Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lost and gone forever

It's windy in the Palouse today.  Out here at my sister's, it's whistling around the trees, slamming so hard into the house that the windows are bouncing.  In a few minutes I'll brave it out to the car, try to keep the door open long enough to slip in, and be off to town where my sister and I will look at a group home in which we might place our mother in the long dive into dementia. 

Mom's definitely worse than the last time I saw her.  I spent a few hours with her yesterday afternoon, and at one point she began a long explanation of what I thought was the remodeling project in the assisted living apartments where she now lives.  A couple of paragraphs into that story, while I was nodding and assenting to the garble coming from her, she finally tried to say Barack Obama and I realized I'd completely missed the left turn into politics.  Later, my sister told me every conversation with her ends up at the election. 

The election is significant to Mom because she no longer reads and can only figure out how to turn on and off the TV but not change the channel.  So it's permanently stuck on CNN.  I thought of changing it to something she might be able to follow better, but she told me she likes being with those people every day--well, except for the ones who get in the way and try to make her buy things she doesn't need.  When that happens she goes into the other room, but they continue to talk to her.  Can you believe the audacity?!  Oddly, her entire life she's hated commercials, though it's a quite recent development to believe they're somehow actually engaged in a personal conversation with her!  And how sad that she spends her days so alone that newscasters on television are her only friends...

Today when my sister and I got there, she was a mess because I'd been in town all this time and hadn't talked to her.  Clearly she didn't remember the entire afternoon I'd spent with her yesterday.  This falling-apart stuff isn't new, either.  More often than I can count, I've walked into her house to find her falling apart over some offense I didn't know I'd committed.  And in those days, one could never predict what would set her off, and usually only Dad could really calm her down.  Deep sigh.

But we'll survive this, all of us.  After all, I've already handled fifty + years of her.  What is odd now, though, is that though I remember the facts of who she was, what she was like, this more recent mother is heavily layered on top of those older memories. The mother who yelled and argued with us--this one is gone.  The one who uttered incredibly hurtful words, then followed them with, "I was only kidding!"--that mother is gone as well.  The mom who laced her conversation with sarcasm and nuances--the woman who dwells in two small rooms bears nothing to resemble that mom.  She is lost and gone forever...Clementine!  Now when she pouts or cries or whines, I let her.  I comfort her.

 It's harder to see the world through His eyes when I'm so busy trying to see it through Mom's demented ones.  But maybe, just maybe that's the connection.  It took me almost fifty years to see the world through my mother's eyes.  And maybe there's no greater evidence in my life that He is looking through my corneas, speaking through my vocal cords.  I couldn't do this myself--I am well-aquainted with who I really am.  No, it's the Father who loves my mother, it's His son who gave her life and life again, and it's His Holy Spirit who expresses that love, that life for her through me.  Whenever I find myself loving and accepting where my all-too-human self struggles, there He is.  Wherever I reach out a hand to help (even until it hurts), the hand outstretched at the end of my wrist has nail holes in it.  Any time, any place I open a door and let another have the right-of-way (and I'm speaking literally and metaphorically), the stepping back and giving preference is done by Him.  Whatever good I do, whatever good I am, is Him.

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