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 sound of their voices. My four children. I will never tire of the endless crescendo of their voices.
I am blessed beyond measure. My cup overflows.
The comradery. The laughter. The sparring.
27, 22, 18, 14.
My tears flow for the joy of being their mother.
I am never happier then when we are all together. Doesn’t every mother feel that way?
But I cannot keep them here, forever.
A wedding in September. Newlyweds headed for Seattle. This may be the last Mother’s Day we all spend together for a while.
The Lord tells me live in the fullness of this day. Don’t miss the grace-filled moments of this day. Delight in the irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind moments happening right now─today.
My mind turns quickly from the future back to the present!
I am ordered out of the kitchen. Breakfast won’t be served in bed I am told, but in the kitchen, instead, in a little while. We have to accommodate Grandpa, so everyone piling into the bedroom is NOT a good idea.
I retreat to my room and close the door, but all I hear are muffled voices.
I open the door so I can hear the banter.
“Are these cooked?” Claire says. “You ruined it now. You ruined it now!” she reiterates in a jesting voice. “Just put the lid on!”
I hear more ordering. “Go take a shower, now!” she says to Elizabeth.
I hear the water running. Suddenly, feet pound the hall.
“You literally have ten minutes!” Claire yells through the bathroom door to Elizabeth. “Ten minutes before breakfast is served!”
My hubby comes in the bedroom and stoops to give me kiss. “Happy Mother’s Day!” he says sweetly. And then he comments, “Too noisy!”
Ha! I laugh to myself. If he only knew what I was writing! He tries to close the door.
“Leave that open, please,” I say.
Eric yells in decibels intended for Grandpa’s hard of hearing ears alone, “If you eat fast (referring to his bran cereal), there’s good food coming – eggs, sausage, and crepes!
Muffled voices become a little more distinct. “I thought you were going to help!” Eric says to Claire. “If you want to help, do the dishes!”
Suddenly, Anna pipes up, “This is my plate. I’m sitting here.”
“I always sit there on holidays,” Claire says. More discussion ensues…
Then Claire announces, “Okay, Mom, you can come in now!”
I arrive on the scene wearing pearls and my mother’s huge silver earrings─ one of the few pieces of jewelry I have of hers. In honor of Grandma Reid and the day, I strike a pose. “Ta da!” I say.
I sit in my usual seat across from Grandpa and ask if he remembers Grandma’s earrings. He says, no.
During the meal the kids continue sparring, and in-between their teasing, I receive the blessings they have lavished on me─a lovely meal, heartfelt presents, and handmade cards graced with scriptures I need to hear.
And what do I hear? What is the theme of the day?
Love. Unconditional love.
I don’t deserve it. Despite all my failings, they love me. They are God’s grace in my life─His unconditional love poured over my soul.
And I love them right back, unconditionally.
I wish everything could stay the same, but do I really?
I embrace the changes that are to come and ask that the Lord use my children to glorify Himself.
I lift them up.
My grace-filled, live-in-the-day cup is full.
“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!