Hope Returns with a Bossy Mom

Several weeks ago, I drove to Oklahoma and spent an afternoon with Mom. For the first time in months, she was fairly lucid, bossing me, like her old self.heart - sunset

We took a walk around the perimeter of the assisted living facility, discussed the geese who sometimes fly onto the pond for a drink or goose fellowship – whatever geese do.

Mom remarked how nice the facility is and how glad she is to live there – a reversal of the attitude she sometimes displays when she demands, “Why am I here? Why did you kids do this to me?”

Heartache piled upon guilt.

But on this day, she seemed grateful, and I saw in her the personality I grew up with – the bossy Mom who made sure her kids read at least seven books each week, practiced their musical instruments and worked hard to complete their chores and finish their homework.

Suddenly, we were transported decades back as Mom became herself:

“You need to hem up those pants you’re wearing. They’re dragging on the ground.”

“I did hem them, Mom.”

“Well, you need to do it again – another inch at least.”

“Okay, Mom. When I get home.”

Then we walked to the dining room. Mom instructed me where to sit. “Grab that chair over there. Someone else will sit beside me.”

As the meal was served, Mom worried that I wasn’t eating. “How come you don’t have a plate? Do you want me to order one for you?”

“No. I stopped at Braum’s two hours ago. I’m not hungry.”

“Well, you’ll be hungry by morning. Do you want a cookie? I’ll get you a cookie.”

“No, thanks. I eat gluten free.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m allergic to wheat.”

“Well, that can’t be right. You grew up on a wheat farm and we had bread for every meal.”

“Exactly. That’s why I have an allergy to wheat.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a cookie?”

The nurturing of children continues into old age, even when the brain is infected with Alzheimer’s plaque. A mother longs to feed her children, to make sure they are never hungry, even if they’re just visiting, even if they’ve just eaten.

After the meal, we walked back to Mom’s room. “Do you want to watch the idiot box?” (Mom’s description for the TV).

“No. I’ll just sit here with you or read a book.”

“Yeah. There’s nothing on but junk anyway.” We sat in silence for a while, then suddenly – Mom looked at me, her glasses slightly askew. “Are you dating?”

“No. I’m pretty busy.”

“Well, you should be dating someone. I don’t understand why some wonderful man hasn’t snatched you up.”

It was the nicest compliment she has paid me in years. My throat began to fill with the tears of missing my mom, of not being able to call her and discuss my latest book, of no longer sharing a shopping trip or the latest crochet pattern or the encouragement of a Psalm.

“Thanks, Mom. That’s nice.”

“Well, I’m just askin’.”

For a few hours on a hot July afternoon, Mom and I connected on a level long past. She was again the bossy Mom, demanding answers and commanding me in directions she wanted me to take.

Once again, I was the daughter and our roles were clear, not reversed or confused in the dynamics of what Alzheimer’s does to families.

And for a few hours, we sat together in peace, two women – still joined by an emotional umbilical cord.

It was sweet. I know that may never happen again.

©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://www.crossrivermedia.com/portfolio/1624/gallery/fiction/

Hope Finds a Treasure

During the last two weeks, three people at separate times have told me, “You are a treasure.”

I know this is a compliment and I truly appreciate the sentiment. At the same time, I am a bit nonplussed to be described as such.

National+TreasureWhen I think of treasure, my first impression is an antiquity. The movie “National Treasure” comes to mind as Nicholas Gage spends 90 minutes trying to find the lost treasures his Masonic ancestors hid in various places.

Gage, of course, succeeds and manages to fall in love at the same time, which spawns the second movie in the series and pleas from his fans for a third.

Although my joints sometimes cry a different melody, I don’t feel like an antiquity. I have, however, traveled around the block a few times and know a few things about life.

So I have thought about what I treasure and how I might practice more gratitude within my soul for those treasures I hold dear.

My treasures do not represent stuff, because I am antiquated enough to know that eventually – most of our stuff ends up at Goodwill and if I had all the money back that I have spent on stuff throughout the years – I could buy a car.

No, the true treasures for me involve people and memories – those happenings and experiences involving flesh and blood folks that cannot be replaced.

My relationship with my son is a treasure. There’s something especially sweet when our children mature and we move into an easy friendship instead of strictly a parent / child relationship.

We have great discussions about life, politics and important things like which laptop to buy and how to set up the wi-fi.

We express our opinions about  world systems and how we fit into them, the goals each of us hold for 2015 and how we are moving toward our dreams. I so desperately want my son to see his dreams become reality.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I treasure sitting with my child – https://rjthesman.net/2015/03/10/hope-sits-with-my-child/

Another treasure involves growing up on the farm. Although my world now exists in the city, nothing can take from me the joy of climbing a tree, perching in its generous limbs and scribbling my first stories in my Red Chief Tablet.

Watching the massive Oklahoma sunsets change colors, celebrating the waving wheat (“that smells so sweet”) and digging my hands into fresh garden earth to plant seeds that would later produce our supper – these are treasures that make me long for those hard-working blessed days without the stress of internet surfing and bungled emails.

Even writing about the country fills my heart with longing for my dream – a log home tucked safely between old trees that hold their own secrets – one room of that home surrounded by windows with my writing desk perched smack in the middle of all that light and creativity.

Because I am a writer, I observe people so one of my favorite treasures involves the many human beings I have known.

Students from various countries around the world, women who have enriched my life and saved it many times with their nurturing hearts, ministers of both genders and every race who have spoken into my life and the myriads of writers who bless me just by being their weird and wonderful selves.

People are a treasure, walking and talking receptacles of divine cells that God has pronounced, “Very good.”

My life has been enriched by meeting these folks, spending time with them, developing relationships with them, disagreeing with them and praying with them.

So I gladly accept the moniker of “treasure,” because I hope I have somehow spoken into the lives of others the encouragement that keeps me going, the perseverance that keeps me writing and the joy that keeps me breathing.

I would be interested to know what you consider a treasure. How about sharing with all of us your thoughts on the subject?

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

Grave Wanderings

My personal tradition calls for a visit to the cemetery during Easter weekend. Somehow, the credibility of the resurrection needs to meet with the mortality of my ancestors.cemetery

It is a Mennonite cemetery, on the same acre of land as the old hand-built church, crafted by men who wore beards and black hats. Many of those same carpenters and farmers now lie below the soil, that rich dirt that grows hard red winter wheat just an acre away.

My father’s shell lies under that soil. Yes, I know he is not really there. He lives in heaven, now joined by seven brothers and sisters, his parents and two of my children.

But it is his shell that I miss. The strum of his fingers on guitar strings, his baritone voice singing “Blessed Assurance,” even his bow-legged stroll through the pasture on frosty mornings.

This year, I kneel beside his grave and marvel at the passing of time. Has it really been nine years since we laid a bouquet of wheat and wildflowers on his coffin?

I caress his name and his dates, carved into the stone. May 11, 2004 – his death date and the ending that marked a heavenly beginning.

“Ah, Dad, I miss you so much. I need you to help me past this lonely place in my soul. I long to hear you pray for me once again and watch you find a verse for me in the leather Bible you held. I miss having my daddy in my life.”

Too many tears shed over this grave. I stand and walk through the cemetery. So much history in this resting place of my ancestors. So many untold stories which only the Alpha and the Omega know.

Names of Sunday School teachers and pastors, of twins who lived only one day – a tiny sheep engraved next to their names. Vets from the World Wars and Korea lying beside veterans of the faith.

A solitary grave near the wheat field. Another baby – this one died in 1930. But fresh flowers point heavenward against the aging stone. Who has been here to remember this child?

The creative writer in me longs to stay here and write make-believe stories about each grave, but I am due at the assisted living facility. It is time to visit my mother who still lives within the shadows of Alzheimers. Her ending and beginning dates not yet carved into the stone she will share with my father.

Spend time with the living while I can.

And rejoice that even in a visit to a cemetery, I hear a sermon. For each soul who lies in this consecrated plot of land now resides somewhere eternal.

Although I feel a palpable grief at the reading of each name, I know this is not the end. On this Easter weekend and every one to come, resurrection claims the final victory.