It’s a Family Affair


This is my last day in Yakima, WA with my mom and sister. I am already missing them both because the distance which separates us is so great. In the few days I’ve been here I’ve seen mom grow more comfortable in my presence. When she walked over to Lisa’s this afternoon I actually think she was looking for me. Now I’m leaving again and my uncertainty grows greater as her mind grows dimmer.

I came here thinking mom has Alzheimer’s. She may, but I’m not as certain. When I read dementia was a symptom of Alzheimer’s then my conclusion has been it’s the big “A” word. Lisa tells me the Dr. has never said conclusively and has told her it’s something that can’t be determined without a brain scan. It could be dementia. It could be Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure it matters. If anyone knows different please tell us.

Lisa also gave me a very interesting article on how to talk to someone with dementia (it just sounds kinder than Alzheimer’s). It helped some thing click with me, prepared me for some things and, I thought, gave me the key to figuring out what time period mom’s mind is living. The last part hasn’t turned out so well.

The article suggested asking questions like, are you in school, where do you work, do you have children, etc. That way you can find out if they’re in their early days of marriage, have grown children or think of themselves as still in school. I thought this was brilliant so I began asking mom some of these questions, as awkward as it was. Especially the questions where I hoped to find where I might fit in her life.

When I asked if she had children she said yes, I’ve asked her more than once their names and she has said, “I have no idea”, “whatever they say they are”, or avoided answering.

We’ve looked at photographs together and that hasn’t been helpful either. So much for that idea.

What I have learned is to laugh with her and we have had some laughs. Her sentences often don’t make sense. So much so I can’t even begin to give you an example. Yesterday, she was telling me one thing when she suddenly said something about pushing the pumpkin out. She asked me too hand her the heart on the floor. When I looked down, she said no, and pointed up. There was no heart but a cross she wanted. It is often difficult to know what she means because her words literally don’t make sense. She makes sound effects and silly motions (both not like her) and will often laugh afterwards. When she laughs, I laugh, really laugh. I just let myself enjoy that moment with her.

This is all part of me Living in Graceland. The title came about when we started our ministry in the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC). But Graceland is everywhere I go. It surrounds mama these days. It envelops her in the quiet of church and bubbles out of her as she says these silly words and laughs at herself. I see in as she sits humming almost unaware I am nearby. I don’t know but it’s at those moments I think her grace is peace. Somewhere inside, a place only known to her and God is a peace that passes all understanding. That’s the place where she has clarity. Unseen to us, but I believe she is already seeing the hand of God, giving her grace.