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

The Wear and Tear of Care at the Holidays

My day today.

My middle daughter comes to me and reminds me she wants to host a Christmas tea party at church. It’s 12:30 a.m. in the morning. Her mind is alive with possibilities, mine, on the other hand, has shut down for the night. I am just thankful to have made it through another day.

I try to explain that this isn’t the right time to talk about a tea parties. She says it’s not a big deal. I say it is a big deal. She says it doesn’t have to be a big deal. I say there has to be decorations. She says there doesn’t have to be decorations. Now I am overwhelmed. She is over simplifying it and I am over complicating it.

I can’t talk about it anymore. It’s not the right time of day because it’s really the end of a long day and I fell asleep on the couch, but then I woke up again, and now she’s asking about a Christmas tea party. I love her enthusiasm, but I know I hurt her feelings because I couldn’t focus. I will have to discuss it with her later today, but not too late (she’s going to help host a great tea party).

My older daughter asks if we’re  going to Aunt Joan’s as usual. I think we are, but Aunt Joan is moving to another state in a month or two – maybe. She was supposed to stop by and cut Grandpa’s hair, but she hasn’t showed for the last two weeks. Grandpa is beginning to look like a derelict. It’s time to make a trip to Charlie, the barber. Grandpa doesn’t like Charlie.

She says we can come to her house for Thanksgiving, but she says her kids really want to interact with my kids. This statement is in reference to that fact that the last couple of holidays we have spent there, the kids have all gone down stairs after the meal to play We Bowl and other games on their big screen TV. Not my choice, but I was too tired from taking Grandpa out of the nursing home last year to get up off the couch and tell the kids to come back upstairs to play parlor games. After a year of taking care of Grandpa, I don’t think I have the energy to plan a non-electronic game day. I think somebody else needs to plan the activities this year. Maybe, Martha Stewart?

I get a call from the physical therapist. He needs to come over three times next week to make up for one visit he missed (I don’t get it). Anyway, he asks if we’ll be home on Thanksgiving Day. No, I say, we’ll be at my sister’s. He asks me again if he can come in the mornings. I tell him again that the mornings are not a good time for Grandpa. I think he would know by now that mornings aren’t the best time for physical therapy for most Parkinson’s patients.

I am reminded by the younger kids that the older kids have been saying they don’t want to do Christmas this year. “What?” say the younger kids, “No Christmas?” No 19 and 24 year old could even think that way unless they were BURNT OUT from taking care of a 90-year-old man with limited mobility from Parkinson’s.” I will make Christmas happen,” I console the younger kids, “Don’t worry,” I say. What Christmas is supposed to even look like this year, I’m not really sure. Grandpa and Uncle Jay have already asked if we were going to have a Christmas tree. Somebody’s got to be in charge of that, and it’s usually me. I bought a small feather tree a month ago from Hobby Lobby to put in our house so we can put up our bigger tree at Grandpa’s. That was met with groans from middle daughter.

My brother emails me and says he needs to use “his” garage (the one at grandpa’s house) to store his stuff in because finances are getting too tight, and he needs to sell his other house. Says he feels bad asking me. Well, he  really doesn’t ask, he just tells. We pay a hefty rent every month out of Grandpa’s income and now we don’t rent the garage? Hmmn. I tell him Claire’s car will be parked in that garage for the winter (plus there’s Eric’s motorcycle), but he can store his stuff to the side and in the basement.

Everybody keeps telling me what they’re going to do, and I just keep adjusting my life to their whims and demands. Round and round I go.

That’s why I can’t think about a church tea party. I am overwhelmed. I don’t know anyone at church, anyway. I hardly get to go. Sunday is my day to watch Grandpa. I feel so disconnected. I’ve  worn my pajamas over to his house for the last week. I don’t even want to get dressed. I just want to be comfortable, but then I start to sweat while I prepare his meals and  take care of Grandpa because the house is kept at an even 72 degrees which doesn’t mix well with flannel.

In the meantime, Grandpa is happy as a lark, thankful to be so blessed as to have escaped his prison sentence in the nursing home. I’m glad he is happy, but now we are all his prisoners. Yes, prisoners of love and devotion and duty. And I know that the Lord put me in charge of his care because I really do care for him and won’t take advantage of him in his old age.

I’m writing this too late at night – too early in the morning. All of my emotions are pouring out, especially the exhausted ones.

I read this post to my husband who gets up very early in the morning to go to work. I said, “Honey, you’re the only one who didn’t tell me what you needed today.” He says, “That’s good, but you better be off that computer this afternoon. I need to fill out the social security prescription form for your dad, check up on our taxes with Turbo Tax, and fill out the health insurance enrollment form from work!”

Maybe, I’m not the only one.

Caring for the Ungrateful or A Rat in the Ranks

I take care of Grandpa on Sunday mornings so the kids can go to church. We watch some of the televised religious programs like In Touch with Charles Stanley and Power Point Ministries with Pastor Jack Graham, that is unless Grandpa’s too groggy.Yesterday morning, he was totally out of it, so before Claire left for church, she helped him back into bed after breakfast for his power nap. He missed all of his programs, but I recorded them so he could watch them later.

I didn’t know, because neither one of them said a word to me, but Grandpa gave Eric a real hard time about getting up, yesterday. He told him he shouldn’t go to church, but instead attend church at home like “other” people do on Sunday mornings. Unimpressed by his feeble attempts to dissuade him, Eric firmly told him, “I’m going to church and you’re getting up!”

There’s not much you can do when your 6’4″ grandson is towering over you with a determined look on his face. John 21:18 puts it this way, “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Unfortunately Grandpa is forced to go with the flow on Sunday mornings – and that flow is get up and go.

Grandpa generally wakes up around 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. weekday mornings, you can almost set your watch by him, but Sunday mornings, he is extremely hard to rouse. Doesn’t it figure? The one day we need everything to run smoothly like clock work, Grandpa is having one of “those” mornings. One thing I remember from having babies is you can always count on the the baby to have a rough night, especially when you have to go somewhere early the next morning. Lately, it’s the same with Grandpa. Sunday mornings are beginning to turn into a bit of a battle ground.

And, just when I make the observation that Grandpa rarely complains about arthritis or old age maladies like “the rheumatism,” he complains that his shoulder was hurting him all night long – from “arthritis,” no less. It’s possible that he pulled a muscle or something, but Grandpa is a bit of a hypochondriac and we tend to downplay whatever is ailing him, if it doesn’t bother him for more than a few hours.

We have often said that we’d love to have a 24-hour surveillance camera – a “Grandpa Cam” –  installed in his bedroom so we can see what shenanigans are going on during those supposedly “terrible” nights when he doesn’t get any sleep. I’m not downplaying his discomfort, but we are aware that the slightest symptom may be used as ammunition to solicit sympathy for not getting out of bed in the morning – especially Sunday mornings.

For instance, on Veteran’s day, Grandpa was pretty tired the whole day, sleeping most of it away, until Eric said, “Gee, Grandpa, it’s too bad you don’t want to wake up today, I was going to take you to Applebbe’s. They have a special for Veterans today, your dinner is free!”

Grandpa opened his eyes real wide. “Really?” he said, “I’m awake!” and off they drove to Applebees where Grandpa had a tasty steak dinner – his favorite. It touched my heart that Eric would take Grandpa out when he already spends so much time with him everyday. So you see, if Grandpa has a good enough reason, he will be extremely cooperative and push himself to get up. Eric needing a break from “Grandpa care” to go to church is obviously not a good enough reason to get his 90-year-old self out of bed. Truth told, Grandpa is being ungrateful – and a bit selfish, but at the age of 90, that’s to be expected, and it’s our job to keep lovin’ on him because even Jesus was kind to the ungrateful.

I love what it says in Luke, 6:35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” NASB. Not that Grandpa is evil – at all, but he does have a tendency to display an ungrateful spirit every now and then, especially Sunday mornings. I think, I smell a rat…

The Tortoise and the Caregiver or Caring for an Elderly Parent with Parkinson’s

Have you ever been there? Done that? Taken up the burden of a thousand tomorrows and suddenly realized you were doing it “again” –  thinking so far in advance that you could barely make it through the day because of the crippling effect it had on your brain?

Remembering to take life one day at a time takes the inertia out of the downward spiral that seeks to plummet us into the depths of despair, a condition easy to fall into when you are physically challenged from being your parent’s full-time caregiver.

I know, because I’ve been doing it again – heaping all of Grandpa’s future care onto today. Lately, the load has been unbearable. Every time I see him lose strength, fear washes over me. I can’t lift or pull him up anymore without hurting myself, so I’ve stopped trying. The stress on my already compromised spinal cord is taking it’s toll – my weakness magnified by Grandpa’s frailness. I have to have one of the older kids help me at all times now. I wonder how I’ll make it in the future for I can only imagine what is coming – an even higher level of care then we give now.

Just yesterday, Grandpa couldn’t push himself up off the bed onto the walker. Then after lunch, he couldn’t push himself out of the wheelchair onto the walker to get into bed. I wasn’t about to pull him up, but I didn’t have to, because for the time being, Grandpa and I have figured out a way around his disability.

When we’re by ourselves, I wheel him into the bathroom and he pulls himself up on the bar by the toilet, then he turns around and grabs his walker. Then with my hand on his belt, he makes the laborious trip back to his bedroom to lay down and take a nap.

Sometimes he can’t move, though. I had to sing a rousing rendition of Stars and Stripes to get his feet moving – a nifty trick that caregivers use with Parkinson’s patients. Still, it took us about ten minutes to cover the 30 feet distance between the bathroom and his bed.

The following day, when I’m totally convinced that Grandpa is soon to be wheelchair bound, he shuffles off to the kitchen, full steam ahead like he’s in a race – and actually he is. It’s a race with a degenerative disease that no body can stop, except God. We arrive in the kitchen in record time – two minutes, instead of ten.

Once again, I’ve been fooled by Parkinson’s! One day your body works, the next it doesn’t, but who’s keeping track, right? Wrong. Parkinson’s has a nasty way of messing with my mind. I keep second guessing Grandpa’s symptoms and feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster day in and day out. And the odd thing is, Grandpa seems to take it all in stride, even if his stride is only a tortoise’s pace. The slower he walks, the more I panic. Just how many tortoise and caregiver races are left before the tortoise has to  sit them out, permanently? Only God knows, that’s for sure.

One Day at a Time

The Window to Heaven

Consider it all joy, my brethren,
when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result,
so that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.

James 1: 2-3

Have you ever just wanted to crawl into bed and stay there permanently? My body is fatigued, my muscles ache, and I can’t seem to muster any strength. I’m exhausted physically and emotionally. The smallest act of kindness brings tears to my eyes. My husband brought me a cup of coffee the other morning and I felt so loved – it was ridiculous.

I feel totally overwhelmed from having to care for others right now because of the high level of care we’re giving to my 90-year-old father with Parkinson’s. Is it any surprise? We’ve been taking care of Grandpa for over a a year now and there is no relief in sight, although I am hopeful some things that need to change will be happening in the next few months. Grandpa has lost a little more mobility over the last month (as if that was possible) and it’s hard to watch him regress.

I’m not writing to elicit pity for my situation. I write to record a dialog between God and myself, to bring clarity and healing to a tough situation. In exchanging words  – His and mine – I hope to see victories large and small in this new season of life. I would enjoy your companionship along the way, too. After all, we are fellow sojourners along with a crowd of unseen witnesses, the saints who have faithfully traveled the well-worn path of suffering before us. We are in good company.

I’m sure you have your own battles to fight, your own set of unique circumstances and obstacles to to overcome. And if you don’t at this particular moment in time, you most likely will in the future. Trials are God’s way of giving us an opportunity to become totally dependent upon Him, to draw us close to his heart. Through times of severe trial and testing, He is especially near, wanting to reveal His character to us, His lovingkindness and faithfulness to all generations. And most importantly, through trials He begins to remove all the props – the things we rely on and put our trust in other than Him.

Is this journey one of comfort and ease? No. But as Christ’s followers, we learn to take up our cross daily and trod the path specifically designed for each of us to travel – one in which we may humbly follow in His steps, call upon Him for assistance, and die to our own will in the process. But we won’t be able to stay the course unless we are willing to quiet ourselves and listen for His words of love and direction.

We have to allow God a window, an entrance into our soul – a quiet place where He can open our eyes to see the sin which so easily besets us and trips us up on our long passage to the other side. What is God’s purpose for each of us at the end of any trial? That we would be more fully-fashioned into the likeness of His Son. But to be victorious, we must be willing to undergo the journey with endurance.

What is endurance? The Greek word for endurance is Hupomone: patience, endurance as to things or circumstances, longsuffering, endurance toward people. It is associated with hope and refers to the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial.

So I must ask myself a hard question and one I hope you will ask yourself today. How am I handling the trial I am walking through right now? Am I letting endurance have it’s perfect result? I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but “knowing” is not enough. Am I willing to surrender my will to His? Am I obediently doing all He has required of me? Have I accepted this new season of life with joy?

In a time of quietude this morning, when the window to heaven was open, God showed me that I once again have been fighting His latest assignment with every fiber of my being – so much so that tears of exhaustion well up and spill over at the least provocation, exposing emotions raw and worn-thin like a glove with a hole in the thumb. I wish there was a quick fix, but I can’t just slap a patch over the frayed threads and expect the mend to hold. I have to take the time to sew the edges down tightly, slowly pulling the thread in and out the patch and glove to prevent the hole from becoming larger and unraveling altogether. It’s no secret that mending takes time and patience. So it is with the mending of our souls. Letting endurance have it’s perfect result takes time and patience.

Lately, it seems as if I couldn’t find a needle and thread if my life depended on it. Due to sheer exhaustion, my whole life seems to be unraveling. That is until I stopped again to open the window to heaven. It was then that God in His mercy reached out and showed me the true condition of my heart and what needs to change to run this race with endurance.

We can’t deliver ourselves, so why even try, right? Well, not exactly. We cannot deliver ourselves, but we can place ourselves in the right position to receive deliverance.

The hymn writer expresses this spiritual paradox this way:

Born to wander Lord I feel it,
Born to leave the God I love,
Here’s my heart now take and seal it,
Seal it for they courts above.

We can throw open the window to heaven wide and invite the Lord to minister to our heart and soul in times of trial or we can board it up and refuse Him access, making the journey even longer and harder than it was before. The choice is ours.

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Content Copyright Jill Novak 2009-2015