Saturday, September 29, 2012

How's Your Mom?

My mom is the little girl in the pictures. It struck me as I was looking at them that God knew on the day each photo was taken what her future would hold. What a great honor it is to have been chosen to share the gospel with her and to see her baptized in June 2009, and now to be taking care of her towards the end of her life.

Several people have asked me lately how she is. Until now I've been very careful not to share anything that would get back to her and humiliate her. Unfortunately, that's no longer a concern because her Alzheimer's has progressed to the point that she not only can't read my blog, but she also has a very tough time holding a conversation. For instance, we met a neighbor during a walk a couple of days ago who told us he restores old tractors. When he pointed to a '38 John Deer he recently acquired, my mom proudly told him that she owns a '38 Chevy. (She doesn't.)  Another man recently told us about losing his business to which my mother replied, "Oh, that's good!" I find myself explaining her condition to strangers so they won't think she's crazy or just plain rude.

Being in public with mom is stressful in that we never know what to expect. For example, her depth perception is skewed so she brings her foot up to knee level to step off of a curb and flinches if someone passes within a few feet of her at the grocery store, thinking that they'll run into her. Sometimes she thinks she recognizes a person and speaks to them as if they're old friends or, if someone actually does recognize her, she obviously has no idea who they are.

The bulk of the challenges come from our daily routine at home though. Living with mom is, I suspect, a bit like adopting a child with special needs. Her speech has regressed so that she pluralizes words and says things like "ices", "toilet papers", and "cat foods". When something is empty she says it's "dead" and she calls sweetener "softener". She has a hard time finding the right word in general. She calls me mom pretty much all the time now and makes hand gestures to get her point across, like grabbing at her zipper to say she needs a bathroom. I tell her when it's time for a shower and show her how to wash her face. She still brushes her own teeth and even flosses as long as I cut the floss for her. She also often has trouble getting a fork to her mouth or stepping into her pants. I prepare all of her food and usually at least help her get herself dressed. Last week at church I looked down to see her wearing two different shoes--both right foot. She wants to be helpful so I include her in rinsing the dishes and folding towels. She sits in a chair while I do yard work and is happy to get me a cup of water, provided I give her the cup. (She can't find those on her own.)

Mom gets frustrated with how "fast" and "loud" the kids are and she often gets angry with me for something completely irrational, like when I tell her not to eat something she just picked up off the floor or I ask her to wash her hands after she's used a public restroom. She talks to herself, and she follows me around most of the time. I have to remind her to talk to the kids and hug them once in a while. They treat her well but obviously have a hard time adapting to her becoming less capable in some ways than even the youngest, with whom she often argues. We are all struggling to adapt to our new lives together. Though I would selfishly like much more support from family and friends, I am thankful for the support we are getting and know that the lonely times give us a stronger connection to God and make us more useful to him. So we're thankful for the opportunity we find ourselves in and praise God for his goodness and mercy in finding us worthy for such a task.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


When I'm talking to someone about moving forward in life, I always give the same counsel: start where you are and with what you have. I'm taking my own advice today. Because of the amount of time that has passed and the enormous amount of change that has taken place since my last entry, I haven't been sure how to proceed with my updates.

Yesterday I uploaded the photos I've taken since our visit to Colorado, and I'm going to let those dictate the parts of our story I share with you since my last post. In case you don't already know, we sold our house in Florida to move to Texas and take care of my mother who has Alzheimer's. She was living with her boyfriend of over twenty years, and he asked us to come take over. So, we moved into a house she built in the town where I grew up and brought her back from her boyfriend's place over an hour away. To say it has been challenging is an understatement but God is good and we know we are doing the right thing. 

Without further ado, here is a random sampling of some goings on with our family:

This actually happened while we were still in Colorado, but it was the night before we left and we dealt with it for weeks after we arrived in Texas. Jonah broke his finger on a daring scooter ride:

Some very kind people from our sponsoring church came all the way to Florida while we were in Colorado and drove a moving van full of our furniture to Texas. They had everything here in the garage when we arrived. Because they also pulled up all the nasty carpet for us, the only room that was livable for a while was the dining room. We slept on mattresses in there until the new flooring was installed. It was a little like camping out, including the dangers of the forest, i.e., carpet tacks. Ben recently asked me what I ever did with all those "heart attacks" that were on the floor when we moved in.
We went out and bought some baby chickens, mostly because we didn't know what to do with ourselves and it seemed like a good idea. It actually turned out to be a great idea because those chicks have kept the boys very occupied. 

Again, some wonderful folks from our sponsoring church went with us to where my mom was living to move her stuff out. Now it's all here and a large part of what we have been doing is sorting through it all.
John took this picture of me and the kids with Helen, the woman who told John and me the gospel about seventeen years ago. She was living in a nursing home here in town. I was happy that the kids got to spend some time with her because she recently passed away. She asked John to speak at her funeral. It was a huge honor and we all miss her so much. 
We joined a local gym which turned out to be a local mission effort. A group from Fort Worth sold their church building to come out here to the sticks and start a community center. They've gotten it up and running and have been, by their own accounts, praying for some assistance. We watched their minister baptize this man in the gym pool after a Sunday service. Because the contract with our sponsoring church is up in January, we feel God is opening doors for us to partner with this fledgling church.
John's mom came for a surprise visit, which was far too short. Here we all are with the grandmas in the back yard.

I would like to say the adjustment phase of this move is coming to a close but it is quickly becoming apparent that, with the progression of Alzheimer's, every day is an adjustment. The kids are doing remarkably well and our prospects for employment and continuing mission work are looking good. God seems to be melding all of our experiences into something useful right here in, of all places, my hometown. For those of you who don't think yours is a mission field, stay tuned. I think you'll be encouraged.