Sometimes Grandpa is awake in the morning, like today.
Other days, he practically sleeps through breakfast. Those days I feed him his cereal because his hand just can’t find his mouth.
He’s always awake at lunch time, though. So today, I had the brilliant idea of switching his meals – breakfast for lunch and lunch for breakfast.
He can easily pick up a sandwich in the morning verses navigating a spoon through sloppy bran cereal which somehow pauses mid air and hangs there until I yell, “Eat your cereal Grandpa!”
We’ve tried bran muffins before but they aren’t as good for his digestion as bran cereal straight out of the box with almond milk. So I made Grandpa a sandwich and cut it into eight separate pieces so he didn’t have to hold it all at one time. Then I covered it with a lid to keep it fresh and so he wouldn’t be able to see it before I explained the change in routine! (You’ve always got to be thinkin’ about repercussions ahead of time around here!)
But how was I going to present this new concept to Grandpa? I mean,who wants to eat lunch at breakfast time – every day?
As I stood before him, all cheerful and upbeat – ready to present my case – these words came out of my mouth (with no premeditation on my part, I assure you):
“Grandpa, were you in the air force?”
He nodded “yes.”
“Well the air force is sort of like the army, right?” I said.
He nodded “yes” again.
“Well, from now on, you’re eating lunch at breakfast time and breakfast at lunchtime!”
He nodded “yes” again, didn’t even bat and eyelash, and continued eating his prunes . . .
Wow! He’s totally on board! I can’t believe it!
I breathed a sigh of relief and returned to my work.
A few minutes later, however, I looked over at Grandpa and noticed that he was eating his sandwich with a fork and using his non-dominate hand to do it!!!
Unbelievable . . . This guy just amazes me. From one day to the next, I never know what I’m going to get to work with!
Does it matter on the “Eternal Plan?” Not really, I tell myself.
Eric says, “Well that went pretty well… but just wait until lunchtime!”
Gulp!!! I hadn’t thought of that. He’s right, of course. It’ s one thing to sleep through bran cereal, it’s another to be fully awake and have to stomach that stuff every day.
Eric told me this morning that “flexibility” is my middle name. I just hope it’s an inherited trait – coming from Grandpa, himself. If not, he’s in the army now!
“We long for the companionship of God.
We long for the assurance that we are not taking the journey alone.
That He is walking with us and talking with us and He is intimately involved in our lives.”
~ Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul
The other morning when I went into Grandpa’s room to check on him, I noticed his flip calendar. It wasn’t normal how I saw it, though. His daily devotional calendar sits on a roll top desk in the corner of his room partially hidden behind the door, so it’s not a place I usually look when I enter the room.
The funny thing is, our pet dove was perched atop my head as he often does while I work around the house (I told you it was funny), so when I walked down the hall to Grandpa’s room, the bird went along for the ride.
As I was checking a sore on Grandpa’s toe, the dove flew off my head and around the room and then he landed on Grandpa’s daily devotional calendar. I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. But as I was leaving the room, I picked up the calendar with the bird still perched upon it, so I could carry him back to the kitchen. That’s when my eyes fell on this verse:
“And if thy brother be waxed poor, and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt revive him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner shall he live with thee.” Leviticus 25:35~ASV
This verse of scripture immediately consoled my heart and through it the Lord touched me deeply right where I was, showing me that he knows the anguish of my heart. He knows how I carry the health and well-being of my father so close to my heart, it hurts.
Lately, it seems that we are dealing with an unending string of medical conditions, and the added insult of a nasty cold.
Something has changed.
In order for Grandpa to finish breakfast in a reasonable amount of time – one hour verses three – I now have to feed him his cereal and egg.
Add this to the long list of conditions we have had to deal with in the last three years:
impacted bowels (twice, right around Thanksgiving)
a persistent pressure ulcer
dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
a bacterial eye infections
Osteomyelitis (a possible bone infection of the toe)
the daily need to be reminded to drink
three different eye glass prescriptions
a hernia operation
elimination of Benzatropine (a Parkinson’s medicine that was causing morning dementia episodes)
an open sore on his leg
ears clogged with wax
a persistent rash (unknown cause)
Yes, this isn’t going to get any easier.
But now I am reminded, we don’t carry the burden alone. It is first and foremost the Lord’s.
I mean, what are the odds of a dove landing on a devotional calendar on just that particular verse of scripture?
It was then that the Lord spoke to my heart and said: You’re right where I have placed you, Jill, in the midst of one crazy medical condition after another. I am here with you, caring for your father. I am his Father. You are my daughter. I will care for him through you. Your life is not defined by caregiving, but defined by me the ultimate caregiver who lives in your heart.
The Lord lovingly showed me that He will continue to walk with us through every change that is to come.
I am once again humbled by His grace and mercy and His timing…
I needed a special touch just now and He knew it – a Window of the Soul.
Taking care of Grandpa is just about the hardest thing our family has ever had to do.
It has s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d my husband (in compassionate ways).
It has s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d my kids (in unselfish ways).
And it has s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d me (in patient ways) because I have to keep peace between all the adjoining nations (various family members and Grandpa).
Yes, taking care of Grandpa is not only a joy, but a sacred duty.
But duty is such an old-fashioned word, isn’t it? Well, maybe I should define it so we (I ) , can grasp its full meaning once again.
Duty: That which a person owes to another; that which a person is bound, by any natural, moral or legal obligation, to pay, do or perform… obedience, respect and kindness to parents are duties of children.~Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Taking care of Grandpa involves a lot more stamina than is apparent to the casual observer (friends, church members, and extended family).
Being responsible for Grandpa is all-consuming, and if you ever wonder why I am slow in returning emails or telephone calls, let me show you what our highly structured days look like:
8:30 – Make Grandpa’s breakfast.
9:00 – Wake Grandpa up and transfer to a standing position, change diaper, and dress.
9:30 – Walk Grandpa to breakfast, transfer to wheelchair.
10:00 – Clean room, change soaked sheets, do laundry.
10: 30 – Push Grandpa to the bathroom for morning B.M., transfer to bed for his power nap.
11:30 – Get Grandpa up from nap, transfer to wheelchair.
2:00 – Make Grandpa’s lunch.
2:30 – Change Grandpa’s diaper, walk Grandpa to lunch, transfer to wheelchair.
3:00 – Wheel Grandpa back to his room for a nap, transfer to bed.
4:00 – Get Grandpa up from nap, transfer to wheelchair.
6:00 – Make Grandpa’s dinner.
7:00 – Change Grandpa’s diaper, change him into his pajamas, work him out on his exercise equipment.
7:15 – Eat dinner with Grandpa.
8:30 – Grandpa brushes his teeth (something he can do all by himself).
9:00 – Change Grandpa into his nighttime diaper (four pads added), transfer him to bed, rub his legs with lotion, adjust his pillows, blankets, and books on bedside table.
10:30 – Close bedroom door (Grandpa reads in bed).
The last couple of days, though, Grandpa has complained about us not saying good night at 10:30 p.m. when we close his bedroom door. Granted, I am the one, who months ago, asked him if he wanted his door open when we put him to bed. He reads for an hour and a half and I thought it would make him not feel so isolated. So we leave his door open every night until he yells for us to close it.
Suddenly, though, Grandpa has been demanding that whoever shuts his door at 10:30 p.m. must say “Good night, Grandpa!”
I had a lengthy discussion with him tonight about the fact that we are through at 9:30 p.m., and in case he hadn’t noticed, we’re not exactly spring chickens ourselves. Robert and I are pretty tuckered out at 9:30 p.m. and we don’t relish any more social interaction with said senior citizen! Once we put Grandpa to bed, we’d like to be done for the night! But the last two days, Grandpa insists that we say goodnight at 10:30 p.m. when we close his door.
Last week, after Robert had just settled into his chair to read the newspaper, Grandpa yelled at him to come and say goodnight.
Really Grandpa? Really???
I explained to him tonight that we put in 12 1/2 hours of caregiving daily (for the last three years), and that we are done at 9:30 p.m!
“Well. I work all day, too,” he said.
True, Grandpa is low maintenance in-between all his high maintenance needs. He occupies himself by writing children’s books on his computer—books I still have to edit (and, trust me they’re not easy to edit either). So not only do we take care of Grandpa’s physical needs, but we are responsible for his creative needs, as well. To tell you the truth, though, I’d rather take care of someone whose mind is in fine working order any day.
Still, the day Grandpa starts changing my diaper, and waiting on me hand and foot, I’ll know that he has done his duty…
But oh, yeah, he did that when I was little, and he did it for my four siblings, too, didn’t he?
So, my family will do our best to take care of Grandpa, because it is our sacred duty.
When I closed Grandpa’s door at 10:30 p.m. tonight, I said, “Good night, Grandpa!”
So much for my lofty speeches! So much for my indignation at being asked to care for his emotional needs after he’s all tucked in (something I try to do every night, anyway, when I fluff his pillows).
In the meantime, in-between time, ain’t we got fun?
You bet. God’s grace covers it all!
I’m home alone with Grandpa and it’s time to put him to bed.
“Are you all alone?” he calls from his room.
I’ll be there in a minute,” I yell over my shoulder.
“What?” he says, trying to decipher what I said when this song comes to mind:
Home, home on the range,
where Jill and Grandpa play.
Where seldom is heard a complete sentence or word,
and the old folks can’t hear what you say.
I love, Grandpa!
Only read this if you want a good laugh.
Grandpa: “My stomach hurts.”
Jill: “You need your Omeprazole. We’ve been out of it for a couple of days and that’s why your stomach hurts.”
My husband Robert takes an Omeprozal pill and hands it to Grandpa, laying the box down on the table across from him.
Grandpa starts swinging his pill container to catch the edge of the box so he can get it near enough to him to grab.
Robert notices he’s trying to get the box. “What do you want Grandpa?” he says in a loud voice (so Grandpa could hear him).
Grandpa jumps in his wheel chair. “What are you you yelling at me for?” Grandpa says, getting angry.
“Because you can’t hear me.” Robert replies.
“Do you want him to read the insert?” Robert asks me.
“I don’t care,” I say, trying to concentrate on the work I am doing at the computer which is a few feet away.
Grandpa starts reading the drug insert. After a few minutes he says, “I don’t have chronic heartburn,” he says.
“Yes you do, Grandpa,” I said. “You’ve been on that drug for a long time. You have acid reflux and you were without Omeprazole for two days, so now you have heartburn again.”
Mr. Hypochondriac continues his self diagnosis. “I don’t have chronic heartburn,” he says again.
He sits at the table for a half hour stewing over the fact that he is positive he doesn’t have chronic acid problems. I’m ignoring the fact that he is moping… I get up and start to make dinner.
“Do you read directions?” he asked.
“Why are you asking me that?” I replied
“I just want to know.”
“Does this have to do with your medicine?” I ask, knowing full well it does.
“Well, the directions say you shouldn’t use that product if you don’t have chronic heart burn.”
“You have chronic heartburn, Grandpa. You’re always eating Tums. You just told me that you take a Tums every night. That means you have chronic heart burn!”
I explain to him that his other medicine causes heart burn and that’s why he needs to take Omeprozol which he’s been on the whole time we’ve been taking care of him (three years). Every time we run out, he only lasts a couple of days and then he starts complaining of acid reflux – because he has “chronic heart burn.” I give up, I say to myself.
Grandpa finishes dinner.
“Time to brush your teeth, Grandpa, and go to bed.”
While Robert is getting Grandpa ready for bed, the crazy argument continues.
“If I was Jill I would go to the doctor with the instructions and tell him he is wrong,” Grandpa says, trying to get one last lick in before bedtime…
“If you were Jill, you could wear a dress,” Robert replied.
My stomach hurts now. Oddly enough after a little health episode of my own in January, I was prescribed Omeprazole. I don’t take it however. I don’t have chronic heart burn. But I’m sure burning tonight!
It isn’t often that we get a chance to repay our parents for all that they’ve done for us.
Sometimes Grandpa get’s on a kick that real Christianity is caring for orphans and widows and he wants to start a non-profit to minister to them (James 1:27), until I remind him that he’s a widower and I already have my hands full.
When I was changing him before lunch, he said to me, “Who thought when I was changing your diaper that you would someday be changing mine?”
“That’s God’s approved plan,” he continued. “That’s real Christianity.”
That’s life full circle, Pops. It’s payback time, I thought to myself.
Somehow I don’t think my diaper changes were as profound.
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