by jillnovak | Feb 19, 2014 | I Laugh, I Cry, Taking Care of Grandpa
The many faces of Grandpa. He is a real character.
Wednesday night is my night off. What from you might ask? From giving Grandpa his dinner in the kitchen. My husband, Robert, goes to Bible study on Wednesday nights – one of two weekly breaks from the 24/7 “Grandpa grind,” the other Sunday morning. Our daughters also help out in the church nursery, so that leaves me all alone with Grandpa. Oh, joy!
Now, I want you to understand something, I love Grandpa, but I’m not very talkative when I’m tired, which is usually what I’m feeling in the evening knowing that I have to make dinner for someone who will probably turn up his nose at what I’ve made. It’s a little disconcerting with the price of food (not to mention my time and energy) how Grandpa can pick at a plate he would easily finish if he had been eating with the whole family.
Needless to say, it wears me out to play food games, so that’s why I came up with a great idea a while ago! On Wednesday nights, Grandpa eats in his room while he watches TV. I started this arrangement last fall when Robert’s new Bible study classes started up again.
But guess what? Grandpa does not like this arrangement–at all (you’re not surprised are you)!
Well, I wasn’t surprised either when I peeked down the hallway tonight and saw him looking at his watch. It was only 5:30 PM. Dinner is served at 7:00. PM. As he wheeled back and forth in front of his bedroom door, killing time, I thought to myself, He’s going to bellyache about having to eat in his room all by himself. I just know it!
Go ahead . . . call it self-fulfilled prophecy, caregiver’s intuition or a chapter on caregiver burnout from “Caregiving for Idiots,” but I knew he was going to gripe tonight even though a piece of paper with Philippians 2:14 is taped to his bedroom wall: “Do all things without complaining. . .”
Sure enough, when I brought his food down to him and pulled his nice little round table over in front of the TV, and placed a hot plate of spaghetti in front of him, smothered with Parmesan cheese (he loves spaghetti, he loves Parmesan cheese), he turned up his nose and jumped a bit in his wheelchair. Then he put on his best “feelin’ sorry for myself face” and wailed, “I’ve got to get out of here!”
“It’s Wednesday night, Dad,” I said emphatically. “Wednesday nights you eat in your room. This is something you can do for me!” I said, my voice rising slightly. . .
“Why are we fighting?” he said all agitated as if he didn’t know.
“You started it! ” I shot back. Then I added, “Listen, Dad, you live like a king! You only have to do this once a week. You have such a beautiful room. I wish I could just sit in my room and watch TV and have my dinner brought to me. You need to look at what you have, instead of what you don’t have. You’re so blessed!”
Grandpa looks down. He has a way of avoiding my eyes when he’s getting lectured, and he knows I’m right!
Anyone in my position would need a little time off once a week – “off” being the operative word.
So far tonight I’ve:
- Fetched an envelope for Grandpa.
- Managed to give an elusive answer when he asked if Robert took the girls to violin lessons. “Why do you want to know?” I asked him, knowing full well he was concerned that it was Wednesday night and he was going to have to eat in his room alone!
- Explained to him “again” why he has to eat in his room on Wednesday night.
- Brought him dessert after he ate only half of his spaghetti, which he divided neatly down the middle, exactly in half. “I can’t finish all of this,” he yelled sitting in the doorway of his room holding the plate on his lap.
- I yelled “Yes!” down the hallway when he asked me if I had made the dessert. Sometimes when we yell “yes!” he thinks we’ve said “no.”
“No?” he yells back. Then we have to yell, “Yes!” again to which he yells “No?” And back and forth we go, yelling up and down the hallway (but it sure beats getting up and walking down the hall to answer one “yes and no” question.
- Put him on the commode for a bowel movement which was a false alarm! (of course).
- Put his night time diaper on so Robert wouldn’t have to do it when he came home.
- Carried all of his dishes back to the kitchen.
- Started writing this blog so I wouldn’t forget all the details because after all, “Truth is stranger than fiction!”
Caregivers have to make time for themselves even if it is a bit hard on their loved ones. One night off a week is not too much to ask from someone who is capable of entertaining himself. He has cable and barely takes advantage of it.
Elderly parents have a way of wrapping you around their little finger and making it seem as if their world begins and ends with you–their adult children. Sometimes you feel used. The lyrics of an old song so apply:
“All of me
Why not take all of me
Can’t you see
I’m no good without you . . .”
Grandpa really has “no idea” what it takes to care for him, day in and day out. So once in a while, my husband and I have to apply tough love in order to maintain our sanity.
Well enough about my Grandpa journey for tonight. I really wanted to relax a little, but I got carried away writing, and now it’s 10:30 PM. So much for my night off.
The truth is, I’m never really off . . . but I’m used to it!
Gerald Hale said on Facebook: It is worth the pain and suffering you and Robert go through in caring for Grandpa. By being his care givers, you all know how well he is being cared for. Should he be in a nursing home all of you would probably be miserable. May you all be evermore blessed and may Grandpa feel the love you all have for him as you do what God says do……..caring for your elderly dad.
Thank you, Gerald.
by jillnovak | Dec 9, 2013 | Family Writing
“Everyone reaches, but not everyone touches . . .
Reaching is instinctive, but, for the most part touching is learned.
For in touching we give and receive, talk and listen,
share ourselves and see into another. . .”
~Gail Mac Donald, Pastor’s wife
One of the most priceless gifts you can give your children this holiday season is a Christmas letter from you. Whether written on pretty stationary or in their journals, a personal letter from mom or dad (or both) will be a present they will treasure now and in years to come.
I still have the two precious letters that my mother wrote to me before she passed away in 1986. Her words, though few, were well chosen and gave me the vision to begin writing letters to my children. Little did she know the impact her words would have on my life, the lives of her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren to come. She left our family a legacy of love and a memorial to her relationship with the Lord. I’m so grateful she listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and took the time to write to me. These are the only letters I have from her and they are priceless to me.
Dear Jill and Bob,
It’s about 4 a.m. Christmas morning and as I lay here thinking of all of you, I want to cry for the joy God has put in my heart for our family. I’ve always prayed He would do special things with each one of you. I prayed for your salvation when I really didn’t know Him so well. Can you imagine what He has in store for all of you now that we really know Him? Know Him like we never knew Him before? May the power of God which transcends all understanding be yours forever and may the Holy Spirit hover over all of you, and protect you every hour of every day.
In the Love of Christ Jesus,
I want you to know how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Everything you do and say is very much appreciated by me, but I don’t always have the chance to put in words what I feel. In loving Claire, you might have some idea how I as a mother have felt for you. That doesn’t change because you are a woman, it just becomes a mature caring at this point, and seeing your relationship with Claire tells me that the love my mother had for me has come through to be seen in your love for Claire. Love is what it is all about, isn’t it? God love your little family, and may the Holy Spirit abound richly in each one of you.
When you look at the content of my mother’s letters, what makes them so profound? It’s because they’re filled with her testimony—the multi-generational vision of a woman who found the Lord and prayed for each of her five children to come to know Him as well.
Where do we find this kind of multi-generational faith in the Bible—a grandmother and mother who plant seeds of faith in the next generation? In 2 Timothy: 3-5. It is here that Paul gives testimony to the faith of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. “I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5 AMP).
The faith of these two women not only influences their immediate family, but affects all of Christendom as well. Paul calls up the memory of Timothy’s “faith” roots so He will be encouraged to keep on persevering.
If you’re excited about the idea of your words impacting your family now and for generations to come, let me encourage you to take the time to write a letter to each of your children this Christmas. If you have never written to them before, they will be blessed beyond measure, and so will you!
I have included some featured guidelines from my book Every Day is a Gift and the audio workshop Writing Letters to Your Children. These resources promise to inspire you in creative and practical ways.
First decide which kind of letter you want to write to your child:
- A spontaneous note of encouragement
- A letter about a shared experience
- A life-event letter (a chronology of events and accomplishments in your child’s life)
- A letter addressing current circumstances
- Pray and ask the Lord to give you the right words to minister to your child’s heart. You may not consider yourself a writer, but your mother’s heart when coupled with the Holy Spirit’s guiding can turn your pen into a powerful testimony of faith, hope, and love. “My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1 NASB).
- Gather scriptures that apply to your child’s life. You can do this beforehand through Bible study or when you sit down to write. Listen to what the Lord whispers to your heart. Keep a Bible nearby for reference.
- Keep a scripture notebook for the purpose of writing letters to your children. If you have quotes from other sources keep them handy in a notebook, or jot them down in your journal ahead of time so you can easily reference them in the future.
- Keep a hymnal nearby for easy reference to lyrics you may want to include.
- Make honesty and transparency a goal in writing to your child. Did you struggle with some of the same issues he/she is facing at the present time? Pen a letter that creatively ties in some of your life experiences.
- Put yourself in your child’s place. What do you think would make him or her feel unconditionally loved and accepted? Pray and ask the Lord to reveal any issues that need to be dealt with on your part. Write from your heart and use scripture to address the spiritual needs of your child. Never use the written word to criticize, but only to encourage.
by jillnovak | Dec 5, 2013 | Reflections
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
I really hadn’t given much thought to Christmas this year–the imperfect Christmas that is–until it was upon me.
Even though I tried putting everything “Christmas” in the same place in the attic last year, we still can’t find the ornaments or the battery operated candles that light up the windows. The top of the Christmas tree is still waiting for the star. I’m sure everything will surface in the next couple of days as I go searching through the boxes again.
Ideas for presents occasionally cross my mind, but in all honestly, I haven’t had much time to think about them because my 93-year-old father has needed a lot of attention the last few days. We have been living with Grandpa (as he is affectionately known) for the last four years, and the holidays are a little rough on him. My 14-year-old daughter has also been sick with a persistent cold for the last week, and my son and his new wife will not be able to make it home for Christmas which is definitely weighing heavily on everyone’s hearts.
It’s only the first week of December, I tell myself. I still have time . . . but time for what?
I need something more than a perfect Christmas. I need a touch from the Lord!
“Where is the nativity set?” my daughter Elizabeth asks, interrupting my thoughts.
“Out on the porch with everything else we brought down from the attic,” I reply.
“I don’t know how to arrange it,” she says.
“Arrange it any way you want to,” I say. “I took on that responsibility when I was about your age.”
She sighs. “But there’s so many duplicate pieces!”
It’s true. Over the years, I’ve added to our nativity set by purchasing individual pieces or partial sets off of eBay. There are duplicates of shepherd boys, sheep, and fife blowing minstrels. We have Mary and baby Jesus sitting on a donkey, accompanied by Joesph who is taking them to Egypt, but we’re still missing the Mary and Joseph who would be kneeling by the manger.
That got me thinking. Maybe we do miss what Mary must have gone through that first and imperfect Christmas so long ago.
“ Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 1:4-7
Imagine what it must have been like for Mary–a young girl, probably 12 or 13 years of age. Think about the shame and humiliation of being found pregnant out of wedlock in a tight-knit Jewish community like Nazareth, where everyone was sure to know everyone’s business sooner or later.
Think about having to tell the man you are betrothed to that you are carrying the Son of God–the long awaited Messiah! At first Joseph thinks he will hide the whole affair, but then he has a dream, and the Angel of the Lord tells him to marry you anyway! That must have been such a relief.
As your due date nears, you are informed that you must make a lengthy journey to Bethlehem, the town of your husband’s origin, roughly eighty miles away–and on the back of a donkey no less! Imagine the fear and apprehension of such news!
As the journey begins, you feel every jostle and jolt of the donkey’s steps. It will take a week to travel the rock strewn road before you. You wonder how you’ll be able to endure it!
Near the end of the journey, your water breaks and the contractions begin. You feel the panic rise in your chest. You have never given birth before. You need your mother’s help, but she is back in Nazareth, so very far away! There is no way on earth she can help you now.
As Joseph finally reaches the outskirts of the busy town, you begin to slump over. It isn’t long before he finds an inn, but just as he prepares to take you off the donkey, he is quickly told there is no room, even for a woman in your condition. You send up a silent, frightened prayer, Oh God, help me!
And at the last minute, when you think you may have the baby right there on the street, Joseph is offered the refuge of a stable . . .
You barley remember being lowered down onto the freshly strewn hay. How can this be happening? A cry of pain escapes your lips. You wait in exhaustion, your belly heaving, the pain rising and falling until you are finally able to push the baby out into Joseph’s waiting hands.
You can’t believe it! It’s over at last!
You stare in awe at this new little life, the Son of God, your Savior.
I’m sure Mary must have been frightened and perplexed at times like any young girl would be, but she had surrendered her will to God’s proclaiming, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Sometimes, I wonder if we can really comprehend that kind of surrender. It wasn’t easy. Nothing she went through to give birth to the Savior was easy. But with God’s all-sufficient grace poured out over her life, she was able to bear the overwhelming circumstances He had called her to walk through.One agonizing decision after another, He carried her the whole way!
And He does the same for you and me. We may not realize it at the time, but he does, and for that we can be truly grateful.
Tonight, around a “mostly” decorated tree, I will gather with my husband and daughters to read an advent devotional we began on the first. We will sing Christmas hymns together and pray, and in the sacredness of set apart moments, we will find our hearts comforted and filled with the awe that comes from being touched by presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at this special time of the year.
Advent is a time of reflection . . .
Advent is a time to worship . . .
Advent is a time to wait expectantly for His coming . . .
In the midst of a less than perfect life, we can enter into His presence and rejoice no matter what burden we carry. God meets us in the imperfect for that is where we receive His all sufficient grace to carry on.
I pray that no matter what you are going through this CHRISTmas, you will find the time to contemplate the love of God for you and your family, and that you all will rejoice in the gift of His grace.
“. . . My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
by jillnovak | Nov 25, 2013 | Taking Care of Grandpa
Grandpa says, “You are to love honor, respect and obey me . . . I’m you’re father!”
“Um, actually dad, that doesn’t apply anymore . . . I’m not your wife!” I tell him.
“Well, I’m just telling you what the Bible says,” he says . . . “
This is all because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday and made a demand that just wasn’t going to be fulfilled. First thing he did was to tell Bob that he wanted to go to a “good” nursing home.
The man who wrote a book called: Trapped in a Nursing Home: What They’re Really Like and Why You Should Avoid Them at All Costs!
We’ve had this request at least two times in four years of taking care of dad. I have no idea what prompted it other than I had a publishing deadline to meet and Grandpa’s radar was out.
As usual . . . Grandpa struck again!
And as usual, today he’s all hugs and kisses . . .
It’s really hard when someone throws the Bible at you, but you know what, I’ve become pretty good at throwing it back!
November 25, 2013
by jillnovak | Nov 20, 2013 | Uncategorized
Grandpa has been pretty good lately because he’s been taken off most of the medicine he was on when we got him. That’s right, praise God, Grandpa is almost drug free. He’s just on three pills now, so he is completely lucid and for the most part very reasonable.
Besides being very close to the Lord, which is so necessary for fighting off depression in old age, Grandpa looks to me to meet his emotional needs. This is normal for someone who is 93. It goes with the territory of being his daughter and caregiver. His radar is always out and looking for “Jill!” Whenever he comes in the room, he says, “There she is!”
I don’t mind being his main emotional support most of the time, but I’m also, from past experience, keenly aware of being manipulated.
So today when Grandpa came down to eat lunch, I continued working on my project which is getting Claire’s Pebbly Brook Farm Stories ready to go to print. These really should have been published a decade ago in paperback (we did an audio), but who’s keeping track.
My back is turned to Grandpa because my computer is next to the windows across from the dining room table. I didn’t turn around to say “hi” because I was in the middle of looking up punctuation on Grammar Girl to make sure that I was using the ellipses right (you know those three little . . . that you find in stories and emails and Facebook posts?).
Anyway, Grandpa comments, “You’re always working!” and he giggles that nervous little laugh he makes when he’s being naughty.
“Yes, I’m always working, Grandpa!” I say. “The opposite of working is being dead. Which do you prefer?” I ask.
“That’s true,” he admits.
Grandpa goes back to eating . . . Suddenly he begins to choke.
“I need a knife,” he says. “I need to cut this sandwich up. The bread is hard!”
In-between editing, I made Grandpa his lunch and the only bread we had left was some sandwich thins which had been in the freezer for a while. I figured he would have a little trouble eating them because he wears dentures, so I slathered them with mayonnaise and added tomato hoping it would soften them up at little. They were semi-soft at best, but not soft enough.
I got up and got Grandpa a knife, and asked him if he wanted me to cut his sandwich up.
“Oh, you’re too busy!” he said testily.
Just then, my manipulation alarm went off!
“If I was too busy, I wouldn’t be taking care of of you!” I replied.
“That’s true,” he said.
“Listen dad, you’re eating lunch in my office (even though it’s the kitchen, dining room, and living room all in one). If you want, I can come down to your bedroom and eat three meals a day while you’re working on your book and tell you you’re too busy!”
Bingo! The dawn of recognition! I see it register in Grandpa’s eyes . . .
“I used to be too busy before I got you Dad. You slowed me down quite a bit, and I’m glad!”
I turned back to the computer and begin reading Grammar Girl again.
Grandpa finished his lunch, and as he always says before he leaves the room, “I’ll see you later!”
“I’ll see you later, Grandpa,” I returned.
I told grandpa before he left the room, I don’t want to talk about work anymore. “It’s off limits!” I said.
“Okay,” he agreed.
I’m still not sure if I’m using these darn ellipses right . . . but I think I got my point across!
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