The fall is fully upon us here in Bellingham, which means it rains one day, then is beautifully sunny the next. The trees are dripping with color and lawns are growing again. And I'm knee deep in the affairs of the elders. After the 'vacation' offered up by Mom's dying and death, it's now back to business as usual with them. Back to doctor's appointments, the bank, Office Dep-o (as Grampie pronounces it), the post-office, and Walgreens. Oh, and how about a milk shake or cup of coffee before we get home, or do I want to come up to their apartment and have some cookies that they've taken up on their walkers from the dining room?
Yesterday, Grampie had to go into Walgreens to talk to the pharmacy, but said he'd just be a minute so I waited in the car. But when those few minutes stretched beyond what I thought was reasonable, I went inside, and he had his weekly pill container open on the counter in front of the polite, but very young, pharmacist, and was asking, "So how much would you charge for the blue ones?" The pharmacist looked up at me when I touched Grampie on the shoulder and said, "You're with him? OH GOOD!" With my translation, we worked through the problem and got back into the car, where we went to the bank and I helped interpret Grampie's issue there. It's tricky business, working with these elders so that they continue to feel like the adults even when their brains aren't quite up to the task.
In the last weeks since Mom's death, I've been struggling with a bad bit of nausea. For a while I thought it was related to dairy products, as it's been in the past. Then I tried to pin it on car-sickness, on the way back to Pullman for her service. Then, when it continued, I began to worry that something else--worse!--was going to with me. I made the rather idiotic mistake of looking it up on WebMD, and was 'told' to call my doctor immediately, which I did. Had blood tests run, joked with the nurse about how I'd think I was pregnant, if I was 20 years younger and actually had a uterus. But the bloodwork came back mostly normal, and still the queasy stomach. Still the unbelievable exhaustion.
And I've been mystified about why I feel so sick constantly.
Until yesterday when I spent the day with Grampie. Grampie and his dementia. And my stomach felt wretched by the time I got home. I mean, toilet-hugging wretched.
Then it hit me. It's fear. That's what this is. I'm scared. There's this huge, mind-sucking possibility out there with the name of Alzheimers written all over it, and I can't do anything about it.
See, I don't have anything other than my brain. I've come to terms in the last ten years with the weakness, the pain that floods my body. And most of the time I can live with it. Yes, sometimes it's harder than others. But I still have my brain. And my brain is where I live. It's where I love. Where I know God. It's all I have. So what if the genes that ripped out my mother's fully-functioning brain rip out mine? What if someday, in the not so distant future I stand at some counter, beseeching someone to understand what I mean when I speak of 'the blue ones,' or begin to talk about my own legs as though they're my brother and sister--and squabbling ones at that? What if my language goes, then my ability to tell time, then--oh the horror!--reading, first my beloved literature, then silly romances, then even Dick and Jane and Sally. And what if my knowledge of my children and my knowledge of the world, and my love of God all disappear, and I can't do one blasted thing to stop them? What if this is God's plan for the ending of my life, as it was for hers, as it looks to be for Grampie's? What if this Alz-hammered is the final cross among the life's crosses that God asks me to bear?
And what if--and this is the worst of all my fears--what if a person is really still somehow whole within the cavity of that empty mind but somehow has no way to express it to the world once Alzheimers has taken their mind? What if Mom was really still there and just couldn't tell us? Wouldn't that be the cruelest thing of all? I pray that wasn't so. I pray she really was something like asleep, or waiting for her breathing to halt, and her soul to be freed. Because that what if... well, it makes me sick to consider.
I know, that's a whole lot of 'what if's', isn't it? And most of the time, I don't live in the 'what if's', I really don't. But I think it's just how the stress and grief and pain of this season are living out in me. It seems to me that in naming this fear, in putting it down on the page, I am taking some of the heat and sting from it. But I'm telling you, facing this giant 'what-if' isn't nearly as easy today as it was when it was all theory, when I hadn't watched a mother disappear beneath the weight of it, then came home to face a father-in-law whose life is beginning to crumble from it as well.
But this I know, and trust me when I say I write it with my stomach still rolling and the toilet bowl only a few feet away, but I say it by the faith in the God I believe in who works for my good and not ill, and loves me--as He loved my mother, even as He let her mind be destroyed. God will make a way, where there seems to be no way. That's a lyric from a song our Youth group sang back in our Sequim days. I remember those kids thinking that song was too simple, the words too easy. They balked against singing it. But then when we got to Alaska, we had the opportunity to sing it for the family of a little boy who'd killed. I remember telling our kids, "This is EXACTLY what that mom needs to hear. God will make a way where there seems to be no way. It's not easy or smooth, but will be rocky and tough, but He'll make that way, one way or another." And I need to hear this today. For my future fears.
And for yours, whatever they are. God will make a way. For the things you fear that will happen, and (of course), the things you fear that won't. God will make a way, one way or another. Not an easy way, but a way.