Through the Windowpane
“For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
Purpose. We all need a reason to get up in the morning. That is especially true for seniors. Miriam Webster defines purpose as: something set up as an object or end to be attained. At the age of 89, Grandpa is writing a book about the 4 1/2 years he spent in a nursing home. It has become his his reason for getting up in the morning.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m taking care of him while everyone else is at church. It is Valentine’s day and he has a pair of real cute red and pink argyles on. It’s funny how simple things like a funny pair of socks make everyone smile.
When we first brought Grandpa home, he couldn’t barely do anything except dictate his stories to me. Some days the stories just poured out of him, other days it was like pulling teeth. Today isn’t such a good day for writing, but he’s been getting so much healthier that he even began writing his stories out longhand.
I could tell this isn’t one of his better mornings, though. He had written a couple of paragraphs on his own, when his eye began to hurt. I asked him if he wanted to dictate the rest of his vignette to me. He said sure, but I thought to myself, I think this is going to be one of those stories that takes forever for him to tell.
Once He was taken of of the drug Benzatropine, he was able to type all of his dicated stories into the computer himself.
Fast forward six months, and Grandpa sits daily at the computer writing, re-writing, copying his dictated pieces out of the notebook and into the computer. He often says, “Writing is so fun!”
Most parents joyfully anticipate the addition of a newborn to their family. For the sandwich generation, it’s different. Does anyone really anticipate bringing a parent or grandparent into their home to care for them long term? Isn’t that kind of thinking a little naive? Aren’t old folks better off being tucked away somewhere where they won’t be in the way? And shouldn’t the medical professionals take care of them? After all, isn’t old age a disease?
Taking care of an elderly parent can be challenging, complicated, and downright scary at times. Unlike babies who eventually adapt your family’s routine, the elderly slow you down and cause you to adapt to theirs. Some describe it as having their lives turned upside down or feeling like life has come to a screeching halt. That’s how I felt when we first brought Grandpa home.
Taking care of Grandpa reminds me of when my children were little, only different. Let’s face it, babies are cute and cuddly and don’t weigh very much. 165 pound Grandpas can be cute, too, but unlike babies, they’re generally viewed as more of a burden than a blessing.
When I was sharing with a friend how we took Grandpa out of the nursing home and how crazy our lives had become as a result, she wisely said, “Selfish people calculate, loving people act.” Her insight brought me peace.
There is a huge difference between calculating the cost and counting the cost. A calculating heart says, What’s in it for me? A heart that counts the cost says, Jesus paid the ultimate price for my freedom. Can I do less for others?
Taking care of Grandpa has drastically changed my life and the lives of my husband and children. I’m glad we didn’t stop to calculate the cost. Seeing Dad alone at the most vulnerable time in his life moved us to act. It has come at a great price to everyone involved, but that’s okay, he’s worth it.
Have you ever had someone’s face light up because you walked into the room? That’s how my day started. I peeked into my dad’s bedroom and said, “Hi Dad!” and his face lit up for joy. Eric was already taking care of him, helping him wake up and get ready for the day, but Dad was groggy and unmotivated to get out of bed. But at the sound of my voice, he turned his head, opened his eyes and his face lit up with joy.
“Good morning, Dad,” I said.
“It is now that you’re here,” he said.
“Eric and I are your friendly CNA’s, here to take care of you,” I joked.
“Let me see, we’re your… “Children, Near, Always,” I said, using the beginning letters from the acronym Certified Nursing Assistant.
Children near always. Do you know what that means to an 89-year-old who’s had to rely on strangers to take care of him for the last four years?
Eric pulled Grandpa up off the bed and he grabbed his walker. Steadying himself, he began his labored journey to the bathroom. Dad has Parkinson’s and it takes him a while to get his motor apparatus in gear.
As they headed for the Friday morning shower, I caught a glimpse of my dad from behind, bent over, pajamas sagging, a tell-tale sign of the soaking wet diaper underneath.
We would have to wash his pajamas and sheets again today.
As I gazed at the scene unfolding before me, the tall grandson securely grasping the safety belt of the little old man hobbling to the bathroom, I commented to Eric, “That’s Jesus, you know.”
“I know,” he replied.
“…I was naked, and you clothed Me…” Mathew 25:36
In August of 2009, we received a call that my 89-year-old father had been transported from the nursing home he lived in to a nearby hospital. The rotating nursing home doctor on duty prescribed a medicine that conflicted with some of the other medications he was already taking. He was rushed to the hospital in a drug induced coma, non-responsive and dehydrated.
The hospital doctor was worried my father wouldn’t regain consciousness for at least ten days – that’s how bad off he was. But Grandpa came around the next day (we all say he has nine lives, and it’s true, he does). It was then my younger brother and I began to explore options with the geriatric social worker for moving him to a facility nearer to our homes.
For the last four years, Grandpa had been living in a nursing home an hour away from my house. He was driven there by my sister at his request. After he complained to a hospital social worker that she wasn’t feeding him, she became fearful the nursing staff would report her for elder abuse. But, it wasn’t true. Grandpa had a habit of complaining to anyone who would lend a sympathetic ear. No matter that he was getting one on one care, he loved to focus on the negatives and complain to anyone who would listen about the few things that were frustrating him. Sometimes he embellished the story for affect. Just where he thought he was going to be treated any better, I don’t know, but it was this incident that landed him in the nursing home in the first place.
I never wanted him to have to go there. In fact, I did all I could do to keep him out of the nursing home, but the house we rented on a farm was too small, even for my family. I couldn’t fault my sister either. She tried so hard to please Dad, but his complaining and criticism were hurtful, and he had begun to pick on her children, too. It was not a good situation.
As he will admit, Grandpa hadn’t served “his prison sentence in the nursing home yet.” No, he hadn’t been through the valley of testing. He had no point of reference to remind him of how blessed he was to be taken care of by family. Well, he does now, and he truly is a changed man.
I have to admit, I didn’t think about the long term ramifications of bringing Grandpa home permanently. The opportunity suddenly presented itself last fall when my brother’s renters came to him and asked him to lower the rent. He said, “You know what, guys? I need the house back, I’m bringing my dad home.” My brother started the process, and my family picked up the pieces.
Because of the age of my children, everything just fell into place. It was the miracle my Dad had been praying for. All he wanted was a room where he could have some privacy, be cared for, and write. The Lord not only gave him a room, he gave him his old house back, too.
As my family quickly learned, it was one thing to bring Grandpa home, and quite another to care for him on a daily basis. Grandpa’s care fell to my family because we’re home and operate a home business. We were working hard and had a lot of great plans for this year, when suddenly we got a call that Grandpa was in the hospital.
As in years past, my heart went out to him, and I wanted, no needed to find a way to make sure he would be taken care of. I couldn’t bare the thought of anyone neglecting him, anymore. And while he is taken care of and at peace, our family is being stretched like it never has been before.
Ah, the dichotomy of being a full-time caregiver who doesn’t live in the same house.* Many, I know, have walked this path before me. That alone brings me great comfort.
*We have since moved with Grandpa and take care of him full time.