Thanks to Mom

Dear Mom,

This week, a thank you card will be delivered to you. The card is from me, your daughter – Rebecca. You may wonder why I sent you a thank you card.

October is my birthday month, and it’s okay, Mom, that you didn’t remember. Sometimes I, too, can hardly believe another year has gone by.

On my birthday, I want you to know how much I appreciate you. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I understood how much of ourselves we pour into our children. And I’m not just talking about the meals, the activities and making chicken soup when we’re sick.

I’m talking about the soul-giving that mothers extend to their children – that you extended to me.

Everyone knows about the labor and contractions you endured during my birth, but I also know you labored with soul contractions throughout my growing up years.

I’m talking about when you were bone tired from working your shift at the hospital, then you came home to make supper, finished a load of laundry and still made it to my softball game on time. Not once did you complain. In fact, when I looked into the crowd, you were the one cheering loudest for me.Mom

You defended me when other kids or even adults said unkind things to me. You taught me how to make the perfect zwieback with just the right dimple on top so that melted butter pooled inside that crevasse. And you showed me how to sew a perfect hem so that no one except the two of us could see the stitches.

I thank you, Mom, for the late nights when I know you were on your knees for me. You poured out your soul to Almighty God and asked him to keep me safe, but at the same time you were willing to let me go and let God do his work in my life.

You seemed proud when I left home to serve as a missionary, and you only cried when I returned – wiser and grateful for the experience. I know you prayed for me every day and asked God to send some of his big guy angels to protect your daughter so far from home.

Years later, you came to the hospital when I lost my baby – your first grandchild. Even now, I remember coming out of that anesthesia-induced haze. It was your hand that gripped mine – your tears that mingled with mine.

Best of all, Mom, you taught me to cherish words. You drove me to the library every week so I could check out books to read when I finished my chores. Then you provided the perfect example as you sat under the floor lamp and read your own stack of library books.

You wanted to be a writer, and I’m sorry that didn’t happen for you. Instead, you nourished my dream to become a writer. I’m an author now, Mom, with a book about Alzheimer’s. The irony is that many of the scenes in that book came from our moments together.

These days, I grip your hand and try not to cry when you repeat the same questions over and over.

So on my birthday week, I want to thank you, Mom, for all you’ve done for me. You brought me into the world and gave me the freedom to discover my purpose in that world. You encouraged me to use my gifts and showed me it was okay to be a radical, independent woman. You labored and prayed and then feasted on my accomplishments.

I know I have made you proud and although you may not remember the name inscribed on this card or the daughter who sent it, I just want to say thank you.

I love you Mom – forever.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –



Alzheimers at the Wedding

Throughout the pre-wedding activities, Mom functioned well. She attended bridal showers, listened to all the exciting plans and smiled for the photographer.

But we knew our 85 year-old mother might create a few problems on the actual wedding day. It was my job to get Mom dressed, drive her to the church and make sure she made it down the aisle.

I was surprised that from the time I saw her in May until the wedding date in July, Mom regressed further into Alzheimer’s. Her facial expressions resembled those of a child, that naughty rolling-the-eyes look. When we discussed what she would wear to the wedding, we had to go through the scenario several times.

“We talked about this skirt, Mom. It’s a nice skirt.”

“No, I want to wear the red one.”

“Not a good choice of color, Mom. It’s too dark for a summer wedding and besides, it has a spot on the front. Did you tell them to launder it?”

“Yes.” A debatable answer, because Mom’s short-term memory grows shorter every week.

Finally, the chosen skirt was on and I convinced her to wear a beautiful white blouse with a lacy collar. As I fluffed up her hair, I asked, “Don’t you have some pretty pearl earrings? They would look nice.”

“No. All my jewelry has been stolen.” Paranoia is strong these days. Mom is convinced that people, usually family members she loves, have stolen her things.

It does no good to argue, so when she was finally dressed – I drove us both to the church. But pictures were scheduled for noon, and the wedding for two o’clock. Two hours is a long time for someone whose concept of time has disappeared.

First, we ate lunch – slowly. I tried to convince Mom to eat more meat and drink more water, but she refused. However, she sat quietly and waited while I finished eating. My brother came to get her for some of the outdoor pictures, then brought her back to me.

Mom and I strolled through the church and looked at the beautiful decorations. Lanterns along the sides of the pews. Purple and green petals strewn up and down the aisle. Beautiful cascades of dark purple gladiola at the front of the sanctuary. Everything ready for that moment when our Rachel would walk down the aisle to meet her beau, Grant.

“How about the library, Mom? Would you like to see the church library?”

“Oh, yes. I like books.”

So we toured the library, picked out a few to look at and discussed others. “They have a good selection here,” I said.

“Yes,” Mom said. “I like books.”

I remembered when she helped organize and catalog one of our first church libraries. I also remembered when a prayer group met in the library, and my mother was one of the members  ̶  a praying woman who cared about overseas missions. Mom not only prayed for missionaries, but she also gave a portion of her nursing salary to help meet those same missionaries’ needs.

That was a long time ago – before Alzheimer’s stole Mom’s ability to help in a church library or participate in a prayer group.

In a few minutes, Mom tired of the library so we walked through the church again. We watched the photographer shoot pictures of Rachel and Grant. Then Mom grew restless.

“Hey, Mom. Would you like to go see the church library?”

“Oh, yes. I like books.”

Three times we toured the library, each time about twenty minutes apart. Then we sat in the fellowship hall and watched people begin to file into the sanctuary. The wedding planner found us and fastened a flowered bracelet on Mom wrist.

“Why do I have to wear this?” she asked me. “You don’t have one.”

“It’s because you’re special. You’re the only grandparent on both sides of the families. You get to have a special flower.”

“Well, okay,” she said. Then about two minutes later, “Why do I have to wear this thing?”

My nephew Ethan, Mom’s grandson, was scheduled to escort her down the aisle at the appropriate time. But Mom balked. “I don’t want to do that. Everybody will be looking at me.”

“No, Mom. They’ll be waiting for Rachel. They want to see the bride. You just walk in quietly with Ethan.”

“But if it’s just Ethan and me, then they’ll be looking at me and I look fat in this skirt. I shouldn’t have worn this skirt. I should wear a nicer outfit.”

 “Now, Mom. This is Rachel’s special day. Ethan will take care of you, so you just walk down the aisle with him and then sit by me at the front. Remember, this is for Rachel.”

Mom rolled her eyes. I fully expected her to stick out her tongue, but after another grimace, she took Ethan’s arm. I joined my son, my sister, my aunt and her daughter in the second row and watched as Ethan and Mom came down the aisle.Mom and Ethan

Even within the horror of Alzheimer’s disease, my mother is a trooper. Uncomfortable with any kind of public display, there she was – standing tall and doing her part for her granddaughter’s special day.

Mom paraded down the aisle with Ethan and smiled while doing it. I was proud of her and also relieved. We made it through our two hours of waiting and our few minutes in the spotlight. Rachel married Grant and Mom got to be part of that special day.

wedding pic - famEven in the shadows of Alzheimer’s, we somehow find joy.  

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –

The Library Sale

Every few months, my local library has a Friends of the Library Book Sale. Although I really don’t NEED any more books, just try to keep me away from a sale where I can buy a book for 50 cents.

Recently, I joined other book worms at our local sale and soon filled my arms with several treasures: the biography of Kathleen Norris – one of my favorite writers, another copy of “Secrets of the Vine” – because I am always giving that one away, Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck” – because I always wanted to read it and now that she has passed – I feel obligated to read it in her memory.

I also found another one of Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who mysteries which are always fun. By the way, the cats always solve the mysteries. One of David Jeremiah’s books about grace because I’m still trying to wrap my heart around the whole concept of grace. And a couple of other books that just sounded interesting.books - lib sale

As I checked out, I told the elderly woman at the desk about my book. “I’m a writer, too,” I said, “so I read all the time. You know, we have to inhale in order to exhale.”

“Oh, yes,” she said, then asked about my book.

So I had another marketing opportunity, the chance to give her my card and tell her about Reverend G.

Who knows? Maybe this library sale will not only give me another wonderful stack of books but will become the impetus for someone else to read about Reverend G and the God she serves.

Maybe that lovely woman with a halo of white hair will check out my book and find hope.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –

What Alzheimer’s Teaches – Part 3

Part 1 of this series encouraged us to be patient. Part 2 reminded us that each day counts. What is another lesson that Alzheimer’s Disease can teach us?

Make Positive Memories.Number 3

When our memories begin to deteriorate, we’ll want our children and other family members to remember good times we’ve shared together.

Life is so busy with work, school and more work – with paying bills, facing conflict and fear. But in the midst of all the hubbub, we need to make positive memories.

Because each day is important, we can spend those 24 hours doing things together that will give our loved ones the opportunity to say, “Remember when?”

One of my favorite memories about Mom happened when I was 11. We were at the library where we visited weekly and checked out stacks of books. I browsed through the young adult section but couldn’t find any books I hadn’t already read. So I wandered into the adult section and chose two of those books.

However, when I tried to check them out, the librarian told me I wasn’t allowed to check anything out of the adult section.

Mom found me crying behind one of the shelves.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asked. Mom was never a nurturer and if we cried, then there’d better be a  good reason.

I told her what happened. She grabbed my hand and marched with me to the main desk where she confronted the librarian.

“I understand you won’t let my daughter check out these books.”

“Shh,” said the librarian. “Ma’am, these books are from the adult section and your daughter isn’t yet an adult. We can’t allow her to check them out.”

My mother stood her ground with every bit of her 5’8” stature and said, “May I remind you that my taxes pay for the electricity in this building, and the books…and your salary.”

I thought Mom was ten feet tall.

“But ma’am,” said the librarian in her whispery voice. “We just can’t allow….”

“Do I need to speak to your superior or to one of the board members for this public library so that my tax money will be used properly? There’s nothing in these books that will hurt my daughter, and if she wants to check them out – then she’s going to check them out.”

I left that day with “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt.” I read them both and loved them, and I never had trouble checking any books out of the library again.

I imagine that somewhere in that library system, there still exists a 3×5 card with my name on it and a notation, “Beware of Mother.”

That was my mom. She fought fiercely for her kids, and I treasure the memory of her bold love.