This past weekend I went to Hinton for a women’s retreat in what has become an annual event. Dad went to eastern North Carolina for the Joiner family reunion, an event he missed last year because of Irma, the storm. While we were gone, Mother was well-cared for by Laverne. Although there are many times Mom is without Dad for a chunk of time (while he fishes or runs errands,) it has been a long time since she’s gone a whole day without him and she was very restless.
Mom has a very sweet, gentle spirit most days. She’s easy-going and cooperative. By the time I returned Saturday afternoon, she was a bit cantankerous. No, she didn’t want another blanket if I suggested it, but she was cold. No, she didn’t want a snack, but she wanted mine and ended up eating most of it. No, she didn’t want to move to the other room. No, she didn’t want to put her shoes on. When I would persist, she would admonish me, “No! Don’t do that!” Even in her dozing sleep, she would occasionally fuss at someone doing the wrong thing.
At some point, I just got tickled. When my children went through the “no” phase, I would often get exasperated. Thankfully, Mom’s contrariness strikes me differently and I end up trying to suppress my giggles. I can only think about how this must certainly be payback for all my grumpiness and frustrating moments I gave her in my childhood. I thought I had paid my dues in dealing with my children, but I must have been extraordinarily difficult which is why I’m still dealing with “no” – only this time from my mother!
I often wonder how different my children’s lives would have been if I could have handled their “no” phases like I’m handling Mom’s now. I wish I could tell my younger self all the tricks I now use with Mom: divert, distract, and comfort. Of course, there are many ways I deal with Mom that I couldn’t use with the kids – I couldn’t buy their cooperation with a cookie for example nor could I let them get by without brushing their teeth – but there are also similarities.
My other thought is to those of you who are dealing with small children and dementia in parents or other adults simultaneously. I don’t know that I could have dealt with that in any healthy way. God certainly knew my limits. Although I have cared for Mom in some fashion for almost ten years, my children were mostly grown before Mom’s dementia required “parental” care from me.
Mom’s restlessness this weekend can certainly be understood even if she can’t articulate it. Just as a toddler becomes distressed when taken away from family, Mom misses Dad. I hope she misses me when I’m not here – Dad says she asks about me – but her longing for him goes to her core. Being married sixty-seven years will do that to you, I guess.
Dad returned today. I know this was difficult for him, too. He told me in a text on Saturday that he didn’t think he’d do this again. He was too far from home. The reunion was wonderful and he was able to see other friends and family, but the drive and wishing he “had his traveling companion of years past” made for a long and exhausting weekend. Since he’s almost eighty-nine years old, I guess I won’t press him to make the trip again.
Now that we’re all settling into our routine again, I’m sure her restless spirit will calm. I am so grateful for this time with Mom and I am even more grateful for Dad’s time with her. May their love story continue to unfold.