When Hope Lives in Third Person

The inevitable happened. I just wasn’t ready for it – yet.

This summer of 2017 seems rampant with the unexpected.piano keys

A visit with my mother in assisted living and BAM – another unavoidable side effect of Alzheimer’s Disease.

She no longer knew me.

“Hi, kiddo,” her greeting for everyone who enters her room.

As we started talking, I knew the connection had failed. I was being addressed in third person.

“My oldest daughter lives in Saint Louis,” she said. “She works there. I forget what she does.”

“I’m a writer, Mom. And it’s Kansas City – not Saint Louis.”

No response. No affirmation. Just a tilt of her head and a puzzled look. “Who are you married to now?”

Now? As if I’ve been married several times with a revolving door for relationships. Who am I in her plaque-infested brain? Okay. I can play this game. Mom will forget this conversation five seconds after I leave.

“Who are you married to now?”

“Colin Firth.” Might as well make it good.

“Oh. Does he treat you right?”

“Yes. He’s the best.”

“Does he know how to use the litter box?” Somehow Mom switched from Colin to cats.

“Uhm – yes. He’s British and they’re trained to properly use the litter box.”

Before we could continue this ridiculous conversation, Mom was called to the dining room for supper. I decided to sit at her table, even if she didn’t know me.

She introduced me to the rest of the residents, “This is my company.”

Company – a safe term. No connection. No relationship.

A sweet lady on my left asked, “Do you play piano? Could you play my favorite song?”

I wondered if she asked everyone that question or did she somehow assume that I knew how to play. She adjusted her walker and I followed her to the piano. “Please play ‘There’s Something About That Name’,” she said with a slight catch in her throat.

Give this lady some joy and play her favorite song. Maybe it will help erase the fact that my mother is unaware of who I am, carefully spooning into her chili and cornbread mixture.

So I started playing the song, then joined in a decent duet, singing with my new friend. We segued into “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Amazing Grace.”

From the other side of the room, I watched Mom rest her chin on her hands, her face a beatific spread of happiness – enjoying the music. Did she suddenly remember all the years of piano lessons, as she sacrificed time and money so I could learn what she had always longed to do?

I wanted to memorize her face, to never forget the contentment reflected there – not certain I would ever see it again.

Thank you, Mom, for making piano lessons possible for me. I’m giving joy to this unknown woman beside me, but I’m playing for you, Mom – the daughter you no longer know.

The mini-concert ended and I returned to Mom’s table. Another woman asked her, “Is this your daughter?”

Mom just shrugged.

We walked back to her room, and I kissed her goodbye. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Okay,” she said, already punching the TV remote, oblivious as to what “soon” means. It will be months before I make the trip back to Oklahoma from Kansas City.

Not Saint Louis. Not so soon.

And when I return, will a blip of memory reappear? Or is the knowledge of who I am gone forever?

Have I mentioned how much I hate Alzheimer’s?

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author and Writing Coach

Sometimes They Forget

 

How does a family deal with caregiving 24/7? What does the Long Good-bye involve and what are some practical tips for dealing with it? “Sometimes They Forget” helps us find hope as caregivers in the Alzheimer’s Journey. Order your copy here. 

 

Advertisements

Hope Eliminates Shame

A memory from my past whispers, “Shame on you,” and suddenly I am four years old again. I have spilled melted ice cream on the floor. An accident. A lack of mature motor skills. I know that now, but my four year-old self only heard the phrase, “Shame on you.” authenticity - shame

Last week, I finished the book “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown and once again, I wondered about shame. How many times was shame placed irreverently and inadvertently on my infant soul?

How many times did I believe it, and invite that verdict inward so that as an adult, I am still reeling from the impact?

Shame began in the Garden of Eden when Adam said, “This woman you gave me….” He blamed Eve for the sin of eating the fruit, and he blamed God for giving him a woman who was not perfect. The serpent, aka Satan, used that seed of shame and since then has perpetrated this disease on all of Eve’s daughters.

Men also struggle with shame. When someone reminds them they are less than perfect – not a stud on the football field, not enough as a husband and father, not as handsome as Colin Firth (but of course – no one can compare to Colin Firth).

And on and on the shame goes, through the generations. We shame our children and each other. Why can’t you be like your brother?  Why are you bringing home a “C” when you should have earned an “A”?

Shouldn’t you lose a little bit of weight? Wear a different shade of makeup? Be more like the family in the pew ahead of you? Isn’t it past time for you to have a best seller?

And before we know it, we are again wallowing in puddles of muddy shame.

In our hearts, we know God does not place blame and shame on us. Yet, our brains play the same old tapes.

What Brené Brown writes about with such audacity is that becoming our vulnerable selves faces off against the shame and helps us be who God created us to be.

The joy of finding our authentic selves and living out of that reality is that no one can ever shame us again. 

I pray to God that I never shame my son or anyone else. To my knowledge, I have never used those words, “Shame on you,” and I hope I never imply them by rolled eyes, a sideways glance or a snickering sarcasm.

My hope is built on the fact that I am accepted by grace – with no qualifiers, and I want to extend that same grace to others. Because who we are is much more important than what we do or even what we never accomplish.

And even if the world and our culture doesn’t understand the difference, at least my soul knows the Divine one will never ever shame me.

Let’s challenge each other to be our authentic selves, to lay down our whispered past and find hope in the coming eternity. Let’s live out our lives in joyful abandon, always and forever — without shame.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh