It’s been well over 2 years since Dad moved on to his heavenly home, but some days the grief is still fresh…as if it just happened. Even after all this time, on occasion, I think of something I need to call him about…but oh yeah…I can’t pick up the phone and call him anymore. On days like that, I spend a little time with a bear, remembering those bear hugs.
There were two older women sitting together across the room from us. One lady, we overheard, was 95 years old…her friend appeared to be a few years younger. After we had been in the packed ER waiting room for a couple of hours, the younger lady told the older one that she needed to leave to be sure someone was okay and that he had eaten supper….that she would be back. And…she left.
It was October…a little chilly with clear skies and lots of Texas sunshine. Microphones were being checked; someone was singing on the stage. We took turns pulling the children through the park in the wagon, searching for the perfect place for a family picture. Chatter and quite laughter filled the air as we watched other families taking their pictures too. We were there to take a long walk together, and memories of other walks scrolled across my mind.
National Fruit Cocktail Day is on May 13…so HAPPY NATIONAL FRUIT COCKTAIL DAY! I actually don’t remember the last time I ate fruit cocktail, but when I was growing up, it was a real treat when it was on our supper menu. Sometimes Mom added it to jello for a really special dessert.
Mom quickly let go of my hand as we walked through the door, delivering a warm hug and a sweet hello to each resident in the living room. I didn’t want to be there, but this was what my mother did. She loved visiting the elderly.
My Naomi was young at heart, and that youthfulness must have spilled over to her good looks. She loved to laugh….I wonder now…could this have been her secret remedy against wrinkles and frown lines? It’s possible, of course, since laughter is the best medicine after all! She was active, always busy, and took very good care of herself.
After baths, the folks shuffled into the living room in their pajamas. Those who didn’t claim a recliner scooted close together on the couch…one sat cross-legged on the floor. Vanna was putting up the first puzzle, and the wheel started clicking, spinning around and searching for a place to land. It was time for Wheel of Fortune!
We were all amazed as we watched Dad take sweet and tender care of his bride…patiently answering the same questions over and over again, looking for her lost purse many times each day, and watching over her carefully, protecting her from harm. People who knew them said they were soulmates, and I guess they were. They had been married many years when Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s had changed their lives and ours too. Mom was lost, and Dad was exhausted. We had sleepless nights full of worry, and many tears were shed. My heart ached for both of them, and I longed for life the way it was before the invasion of Alzheimer’s. We lived across the state of Texas, many miles from them, but we traveled there often to check on them, finding the situation a little worse with each trip.
It wasn’t until later, after Mom and Dad were gone, when I started writing my book, Dancing Around the Chaos, that I realized what a rare love story we had witnessed. I was reminded of the Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I had read the verse many times before, but now, I understood it. It was real to me…Dad had lived the verse, demonstrating the meaning of the words. Alzheimer’s is the long road to goodbye, no doubt, but had it not been for this journey, we would have missed witnessing this rare love story. It was a gift.
Other gifts come to mind today…Valentine’s Day….along with other Valentine memories, like the year I won the 3rd grade valentine box contest. Mom helped me wrap a Kleenex box in red felt, glue pink and white felt hearts on it, and then attach a decorated coconut to the box with pipecleaners. It was, of course, a mouse pulling a carriage…which doubled as a collection box for valentines from my classmates! I love this memory, and I’m thankful for so many gifts in years past. The Valentine gift I treasure most, however, is the gift of this amazing love story…an example set for generations to come. What an honor!
Happy Valentine’s Day, Tracie
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28