared at the contents and nothing jumped out. Butter, eggs, or more milk which one? It certainly couldn’t be the white wine it was only nine in the morning. I don’t even like white wine so I’m not sure why it’s in there?
In the thirty steps between my kitchen and the garage fridge I’d completely forgotten what I was headed to get. After what felt like an eternity trying to remember, I turned around to go back to the kitchen when it dawned on me I’d made the trek to get paper towels—which of course aren’t in the refrigerator they’re around the corner on a storage shelf.
Oh my gosh I’m losing it I thought. Paper towels in hand I went back to the kitchen and noticed a penny on the counter. When had I found that? Is there a story associated with it? Flustered, I flopped down at the kitchen table and gave myself a five minute timeout where I couldn’t help but ponder the irony.
I had a lot on my mind. Later in the day I was taking my Mom to a couple doctor’s appointments. Helping her navigate these things has become a part of our life together as age steals her memory. Ask her a question about one of her thirteen aunts and uncles and she can tell you anything you want to know. Her travels around the United States with my stepdad are also easily recalled. Her working memory is another story.
This is a blessing and curse. There are recent memories I’m thankful she can’t hang onto, but others like her grandson getting back to tennis, I wish she could treasure. The good news—wait let me rephrase that—the great news is that she knows who her grandchildren are. In the big scheme of things what she can’t remember can be managed, and this is where I come in.
Once I regrouped from my own bout of memory lapse I made a list of questions for the doctor and carried on with my morning. That afternoon, sitting in the waiting room with her, I noticed how adept we’ve become at doing these things together. We’re like good dance partners waltzing through it all. You can’t tell who’s leading unless you watch closely.
As things were wrapping up at the doctor the nurse rattled off a few things my Mom needed to remember. Mom turns to me like a CEO would to her trusty assistant, and I respond to each item. He laughs a little and tells us we’re a good pair. It’s the second time we’ve heard this that day. This time though she responds with,
“Well it’s her not me. I can’t keep track of things anymore.”
“She does a good job,” he said.
My Mom smiled so proudly it melted my heart—if only she’d known that earlier I’d had my own mini-meltdown over refrigerated paper towels. Her confidence in me was so obvious any fatigue I had was forgotten.
I put my arm around her shoulder, looked at the nurse, and said, “If I’m good at anything it’s because my Mom taught me how to be. She’s set the example for taking care of the people you love.”
She leaned her head into my shoulder and laughed embarrassed by the attention.
That night when I sat down with my devotional I was equal parts tired and thankful. It’s not that helping my Mom is physically demanding as much as it is emotionally. On any given day the temptation is to be sad that she’s slipping away from me, and yet if I stand back and see it from the perspective I think God wants it’s an opportunity—an opportunity to show her firsthand that she’s done a good job.
She’s raised and mentored the capable woman she wanted me to be. Not a perfect daughter but one she can trust and rely on. It’s hard for me to admit this because I’m equally as reliable at being hard on myself. However, if caring for your children doesn’t reveal how well equipped you are, caring for your parents can.
Perhaps this is a gift for both of us. When my Mom gets her turn to walk through the gates of heaven she can do so knowing I’ll be okay. Horribly sad but ultimately okay, because she’s taught me how to dance through whatever season God brings.
I want her to have that peace and if I’m totally honest I want that too. I want to know I’m going to survive without her. I know I’ll feel a little lost and possibly have more refrigerator episodes but by God’s grace I’ll find my way. I’m my mother’s daughter which means I know how to do hard things and find God’s hand when hers isn’t there.
“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18