Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rip Van Winkle and other fairy tales

I've been feeling overwhelmed of late.
Grampie had another surgery on his eye yesterday--one we'd known was coming--and when he awakened, he wasn't in the vicinity of his right mind.  He kept asking, with increasing panic in his voice, what he was supposed to be doing, and how long he'd been doing it.  Then he'd drift off, wake up, and ask the same question all over again. When the nurse helped him up, he looked down at his feet and said, "My own feet.  Finally, something I recognize!"  "What about your hands?" I asked him.  He looked at them, frowned, flinched and said, "When did they get so skinny?"  Apparently he thought he'd misplaced years, thought he was some young buck, all muscular and certain.  If he'd been given a mirror, would he have seen Rip Van Winkle?
See, I tried to explain that anesthesia makes people loopy sometimes, he asked me, "But where was I all that time?"  Then it hit me that he didn't realize he'd been sleeping, probably dreaming.  Explaining it took some doing, and re-doing, and doing again.  The nurse smiled every time she left the room.  She smiled even more when I told Beve, "Here sits your future!" 

But for me, it's all too familiar.  Today, Grampie's still pretty disoriented.  Called to tell me he was home from the hospital, as if I hadn't been with him the whole trip.  Thought there were two girls playing on his bedroom floor.  Told Beve Thyrza wasn't going with them to the doctor for his re-check, so Beve began to drive off without her.  Man, did she just about blow a gasket at that!  Yep, he's still not quite back in the neighborhood of where he was yesterday morning.  I asked Beve this evening if he thinks Grampie will get back, and he said, "Oh yeah..." but just about then, Grampie called.
"How are you getting along these days?" he asked Beve. 
"These days?" Beve asked.  "Dad, this is Steve.  Did you mean to call me?"
"I know who you are," Grampie said, grumpily. "Haven't talked to you in a while.  How are you getting along?"
Beve's eyes widened as they do when he's trying not to roll them.  He had, after all, spent much of the afternoon with his father.  Granted, it'd been about three hours since Grampie and Thyrza were dropped off.  Still, this represents a sudden change from the status quo.

And I've lived through this kind of change before.  I've watched the dramatic cliff dive in memory when my mother underwent several surgeries.  And it overwhelms me.

Along with it is the sudden change in Thyrza's deepening resentment toward me.  Now I'm a person fairly comfortable in confronting a person in this kind of situation, and have carefully weighed the idea of talking to her about why she is so angry at me.  I confronted my mother often because I felt strongly that I wanted an honest relationship with her.  However, as her dementia worsened, any even slightly negative conversation made her hysterical.  I mean, she would over-react to the point of wanting to die when a person said, "I wish you hadn't done that."  I was a very slow learner when it came to changing my behavior with her.  Sadly.  But I finally realized that I was creating such huge trauma by such small words, and felt that if I had it to do over, I would let things go.  All kinds of things. Especially things she couldn't control.

So with Thyrza.  She's angry.  Mostly she's angry at her frail body and failing mind.  But it's close to impossible to admit that to herself.  Instead, her anger needs a target outside of herself. Grampie is one, Grampie who has always let anger roll off his tall frame like water on an umbrella.  But his increased frailties mean that he fails her more, and just maybe she needs a better target.  If that has to be me, ok.  OK.  The thing is,  the real her, the one I first knew 20 or so years ago, she'd be horrified at how she's treating Grampie, and how she's treating me.  This is what I must hold on to.  The real her...like she's a princess imprisoned in the body of an old lady.  Come to think of it, I bet that's how she feels about herself these days as well.

There are other needs.  People I know and love who are facing life-choices that are difficult.  Right, good, but difficult.  These aren't my things, but they weigh on my heart.  It occurs to me that there are always such things.  In every life, no matter what we are pre-occupied in our own lives, there are people around us who are hurting or making huge decisions or any one of a thousand things that are better or worse.  But it seems to me that when we pray, we get this amazing chance to participate in doing Kingdom work that we otherwise might have not part.  Their needs, their decisions, and our tiny words or faith on their behalf participate in what He wants to do!  It may overwhelm me, but not Him, and what a privilege to be a part of what He's doing.

The most amazing thing about fairy tales is how such beauty came out of such horror.  A wicked witch puts a spell on a princess and she sleeps until she's kissed by a prince.  You know what I mean.  Well, praying for the deep needs of those around us, those with life and death and everything-between needs is like being part of a real life fairy tale.  We sit in our own homes, in our own lives, and by our prayers, can impact people a long ways away. Now that's magic I can believe in.

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