Where are you?

In grief, just as in happiness, sometimes the only thing which can be done is to write.  Emotions literally bubbling up and running over have nowhere to go other than out.  It is my therapy.  It is my cleansing.  It is my release.

I sat at my parent’s home last night and took a good, long look at my father.  I can’t explain the complexity of emotions which runs through my head and heart when I am in a room with him.  I feel such amazing love.  I feel palpable sadness.  My chest tightens some days when I think about how incredibly unfair and frustrating his condition is.  It has a name.  It has a definition.  The only thing it is lacking is a cure.  Cruel fate.  Unbelievably cruel. 

I talked with my mother in her kitchen last night and both of us wept.  We don’t allow ourselves that gift very often in each other’s presence, but last night it all seemed too much.  I told her that I had become very disheartened the other day when I took it upon myself to try to remember the last time I saw dad REALLY PRESENT with us.  I have a memory of sitting in McDonalds with him, maybe 6 months ago, maybe a year- it’s all a blur- my children on the playground playing, and he and I were at a table eating burgers.  He was having difficulty eating his and I cut it in two and placed one side in his hand.  We talked very frankly that day.  I had to know what was going on inside his head.  I just asked him, “Dad, are you scared?”   His answer to me was a quiet “yes”.  That’s all I could take at that moment and we both started to cry.  It was horrible.  I was angry.  How many other people in that McDonalds were having to deal with something of this magnitude?  Why him?  I don’t get it.  I didn’t then and I still don’t today.  I’m guessing I never will.

When you look at his face his features are the same.  The other changes are apparent, though.  He moves slowly.  His eyes have become vacant and it seems he’s staring off at some far-away place.  I like to think that this place is beautiful and peaceful and full of restoration and hope.  I like to think that He’s looking on the face of God and finding comfort there. 

His words have become impossible to follow most days, but we continue to hold conversations with him just as if he were speaking as clearly as you and I could.  I know that he now lives in a world of confusion.  It is a tough realization to accept, but we’re trying to take each step one by one.  There’s no other way to do it and hope to keep any ounce of sanity that still remains.  My mom told me that he was looking off one day and seemed especially disoriented.  She looked at him and said, “Honey, you don’t have any idea who I am do you?”  She said he looked right at her and said, “Honey, I don’t even know who I am.”  That is the mind-numbing truth of this place we find ourselves.  We remind him as often as we can that he is home and we are his children, his wife.  I can’t imagine the world he wakes up to everyday and I have to tell myself that the Lord is still in control.  It is not easy.  I have lots of questions for the Lord.  My faith has taken a bit of a beating during this portion of our lives.  I still hold out for healing, but am now moving to accept things as they are today. 

There are days I’d like to grab my father by the shoulders and look deep into his eyes and just ask, “Where are you?”  It’s a conversation I’ll never be able to have the strength to have with him.  My role now- the role of each of us- is to spend time with him, to remind him of what he needs to remember, and to continue to pray.

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Waiter, there’s no reality in my reality

The human mind is capable of unfathomable feats.  We are capable of convincing ourselves that our perceived reality is indeed….. well…reality.  Perception can be deceptive.  That is the danger.  Each of us have surely had a moment where the proverbial rug is pulled out from under our feet.  When something we were SO CERTAIN about turned out to be much more elusive than we thought.  So, there we are.  Proverbial rug in a wad in the corner.  Now what?  What does this tell us about ourselves?  I’ve had several opportunities this year to examine this very question. 

I believe there are times in our lives that our “true” reality just doesn’t quite cut the mustard.  (You know, in 40 years of life I’ve never understood that expression nor used it in writing, but it’s actually pretty fun to say.)  Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself.  You wake up one day and while still lying in bed with crust in the corners of your eyes you think to yourself- “This CAN’T be IT!”  “Surely, this isn’t all there is.”  I believe it is in moments like these that we allow ourselves to indulge in a little fantasy wrapped up neatly in a package stamped “reality”.  We can imagine something better so let’s just start acting like that’s what we are dealing with today.  Doesn’t sound too detrimental, does it?  Only thing is it is very difficult to move ahead in reality when you enjoy spending your time in the fantasy.  Sure, the fantasy can be fun.  Heck, it can be anything you want it to be.  Unfortunately most fantasies have an expiration date and when that fantasy sours you can be left with the wreckage of your reality that you left uncared for and untended while you were on your reality leave of absence.

I believe the entrance into our perceived reality is innocent enough.  It may boil down to nothing more than self-preservation.  As I’ve said, the mind is a powerful tool.  It is capable of creating situations, feeding feelings, and leading us to making decisions which may or may not be in our best interest.  When I look back on my own life and I push all of the mistakes and bad decisions I’ve made into a pile I have come to realize something.  So often decisions were made too hastily, without much thought to consequence.  So many decisions have been thoughtless, stupid.  If I could somehow just learn to ride out the stupid in my life then one month from now, a year from now, or even two years from now things may look very different. 

I believe the thought that “it’s all about me or about me being happy” is a virtual mine field of explosives just waiting to blow up in our spoiled, selfish faces.  Everything from our culture to our advertising to our friends tells us that we only live once and we should do whatever we need to make ourselves happy.  Really?  How gluttonous can we possibly be?  I’m pretty sure that we have been told it’s all about Christ.  Haven’t we?  I don’t recall my Bible having a book of Amanda which states “Do anything that makes you happy.”  Dangerous thinking leads to dangerous decisions.  When I was in college the stupid decisions I made hurt me.  Now, as a mother, I don’t even have that option anymore.  My decisions reach far beyond just me.  How could I ever look at those two precious, freckled little faces and tell them, “Sorry, but mommy just wanted to be happy.”?  How does that work?

I’ve had to learn this year to ride out my stupid.  Oh, please understand I most certainly do have my moments of stupid, I’m just learning that big life decisions can’t be made in my perceived reality.  The only place we have a right to do so is in our present realized reality.  It may not be what we intended or imagined, but it is where we are today and it is what we have to work with.  Who knows what this place may look like in a month, a year, two years?  Riding it out…

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