Maybe I’ll just snitch my writing friend’s soon to be opener, “that was before we knew my grandmother shouldn’t drive.”
Actually, the line does work here because the protagonist in my current work, hopefully out the fall, ultimately cares for a two older women that shouldn’t drive.
Several years ago, actually, (gulp) roughly seven years ago, my mother had her second series of mini strokes and I began a complaint to God. I’m not proud of my complaint, because I truly breathe rarified air and I thank God every day for the privileges I enjoy, but I am no care giver. I frequently refer to myself with a line from the movie, Sabrina, as ‘the only living heart donor.’ In any event God called me into a sea of doubt and fear in tending people I dearly loved that formerly tended me.
Every step I took, disturbed me and I finally decided the only way I could show my love was to bring a little cheer. Distracted and daunted, I armed myself with small treasures, my first roses of the year, a goofy poem, an anecdote meant to delight, or the latest of my seemingly endless embarrassments. I would stay for twenty to forty minutes and quickly run out of material necessitating running from the house that had been my home decades earlier. I tried to visit daily, but four or five times a week became the norm, after my father hired a service to tend to Momma’s specific needs.
I learned how to clean and change a bed ridden person and thankfully only had to help with this a handful of times, and I learned that managing care-giver services especially competing women in the same household required a lot of looking the other way.
After the strokes, my mother couldn’t speak and my father was miserable. If it weren’t for my mother’s housekeeper’s constant encouragement and superb skill with both my parents, I would have given up, but she wouldn’t let me and some of the care-givers were driving her over the edge. This was when I began to wonder about the actual ministry of care – what it meant to be a care-giver. Whatever it was, it seemed forever out of my reach.
I began writing Gabby Care partially as a way to examine this and partially because I almost knew something about it. Unfortunately, most of what I truly know is frustration at how we care for the elderly in our country, and how we’ve turned a ministry into a business. Don’t get me wrong, I have no solution. I’m too stuck in the box, but I know the Church has work to do in this area.
Countless times deacons from our congregation and friends brought food or cheer or just stopped by to wave. Half the times, I could see there lips move in prayer as they left the house. As I write this, once again, I thank God for these good people. Their ministry brought light and life to a dying house.
One particular incident comes back to me. It wasn’t the first visit our retired pastor made, nor the last but I was present for its entirety. He wheeled his little red truck into the driveway after Momma died. He was there to visit my father. The vehicle was fitted with a wheelchair crane. He engaged the wench and maneuvered himself into the chair and up our walkway. He stayed with Dad for fifteen minutes. They spoke a few words shared some silence and enjoyed a memory. The pastor ended with a prayer. It was such a simple act, but hard won and filled with mercy and love.
In the aftermath of that visit, Dad smiled. He seemed himself once again and at peace.
For those struggling with aging loved ones what have you learned? What are your frustrations?
Thanks for reading.