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
So you all know how cute Grandpa is, right? Well, most of the female healthcare professionals he meets think he’s real cute, too. And it doesn’t take them long to find out that Grandpa’s a hopeless romantic.
You see, given the opportunity, Grandpa would marry the first woman who gave him the time of day. Unfortunately, I have to remind him, “You’ve already out-lived two wives Grandpa, don’t be greedy. Besides, I’m not taking care of you and a wife too!”
Still, Grandpa takes full advantage of medical emergencies to flirt (yes, I said flirt) with all the pretty nurses! Never mind that he’s almost triple the age of some of the young women who take his blood pressure and listen to lungs. Grandpa could care less.
The other day, I witnessed first-hand the shameless display of affection he showered upon a certain nurse named Shannon. Since his hospital room is small and there is nowhere else to go, I was sitting in the recliner right next to Grandpa’s bed (a front row seat), so I couldn’t help but overhear the way he schmoozed his way into Shannon’s heart. Boy, was he layin’ it on thick, and boy, was she was eatin’ it up. After all, Grandpa is perfectly adorable and harmless, and the ladies know it! But what they love most about Grandpa is how he romances a woman the way men used to do in the days of the Silver Screen.
Quite the crooner, Grandpa begins serenading Shannon with: “Only make believe I love you, only make believe that you love me!”
“She’s married dad and has two kids,” I remind him.
He ignores me.
I laugh out loud, interrupting Grandpa’s love making scene.
He looks incredulous. “Well, I can dream, can’t I?” he asks testily.
Grandpa figures why should age stand in the way of true love?
True love, humph! True love is “me” taking care of “you” Grandpa (for the last five years), and not holding it against you!
Continuing his romantic tête-à-tête, I hear him whisper, “I’m smitten.”
Shannon says, “Aww!” and gives him a big hug.
I just roll my eyes.
But when I go to Walgreen’s to buy Thicken-Up for Grandpa’s swallowing disorder, I buy a box of chocolates for Grandpa to give to Shannon and the other nurses on duty.
I can’t believe it! I’m an accomplish Grandpa’s romantic notions! I’ve fallen for his schmoozing too!
I stayed late tonight to comfort Grandpa, and to finish writing this little memoir about his love conquests – one of the highlights of our hospital stay.
The night nurse Zornitza from Bulgaria tells Grandpa, “You remind me of my Grandfather. I only see him about every two years.”
She tells him how Bulgaria is next to Czechoslovakia. Grandpa is part Czechoslovakian. A sense of duty rises up in his heart. “I’ll give you a hug if you need one,” he tells her.
“Oh, he just made my night,” Zornitza exclaims. Last night was really rough. Three of her patients (including Grandpa) tore their I.V.’s out.
“He was the best behaved, though,” she says reassuringly. “But tomorrow is a full moon! I’m not looking forward to tomorrow night! I wouldn’t believe the moon could make the elderly act up unless I had experienced it!”
Come to think of it, there’s a song along those lines: “Blue moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love on my own . . .”
Well, one thing I’ll tell you, I want Grandpa to keep dreaming, full moon or not, Grandpa is “smitten” a lot these days because he’s a hopeless romantic. And at the age of 93, that’s okay with me.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Do you carry a burden for your loved one? Does your heart ache for the heavy load you bear? It doesn’t matter if they are old or young. Somewhere, lying deep beneath the surface there is a treasure in the trial. Every day, Robert and I are faced with a variety of scenarios. What will the new day hold?
We jokingly say, “How’s the patient in 1A?” In other words, will it be a good day for Grandpa? Will he actually have enough energy to stay awake at breakfast, or will it be a down day when he can barely drink his water and put in his teeth? Will he be able to stand up to get his diaper changed or will he have a F.B.S. (floppy baby syndrome as my husband calls it) and barely be able to sit up on the edge of the bed?
I find myself feeling very old, my thoughts totally revolving around his inconsistent behavior, his sometimes blatant ungratefulness, and the bodily functions of a 93-year-old or lack thereof.
This is a crazy way to live, wrapped up in another person’s psychological and physical state, so much so that you feel like you have a constant burden upon your shoulders, a weight that you just can’t shake. Yet, the Bible tells us, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do.
“Carry each other’s burdens and so live out the law of Christ. If a man thinks he is “somebody,” he is deceiving himself, for that very thought proves that he is nobody. Let every man learn to assess properly the value of his own work and he can then be glad when he has done something worth doing without dependence on the approval of others. For every man must “shoulder his own pack.” (Phillips)
Trust me, my husband and I are bearing a huge burden as Grandpa is increasingly unable to shoulder his own anymore due to his physical and mental frailty.
I wish we could say along with the songwriter, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” but he is heavy, physically and emotionally, and he is ours – all ours!
So this is our miserable, depressing state of existence . . . or is it? Are the struggles we experience in taking care of an elderly parent all there is to life? Are we locked in a downward spiral of hopelessness? Are we hidden victims? The answer is n0.
I find that writing about our experiences as caregivers helps me to cope. As I commit this journey to paper or this blog, I can sort through my emotions and have a good laugh or a good cry.
Lately, though, I have been all bottled up inside and having a hard time finding the humor in our situation, and consequently unable to write. That is a scary place to be! Long-term stress can rob you of your joy and your sense of humor.
Keep laughing, I remind myself!
Do you carry a burden for your loved one? Does your heart ache for the heavy load you bear? It doesn’t matter if they are old or young. Somewhere, lying deep beneath the surface there is a treasure in the trial.
Remember, he gently leads those who are with children . . . and the elderly, too!
If we knew what life held for us some days, we wouldn’t get out of bed.
I’ve had days like that.
Four significant ones come to mind – days that altered the course of my life forever.
I didn’t see them coming. Some I was prepared to handle more than others, but nonetheless, they were days, in my very limited wisdom, that I would have rather skipped.
God, however, knew they were coming, and that I needed to walk through them. And in His infinite wisdom, He allowed me to wake up to the days I would hear:
My husband lost his job.
Our baby was born with a terminal genetic disorder.
My spinal cord was permanently damaged in a routine operation.
My elderly father was now my family’s sole responsibility.
These were some of the worst days of my life – days when tears of grief fell heavy like huge droplets of rain into puddles of muddied dreams.
The weight of these days almost melted my heart for fear.
Yet, these were the days I woke up to God’s grace poured out heavily upon me like Mary pouring perfume over the feet of Jesus – the Alabaster box of costly Nard just opened, the pungent fragrance escaping, drifting up, overpowering the senses.
On the days I could not lift my head, Jesus opened His Alabaster box of grace and poured it out over my life. And by the power of His Spirit, He sustained me in the midst of my deepest pain.
He sustained me with His grace.
He will do the same for you.
None of us knows what tomorrow holds. We can fret and fume and fear or fantasize and fill our days with a thousand yearnings for some other day, but this is the only day we have to receive His grace.
It may not be a day we would choose – the circumstances, the trial. But it may be the very day God uses to usher in a whole lot of other grace-filled days when we experience His love and care poured out upon us like never before.
Even in the midst of our deepest heartache, we can bow low and worship at the Lord’s feet.
We can lift our cupped hands to receive His grace poured down from the throne of grace – grace sufficient for every need.
Overpoweringly more than we can contain.
Sit at His feet today, and let Him wash your soul in His grace.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
You know how a suicidal person tries to jump off a bridge and a total stranger grabs them, pulls them back, and yells “No, no, don’t jump!” Well, today, I single-handedly saved Grandpa from going over the edge of his own mind!
Let me explain . . .
When I walked in the back door this afternoon after running a couple of errands, Elizabeth warned me, “Go away, go away! Don’t talk to Grandpa!” She whispered behind his back that he had just gone on a long dissertation about not wanting to eat lunch, and she motioned for me to leave the room! The problem is, I was already standing near Grandpa when she told me this, and I could see he was not happy!
“I don’t want anyone to feed me!” he said. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“That’s okay, no one wants to feed you,” I replied sympathetically.
The look on his face told me he was ready to call it quits, throw in the towel, kick the bucket. In other words, he wanted to die (again)! The problem is, he has no way to make this physically happen, except by refusing to eat or drink which is a really painful way to go, so he never lasts very long at trying the self-deprivation method. Grandpa loves food too much!
Even though I’ve heard this “death” jargon stuff before, especially when cabin fever sets in, which it has, elderly folks love to say “I want to die” at least once or twice a year, and even every other week when they are sick and tired of being old. Unfortunately, Grandpa cannot come up with an effective way to make a “Grand Exit” permanent. He’s incapable of doing any harm to himself. He’s too much of a sissy.
Well, I put my arm around Grandpa and told him he probably just needed more sleep. “Remember the last time you got like this, Grandpa? You are just really tired.”
He nodded in agreement.
I also told him, “Grandpa, you think too much. You really need to relax!”
And remember that revelation he had yesterday? The one where he said he was really blessed? Well, the winter doldrums have got him. That’s all it is, and I told him so!
“You have the doldrums.”
“What?” he asked?
“You have the doldrums,” I shouted in his ear.
“You’re right,” he said.
“Well, just eat,” I told him, “and you can have a big nap. You’ll feel much better when you wake up.”
Well, pretty soon he started to come around and before you know it, he ate a whole turkey sandwich, some chips, and a bowl of fruit. And tonight, he ate an entire Sloppy Joe sandwich with cheese melted on top and a potato patty on the side.
Grandpa, loves to eat, and that’s why he’ll never be able to do himself in.
Later, after the “episode” was over, I thought I would look online to see what you say to someone who wants to die. So I laughed when I read that a caregiver should use “talk therapy.” That’s exactly what I had to do. I had to talk Grandpa back from the edge of his negative thinking. But you know what? I really didn’t do it single-handedly. The Lord gave me the words, and He made Grandpa receptive to what I was saying because I didn’t react to his “nonsense”– something I specifically prayed for today with Robert.
Grandpa is feeble and old, and he really can’t pull the punches he did when he was a younger man.
But I’ll tell you something, I’m always going to try to save him from jumping off the bridge of life!
As Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18
Today, I had had to take Grandpa somewhere He didn’t want to go . . . back to life, and life more abundant!