This past week I’ve realized I do ALOT of griping and complaining about my situation. Living with and caring for someone with dementia is hard. I’ve often said my Grandmother would be much better off dead that living like this. It sounds crude, harsh, and terrible. But, if Heavenly Glory is one-tenth as good as we’ve been promised, trust me, we’d all be better off there. I can often see what I am projecting by taking a glimpse at my daughter. And, her attitude of late has shown me how bad my attitude toward dementia has been. I could make you a list a mile long of the things dementia has taken from me this year, not the least of which is joy and probably 10 years off my own life. But, today, I’ve been convicted to thing about what dementia has GIVEN me.
Dementia has given me perspective. And that perspective has been many gifts wrapped in one broad umbrella. For those of you that knew my Grandmother 20-30 years ago, know what an amazing woman she was. She was a hard worker, a giver, and a lover of all things Misty. This year, she’s been a taker, she isn’t super nice, and I am certainly not her favorite thing in the world anymore. So, I’ve seen the perspective that I won’t always be able to control myself and my life. Shocker. No matter how desperately I want to love and serve well, there will come a point that I won’t be that person. So, we reflect on the perspective of who God made us to be, and they cycle of life He created, which at some point we have to allow others to be what God created them to be. Perspective that you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Because I am also raising young children, who I am responsible for training to become reasonable adults, I find myself also trying to train Grandma how to be a responsible adult. I’ve busted my head wide open beating it against that wall. But, each day, I am getting better at just letting it go, and letting her be Grandma. Perspective on what my kids are going to remember forever. Grandma can’t remember what she was doing 35 seconds ago, but she remembers her childhood in vivid detail. I need to be making sure that my kids childhood is one worth remembering. Our moments together (not behind a screen) creating memories and sharing joy. I’ve always loved creating big moments for my kids, and this has just driven that home. Focus on the memories, not the stuff.
Dementia has given me patience. I am sure it comes as a great surprise to all of you that I do not have the patience of Job. I’m not sure I’ve ever really had any patience at all. I’m pretty certain God forgot to put the fuse on my firecracker. I just go off at the drop of a hat, sometimes with no warning what so ever. I’m always rushing from place to place, telling everyone around me to hurry up. We have zero hurry in our lives these days. Even if the kids did miraculously decide to hurry one day, Grandma moves at a snails pace so it wouldn’t really matter. Grandma asks me the same question 3795 times in a 30 minute dinner. It never fails that she waits until I am about to put my food in my mouth (after fixing 3 other people’s plate) that she has me to get up and get her one more thing. Or, on Monday’s after I have washed 7-10 loads of laundry, each time asking her if she had something to wash, she’ll come to me as I put the last load in the dryer and say, “Mist, I’ve got some jeans I need you to wash. When you wash next, will you put them in?” And when she says when you wash next, she doesn’t mean next week when I was another 7-10 loads on Monday, she means put these jeans in the washing machine right now. The first few months, I really didn’t respond well to these situations. Many nights I went to bed thanking the Lord that Grandma had dementia and she wouldn’t even slightly remember the things I had said to her the day before. I still have moments and days (namely when I am tired) that I don’t respond with patient love, but in general dementia has given me a patience in 8 months that I had failed to amass in the 36 years prior….
Dementia has given me time. Just as a nature of the care Grandma requires, I have worked and played a lot less. I ran sales numbers last week, and my commissions last year were well less than half of what they were the 2 years prior, and it isn’t because we’ve had a weaker market. Last year, I was in the kids school almost daily as the PTO President. Nothing went on that I didn’t know about. These days, all I know about is what is going on with my kids. I’ve said “no” to far more things than I’ve said “yes” to. And, I’ve spent time at home investing in my family and caring for the 4 people that mean the most in the world to me. I’ve even hired someone to clean my house so I don’t spend my “extra” time cleaning toilets, I spend it running to doctors appointments, doing another load of laundry, fixing Grandma’s hair, watching Grandma’s fashion shows as she goes through her closet for the 13th time today, and just doing everything at a much slower place. Dementia has given me time with my Grandma. Since moving to Nashville, I didn’t get to see my family nearly as much as I wanted to. It’s side what we don’t make time for. I probably saw my grandmother 6-10 days a year before she moved in with us. There were times I would go see my mom, but not make time to go by and see my grandmother. Now, I am getting that time back. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I have time with my Grandma.
Dementia has given me strength. The one thing I was afraid of as a child was old people. They totally freaked me out. I can remember my great-grandmother being in a nursing home, and my dad and his mom taking me to visit her. I can still vividly picture the entrance, hallways, her rooms, and the dining hall, I can still smell it. I hated that place. I broke out in hives almost every time we went. I was afraid of being attacked by old people in wheel chairs, them throwing their teeth at me, whatever- all silly, but I just am not a big fan of old people. And, now I am taking care of one. I have to do things for her that I never would want to do. The first time I had to clean up the bedroom carpet and bathroom after one of her accidents, I realized I could do anything. I almost vomited, and secretly wanted to die so I never had to do it again. But, facing one of my biggest fears head on has given me an inner strength that I didn’t know I had. I tend to avoid things that I’m not good at. If I am not going to win, I don’t play. It’s not a good character trait, but I own it. Dementia has given me the strength to fight battles I know I am not going to win.
Dementia has given me a longing for Jesus like I’ve never had before. Public school did a decent job of making me pray for Jesus’s return. Dementia has me straight up begging for it on a daily basis. Not just the dementia, but the whole elder healthcare system. It’s messed up. I have no desire to die. I would love to watch my kids grow up, get married, and make me a Grandma. But, more than that, I’d love for Jesus to come back and take us to Glory. I’m tired, I just want to rest in the arms of my Abba Father. I want Him to heal all that is broken in this world. I don’t want to grow old and suffer with this terrible disease. I don’t want my kids to ever see me like this, and I certainly don’t want to treat them the way Grandmother treats me or them. Jesus coming back is just the answer to all my prayers. Together in eternity, perfectly made whole. That would be the best Christmas present of all.
So, friends forgive me for all the complaining I’ve done about what Dementia has taken from me. I’ve allowed it to steal way more joy that it deserves. But, know that dementia has given me so very much. This Christmas, I have a whole new perspective on what my life is and how very richly blessed I am……