It's been a while since I've written about the elderly parent in our lives. Maybe I should make that plural because despite the fact that one of them lives on different bay on the ocean that borders the other coast of this country, she is still part of our lives and her well-being is of importance to those to whom I write this post. I do have a specific audience in mind today. Usually I send my blog posts out into the world, trusting that God will direct them to those who need to read them. Today, however, I wish to communicate with our (Beve's, which has been mine for more than half my life, which makes it mine!) large far-flung family about our patriarch (and his wife). However, I'm glad to have the rest of you read along.
First, a quick update on Grampie's wife, Thyrza:
Thyrza, at 95, is really struggling with dementia now. And the more she loses her memory, the more she clutches her possessions around her. Her latest fixation has been on the moving list from when she moved back east from Washington State. She's convinced that the moving company stole things from her. Either that or we did. She's called Beve several times asking him to explain what happened to particular pieces of furniture or even small nick-nacks. She's generally very suspicious of everyone. A few weeks ago she went to the council meeting at the care facility where she lives to give a lecture about the proper way to cough. And she doesn't like people coming into her room who are unfamiliar to her...except that most nurses and aides are unfamiliar to her on a daily basis now. I've been thinking about how afraid she is about the future. She knows the end is near, but the closer it gets, and the less she understands, the more she clutches what she can control--possessions, her space, who she's in contact with.
Where do I start?
We've seen a slow deterioration in Grampie over the last year. Some days he's perky and knows us, has a lot to say. He eats so much of the very starchy, not-very-appetizing-to-me meals that he's put on about 45 pounds since he moved to the care facility. That's actually not bad news. He was so skinny two years ago all his ribs were showing and he weighed less than he did in high school. However, we gave away all his pants, bought him new ones and now none of them fit. Not only that, but he's so hard to move, the pants are ripped at the belt loops. I know, I know: 'First world problems,' indeed, 90-year-old problems, I suppose. But he's filled up and out on carbohydrates (though more like Beve than his two older sons, to be clear). Anyway, he's in good spirits some of the time.
But at other times, he's simply vacant.
He's been having TIAs periodically (small strokes) and every one leaves him less aware than the one before. After the last one a week ago, he just hasn't bounced back well at all. He sleeps more, recognizes people less. When I saw him on Wednesday, he wasn't sure who I was and--for the first time EVER--was even mixing Beve up with his oldest brother. His favorite line is, "I'm all screwed up," which is truer than he knows. He loves to laugh at me. Yes, at me. When I asked him why he laughs at me so much, he told me, "I've got to laugh at someone." Okay, then, I'll take that. I'll do that for him. The world is an strange place to him now, but he's not afraid of it. He just laughs and moves along. His real personality is still there, "bumping along," as he puts it. Because he hasn't lost his ability to speak, we get to hear all these gems on the days he's alert.
Grampie continues to be a delight. His room is practically empty of personal possessions now. He keeps trying to gives things away. Every time I see him, he wants to give me something. All he has left on any wall is a painting a granddaughter did for him (and I think it's only there because he can't reach it!). He holds lightly to things. He no longer tries to control anything. It's like he has nothing left to hold.
So there you have it.
They are both very far from who they were. Thyrza was sweet and caring and giving when she was herself. Grampie was a pack-rat of the highest order not too long ago.
Yet I also wonder if there's something truer about who they've become. There's no fear in Grampie as there is in Thyrza. Absolutely no fear in him at all. There's only laughter, delight and a bit of wit still.
So who do you hope to be?
Shall we live now as we hope to be?
I pray that I am.
I pray that He enables me to hold lightly, live fully, live delightfully, with wit and joy and presence, so when those elderly days come, my true self will be like Grampie's--whether I know it or not!