Thursday, July 14, 2011

You know what's funny?

I get a few minutes alone, and it's so quiet that I can't think!  Once the noise of silence subsides, I can't stop thinking.  So here I am again.

There have been several posts about the "R" word lately in so many other blogs.  Somewhere between those posts and dealings with my dementia-riddled Grandad this trip, words like respect and dignity keep pinging around in my head. You go in these places where people have varied amounts of understanding and abilities, sicknesses and capabilities, and start considering putting someone you care for in a place to care for them, and all of a sudden it matters.  All of a sudden, the intricacies of someone's personality that we don't even think about can cause major disasters. 

This is where Grandad meets Ryan. 

I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a liscenced anything, save band director in Texas, and that means little with my current occupation.  But I am Ryan's Mom, and I am Robert's granddaughter.  I've spent time with both of them, and I'm amazed at the similarities between their conditions.  One, in so many ways, is a negative of the other.  Grandad and Ryan both need routine.  They both have (what I call) anchors- things that are not necessarily routine, but are things like foods, people, treats, words, clothes, or objects that help bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.  Nanny held Grandad together, if not sheerly by her presence.  If we weren't sure, we found out last November.  Grandad adored my Nanny from the time they were in high school.  He hitchhiked across Oklahoma just to see her.  There are so many precious, romantic stories of their courtship in the days before instantaneous communication.  His family owned and ran the telephone company in that part of the state, and Grandad still relied on postcards and hitchhiking to stay with Nanny when her family moved from Stilwell to Enid.  When he lost her, it seems like he lost himself.  I hate to say it, but losing Nanny was like opening a drain for him.  So when they had to take him from his home of nearly 40 years to keep him safe, you can imagine what it's been like.

Traveling with Ryan is much the same.  We take away all the norms... the house, most of his stuff... and replace it with wherever we're going (which is usually family, but still).  Say what you will, family is still important, and this is a priority for us.  We try to keep some of the anchors, but that can become complicated quickly.  As I mentioned in my last post, we have the God-given blessing of family who love us enough to want us around no matter the meltdowns.  We fight for normalcy and novelty at the same time on these trips, but novelty has to come with anchors.  We know what Ryan loves, and we have to find something he loves to do wherever we are. Always within the bounds of his (and our) mental and emotional health, and that can be hard.  So many land mines.  So many ways to torpedo an entire day. 

Ryan used to love being at Nanny's.  Nestled in the side of a hill overlooking the valley that is Heavener, the best part to me is the driveway.  You can lay on the driveway and almost feel like you're flying... I can still feel the warmth of the concrete on my back.  In the house, Ryan had the run of the place, except for the usual Ryan-hazards.  Back when he was still tiny, cute, and fits weren't as awkward or dangerous, Ryan used to love to sit on Grandad's lap and share a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a banana.  I have a pic, but no scanner.  It was the cutest thing!  Just like he used to do for me, Grandad took all the pens and the penlike screwdriver thingy (I know... so prepared) from his shirt pocket for Ryan snuggle time.  They'd "bite for you, bite for me" through two bowls of cereal or so, then Ryan would wiggle out and do something else.  But he'd snuggle Grandad more than just about anyone.  He never said it, but we knew he loved Grandad.  Heck, he doesn't say it about very many people. 

But now I know. 

I know Ryan loves my Grandad. 

It was time to leave Heavener this time, and I was my usual amount of super-sad to leave home since we lost Nanny.  Everything is so different.  So hard, yet so comforting still to be there.  As I dodged the "alarm system" of pooches to load the van, every time I came back in the house, Ryan kept asking for Grandad.  "See Grandad" he'd say.  I tried to avoid explaining.  How do you explain this all to a six year old, much less to one who isn't yet able to express his feelings in ways other than screaming very effectively?  But he pressed.  "Grandad get home from work?" "Go see Grandad?"  "Go to Grandad's house?"  It was miraculously easier to explain why he couldn't go to Nanny's house (yes, same place) because "sweetie, it's different up there since Nanny moved in with Jesus."  That was a good enough answer for him, by the way. 

So I finally decided that we had to take Ryan to see Grandad.  The night before when I saw him, he seemed happy and content, calm and happy to be back in Heavener if not in his own home.  So in 102-degree weather at its coolest, with a van loaded to the gills with two adults, three kids, and an Australian shepherd, I steered the van to the nursing home, parking in the shade.  "I'll just be a minute,"  I told Eric.  "I can't imagine we'll stay too long." 

We walked in, and just as if he was waiting for us, there was my Grandad on the couch in the entrance.  Ryan walked up and said "Hi Grandad" and Grandad said hi to him.  Then after I'd explained to Grandad (who I'm not sure knew who I was) that yes, this is home now, and yes, his daughter is bringing more of his things soon, Ryan stopped exploring and walked over.  He sat down, laid his head on Grandad's lap, and whispered, "I love you, Grandad." 

I about died.

Grandad didn't hear, so I managed to choke out "He said he loves you, Grandad" determined that my boy's precious words would fall on the correct ears.  Grandad smiled, patted Ryan on the back, and said "I love you, too." 

After a confused couple of minutes of conversation, I went to deliver (with Ryan) a pillow I brought for Grandad to his room.  I also wanted to make sure I knew where it was, because he seemed confused as to where he was supposed to stay.  We went back to Grandad and I sat down beside him while Ryan buzzed about the room, scouring the place for every button, spinny-thingy, and door.  In between hopping up to check on Ryan or turn the residents' tv back on before they revolted at missing a second of Springer, I asked Grandad if he'd like us to walk him to his room.  "Would you please?"

Of course.  You only taught me to ride a bike.  You only taught me to shake hands firmly, look people in the eye when I'm speaking to them, and that I should be paying attention during sermons.  You only acted as the most constant earthly father in my life... yes, sir... I will walk you to your room.  We've had our differences, but yes, I will walk you to your room. 

So I helped Grandad up, then took Ryan's hand.  Can you say polar opposites?  Snail's pace, fragile, unstable versus wiry, hyper, wiggly, screamy.  Oh dear.  Immediately I wonder how this will go. 

I was amazed. 

Ryan pulled at me with my arm looped through Grandad's gaunt elbow.  But not hard.  He also loudly proclaimed, "Nobody touch him!" all the way to the room.  Over and over.  I might be overthinking this, but as Ryan's mom, I felt like he wanted to protect Grandad.  Soon as we got to the room, he stopped.  Once in the room, I looked around as I helped Grandad get to bed.  The frame with several pictures that Mom put in his room struck me.  Pictures of me and my kids, pictures of my uncle and aunt and my cousin, pictures of my sister... all paried with black and white pictures of a beautiful blonde woman who once reached into the pocket of his coat, found the ring, and said yes.  There was also a young man staring back at me with his dog, Pal.  The same young man on a bicycle with his brothers... probably the same one he rode when he filled his pockets with raisins the day a train wrecked in Stilwell, OK.  He ate way too many raisins that day and hated them forever!  That young boy grew to a man, lived life, loved, worked, and now resides in room 24. 

I can't help but remember that connection Ryan has with Grandad.  It's almost like they're complete opposites, but are so much the same.  I also cannot shake the fact that I am headed, likely, for much the same.

When I'm at Grandad's age, Lord willing, I will be able to say I had the privilege of having three beautiful children, was married to the most wonderful man I could have asked for, and when all that is through, what do I have?  As far as possesions, even with a five bedroom brick house on the hill, the only possesions I will be interested in are my velcro tennis shoes and my eyeglasses.  Maybe I'll be one of those sweet ladies who lets the beauty college kids practice, turning my hair light purple just in time for Easter.  More than anything, at that point, the things I "did" don't matter.  My degree?  Psscht.  Who cares?  What really matters is the bricks.  The mortar.  The seeds.  The water.

It's the now.  The getting up every day.  The smiles, the failing, learning, trying again.  The hugs, the laughter, the tears.  The days when I wake up to screaming about this or that, be it ipad, "SWIMSUUUUUIT!", Thomas, jelly toast, or drumsticks, the days when it seems like he's getting worse instead of better... those are the days I have trouble.  The days it means more when I flatten out in bed, look up, and beg for help.  Admit I don't have it.  Ask for it.  Just get me out of bed, Lord.  Give me the patience.  Give me peace.  Help me.

These times, these frustrating times when we can't seem to go anywhere... and I mean ANYWHERE anymore without so much effort... when it's so exhausting that so often I'd rather just shut the curtains and protect us from the stares and comments... it is soothing to remember that just trying again is a brick.  I was calm and patient through that fit... yay!  Mortar.  I remembered to make Ryan wait, and remembered to praise him for asking in the first place.  Seed.  Ryan didn't scream when I made him wait.  Water. 

When I don't manage to lay bricks and mortar... when I forget to plant the seed and pour the water, that's where Christ comes in.  I can't lay them all the time.  He knows that.  He's there to cover that.  And that's why I get up.  I know I am called to be my childrens' mother.  I know God doesn't make mistakes.  Therefore, no matter how I *feel* (and the feelings are SO hard), even if going through the motions is all I have for the moment, having the faith to get up and do that much in His name will be blessed. 

So in the end, in my room 24, I pray I'll be reminded even if I don't know who they are, by my children, that it's all about getting up every day and living.  If I am blessed with remembering, I hope I will have laid enough bricks and mortar, seeds and water that I will have beautiful memories of the people staring at me in the photo frame.  And if I'm not blessed with my memory... I know I will have peace. 

Thanks be to God!!!

 Kingdom Comes
-Sara Groves

When anger fills your heart
When in your pain and hurt
You find the strength to stop
You bless instead of curse
When doubting floods your soul
When all things feel unjust
You open up your heart
You find a way to trust

That's a little stone
That's a little mortar
That's a little seed
That's a little water
In the hearts of the sons and daughters
This kingdom's coming

When fear engulfs your mind
Says you protect your own
You still extend your hand
You open up your home
When sorrow fills your life
When in your grief and pain
You choose again to rise
You choose to bless the name

That's a little stone
That's a little mortar
That's a little seed
That's a little water
In the hearts of the sons and daughters
This kingdom's coming

In the mundane tasks of living
In the pouring out and giving
In the waking up and trying
In the laying down and dying

That's a little stone
That's a little mortar
That's a little seed
That's a little water
In the hearts of the sons and daughters
This kingdom's coming

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