WORDS FROM W.W. April 16, 2012
Parents treasure many different experiences with their kids. Taking them for an unplanned ice cream cone…school class field trips to the zoo…teaching the son how to properly tie a necktie.
The heart memories differ with each parent, and with each child of the parent.
When it comes to the final days of one of your parents there is a whole new collection of shared experiences that are valued, although painful.
I’m back in Ohio for a couple of weeks to spend time with my mom and dad. My mom is pretty much confined to her bed. Yesterday she was up in her wheelchair for three hours, which was the only time she had been out of bed since the previous Sunday. She has a form of Parkinson’s that has gradually eroded her mental functioning, verbalizing, and comprehension.
There is no “getting over it” in this lifetime. It isn’t a virus bug that a pill and rest can take care of.
It just is!
There isn’t much I can do, just be. One thing, however, that I do is feed Mom dinner each night. She has lost the use of her hands, so I scoot the broccoli on to the fork (Always with a bit of ranch dressing on top of it! Wait a minute! We never got ranch dressing for our broccoli!) I coax her into taking a drink of juice with a straw. I spear a cut-up piece of chicken breast and hope that she will bite it off of the fork.
But something else precious and extraordinary has been happening as I feed Mom dinner. I’ve been going back and retelling her stories from the past, from when we lived beside Lexington Road in Winchester, Kentucky, and we had friend chicken one night. I said to Dad, “That was good fried chicken, Daddy!”
“I’m glad you liked it, and now I can tell you that it wasn’t fried chicken.”
“It wasn’t! It tasted like fried chicken. What was it…a turkey with short legs?”
My mind: “Fluffy!”
It takes Mom about an hour to eat dinner eat night, so we relive a lot of the old experiences.
“Mom, remember when we had a dog? What was his name? Buster?
She every so slightly shakes her head no. I’m sure his name was Buster.
“Remember when Dad would turn Buster over on his back and slide him across the kitchen linoleum floor? And then Buster would get back on his feet and come back for more.”
A blank look. Later on that evening when I ask Dad if the dog’s name was Buster he tells me “No, it was Butch!”
Mom knew, although she couldn’t verbalize it.
Each fork of food is ripe with some other discovery.
“Remember when Mamaw and Papaw would take us kids on a summer evening in the back of his truck to the place down the road that served ice cream cones?”
Two eyes gaze at me for several moments, but… nothing.
“What was the name of that place? Salyer’s?”
The slight nod of correction again. The name goes undiscovered until I talk to my dad later, but…as my mom’s nod of no indicated, it wasn’t Salyer’s.
There are even special touches of God upon our lives in the acts that we would prefer to never have to do. There are blessings from him even in the midst of the parts of life that we dread. As my mom slowly loses ground there are moments of connection and conversation that will stand out for the rest of my life.
I often read Romans 8:26-28 with a grimace. Feeding Mom has given me a glimpse of a new meaning in the same words. In The Message its rendered “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
With an ache in my heart, but a longing in my soul, I look forward to what we’ll recall tonight. Perhaps it will deal with beets and turnips, or bow ties, or the time she caught me sneaking back from a place that she had specifically forbidden me to go. If I go “there”, I’m wondering if I’ll get the raised eyebrows look that let’s me know she remembers!