Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mornings are definitely better

This morning was cloudy and drizzly as I drove to the assisted living home, reflecting the dread I was feeling about going. I was looking forward to seeing my dad, of course, but not the condition he might be in, nor the condition of the other residents there. Me being the merciful person that I am, tend to project myself into their pain, and it is hard not to want to walk around and comfort each one of them when I am there. I want them all to be healed so badly, for the madness to stop, but of course, that is not up to me. Instead, I pray for them every day, if not more than once a day.

I have to admit, I have struggled at times with wanting to know why. Why my dad, and why anyone has to suffer with that kind of disease. To have your loved one with you, yet not with you, at least not in the way they once were. To want so badly to communicate with them freely, yet not be able to, and instead be regulated to a few choice words once in awhile, the rest of the time being spent trying to understand them or trying to figure out what they want when they are agitated and demanding, yet not being able to satisfy them and trying to keep them calm, or... simply sitting in silence.

But as long as I'm on this earth, I'll never understand all the reasons why. God's understanding is not our understanding. His ways are not our ways. He knows the reason, has His Higher Purpose, and can see the beginning and the end. So I choose to trust Him, even when I don't understand. Not that I don't still ask Him to help me understand, for I can't help but want to.

Funny how that reminds me of my five-year-old daughter, who is going through the "why" stage right now. She wants to know the reason behind every little thing, and is not shy about asking. It can be exhausting trying to explain it all to her, and sometimes, there is no explanation, at least not one that she will understand. At that point, she just has to trust me.

About halfway through my drive there, I prayed that God would help me to face whatever I had to face today with my dad. I couldn't help but pray that the visit would go well today. I arrived at about 9:30am, and was pleased and relieved to see that he was doing much better again. He was back to his old self once again, and immediately recognized me when I walked in, smiling and giving me a tight hug.

Mornings are definitely better. And maybe God answered my request, too.

Most of the visit with him was pretty quiet. He stayed in the easy chair by the window in the activity room the entire one and a half hours I was there, relaxing, and would fall asleep from time to time. Being that he doesn't sleep much at all at night, I stayed mostly quiet to encourage him to sleep when he could, and just enjoyed being with him. Every once in awhile, he'd wake up and look over at me and smile, and a couple of times he reached out his hand for mine, and kissed my hand at one point.

When he was sleeping at one point, I struck up a conversation with a couple of the workers there, whom I am getting to know, and those same workers read some interesting stories from the newspaper to the residents in the activity room. One of the residents, "Mr. A," I will call him, had plenty to say on each subject. As I've mentioned before, Mr. A is a real riot, and keeps things interesting there.

My dad would wake up from time to time and nod his head and smile in response to some of the conversation that was going on between me and the workers, and once or twice he looked over at Mr. A with an "amused" look on his face. It's amazing how, at times, my dad can be so despondent and non-responsive and appear to not even recognize us, yet at other times be so lively and responsive and, if it weren't for the communication issues he has, appear to not even have Alzheimer's.

During a quieter moment when my dad was asleep again and the workers were all busy with other things, I kept noticing this one resident there, a woman in a wheelchair, who kept making a sound that I couldn't really identify, but sounded to me like a deep, raspy sound in her lungs, like someone who had severe chest congestion, and when I watched her breathing (she was facing away from me but I could see her side profile), she was breathing quite rapidly. The workers would walk by her, one even asked how she was doing at one point, and they didn't seem to notice the sound. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore, so I went and asked one of the workers about it. She told me that she had always been making that sound for as long as she could remember. I personally didn't recall her ever making that sound for the two months I had been coming there to visit my dad, but figured I must have missed it somehow.

There was also another sound I heard while there today, a really bizarre sound that I had never heard anywhere before, but the sound was coming from "around the corner," so I would have had to get up and go look for it, and since I didn't want to embarrass anyone if it was one of the residents, I just kept crinkling my brow every time I heard it, trying to figure out what it was. It was driving me bonkers. At one point when I had first started hearing it, I thought it was some type of machine, so I blurted out, "What is that sound?" None of the workers answered. I don't know if they were ignoring me, or just didn't hear me. When I heard it again, it started to sound more like it might just be an odd sound that one of the residents was making, so I resisted the urge to go find the source of it. I never did figure out what it was.

At about 10:45, my step mom arrived. My dad definitely recognized her right away and really perked up, saying, "Heyyyy!" with a big smile. She had a bag of clothes for him, so after greeting us and giving my dad a hug and kiss, she disappeared down the hallway to go to his room. When she got back, she put lotion on his hands, then on the top of his head (my dad is bald except for the back and sides of his head, has been since he was in his 40s), then checked his fingernails and clipped/filed where appropriate, and finally, gave him a piece of gum. My dad seemed to be used to the routine, as he appeared to anticipate each action and enjoy it.

She and I chatted a little and during the course of our conversation, she told me that my dad's doctor appointment yesterday was to review his medications, and that they had been changed again, though she wasn't sure if they had started him on the new ones yet. She also told me that he would no longer have a full-time sitter, but would still have a part-time sitter. Then she told me that he had had a pretty rough night last night and since she didn't want to say out loud what had happened, she moved only her lips to tell me (and showed me in one quick motion with her hand when my dad wasn't looking) that he had been biting himself on the hand, and I got the impression she meant he had been doing it over and over again. I cringed, and was so thankful at that moment that it was morning now, and that it was all over with.

Morning. A new beginning. A fresh start. Something to look forward to.

And one fine day, on that Celestial Shore, a very special morning. One you can fly to, one where everything will be new, and one that will last forever.

So thankful to the Lord for a good visit today.

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