church

Alzheimer’s At The Church Christmas Social

THE ANNUAL CHURCH CHRISTMAS SUPPER

Boy at Christmas dinner with a menu of cookies

This little guy chose his own dinner at the Christmas party, typical of kids his age and okay at this once a year event.

December 14, 2012 — We were always there whether they served ham, turkey or roast beef — all with mashed potatoes, gravy, lots of salads and the customary green bean casserole. It was almost tradition that early or mid-month in December we read the announcement, complete with a sign-up sheet requesting side dishes and desserts for the annual Christmas dinner to be held in the rec hall – a real gymnasium with basketball hoops at either end — but more formerly referred to as the church cultural hall. During those early years when Ken and I were young, with five little ones, our family took up nearly a whole table. Then as our nest emptied and we dwindled back to just the two of us we still attended most of these pre-Christmas celebrations at our church sitting with friends who had also become empty-nesters. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-12-17 05:07:45.

A GRATEFUL RECEIVER

My mother was the most charitable person I have ever known.  From the time I was a little girl I remember watching unknown strangers standing at our front door while Mother made a sandwich as the stranger waited, or she fed another lunch in exchange for washing our 3rd-floor windows both inside and out.  There was never a thought these men were anything other than what they claimed – down, out and hungry — as she allowed them to work for food during those Great Depression years. 

It wasn’t as though we were much better off with my dad doing piece work for a small steel company.  When the order was filled he was sent home with his few dollars to buy food, pay the rent, and hopefully pay the utilities. 

Yet my mother managed to stretch the meager dollars to care for us and to help the less fortunate.  She and my dad prided themselves on never going on “Relief,” which was the welfare program of the 1930s.  They were fiercely independent, and, perhaps, to a fault proud, but that’s who they were.  They could take care of themselves and they did.

During World War II and the peaceful, economic healthy years which followed, I watched my mother continue her service to mankind through our church and other philanthropic organizations.  Nor did she choose to treat herself to some delicacy at the soda fountain or bake shop.  Rather than be frivolous she would take the money saved and donate the coins to a worthy cause.  Mama always felt fortunate and blessed to be self-sustaining.  This pattern continued for both my parents all of their lives.

One day, late in life, Mama was taking a bundle of newspapers to the garage for recycling.  Stepping down the one step of their entryway, she lost her balance and fell.  Bruised and bleeding she picked herself up from the cement, grateful no bones were broken.  Stalwart that she was, my mother insisted ice packs and a little rest were all she needed.

The next day, John, a representative from our church stopped by their home for his regular monthly visit. Finding her battered and bruised he asked what had happened.  Hearing Mama tell of her fall, he immediately said, “Irene, you need a hand rail at your front door.”

Sounds of a hammer and saw awakened my parents the very next morning.   Investigating they found John building the needed hand rail.  “I can do that,” protested my father.  “Now you won’t have to,” answered John, continuing his project.  “Then let me pay you for the materials,” Dad insisted.  “You can’t afford me,” replied John.   Humbly my parents accepted their gift.

Later my mother told me that she was surprised at her feelings of submission – of allowing someone to fill a need for them.  Being the giver all of her life she didn’t quite understand feeling so good about receiving. 

Then she thought of the triangle of doing God’s work.  “Without people in need, and we were in need,” she explained, “other people might never have the opportunity to serve, to experience being charitable. With God as the director and the third component of the triangle, I became part of this good man’s service.  Instead of feeling embarrassed about accepting John’s offering I felt humble and grateful, and very warm inside.  I guess part of my learning was to be a grateful receiver.”

My mother’s last years took her into the depths of Alzheimer’s.  Slowly she faded from the vibrant woman she was into a child I could only imagine I might have known.  A little temperamental and stubborn at times, caring for her was still relatively easy.  Her walk with the demon of diseases took a little more than four years before she passed on peacefully in her sleep. 

In another dimension in which my mother now lives she is probably musing about the last chapters in her book of life as she continued to grow in her appreciation of being a grateful receiver.  Knowing my mother, however,  she’s also back doing God’s work: charity, which is the pure love of Christ. 

Care giving for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s is of that same charity, but is so often a thankless job.  The thought of being part of God’s triangle somehow escapes as the tedious days and endless months and years continue with no relief in sight.  And gratitude for this horrible disease?  I am at a loss to find any.   Yet, during the time of my accident recovery I have found endless gratitude, especially in finding such capable employees to care for my husband.  Both of Ken’s caregivers, Ben and David, have my utmost appreciation.  At the end of their day, I would imagine they feel downtrodden and exhausted, but they continue caring for Ken with love and kindness.  And while Ken is the recipient of their goodness, I am the one filled with gratitude, making me the grateful receiver.

Originally posted 2010-08-23 06:59:56.

SOME KIND OF ACCIDENT?

“Ow!  That hurts my back,” I groaned, not knowing where I was, who was moving me or why.  Aware of bright lights, sirens and men’s voices, I heard someone say, while enclosing my neck in a brace, “Broken neck, possible broken leg.”  I thought, “Are they talking about me?  I don’t want a broken leg, much less a broken neck.”  I had no way of knowing what had happened, but suddenly the thought ran through my mind that I had been in some kind of accident.

Across the inside of my head stretched a blackboard which appeared to be blank.  Slowly, printed in white, as if someone were writing with chalk, there flashed a phone number.  Call my son,” I mumbled, repeating the numbers before me.  Then, as surely as I knew Keith’s phone number, I repeated both Ken’s and my HMO medical numbers.   “I have a pacemaker and my husband has severe Alzheimer’s.  Don’t let him wander away,” I added, somehow knowing he would need all of the important information.  “Can you tell me your name and birth date?” another voice asked.  I answered his question and gave him Ken’s name and birth date as well, then faded into an unconscious place.

Obviously, the driver of the maverick car did not correct as I had assumed.  Instead, his vehicle must have remained in the diagonal line aimed in my direction.  I was like a sitting duck in a shooting gallery, the trajectory of his set course was fixed on me.  He couldn’t miss.  In retrospect, who could have known he had spent the afternoon drinking and was drunk out of his mind?   Authorities could only calculate the speed of his car as it broadsided my SUV just behind the driver’s seat.  Out of control, the maverick bounced off before slamming once again into the rear of my vehicle, spinning it wildly before coming to a stop — facing in a southerly direction.

Inside, I had been unaware of  impact, the first blow no doubt knowking me out cold.  I can only speculate on what followed.  The seat belt, which I had buckled, failed.  I believe it retracted on impact, and in so doing snapped the metal-locking end into my lip, cutting it just left of my nose at the same time knocking out one bottom tooth.  The air bag deployed, but without the seat belt holding me in place it was ineffective.  Lacking any restraint, I became air born and was somehow hurled through the driver’s side window onto the street where I lay until paramedics arrived.  (By comparison, Ken’s injuries were minor, but still required several days of observation in the hospital.  Restrained, confused, combative and unhappy, our concerned children insisted he be released for better care at home).

While my family waited and worried outside the trauma unit, I was finally stablized by a group of dedicated and extraordinarily skilled doctors following an hour and a half  of intense effort.  Medically, I was a mess.  The team of professionals battled shut-down kidneys, stabilization worries; there were cuts, contusions, blood loss, massive bruising, broken ribs, a broken neck, head fracture with concussion and I had inhaled glass shards while exiting through the closed window  They worried I could suffer a stroke or be paralyzed as the neck fracture was a top vertebrae protecting vital areas and nerves which commanded life itself.

During a moment of consciousness I requested a blessing of healing from the clergy of my church.  Their anointing words of comfort, hope and promise fell upon me like a warm blanket on a cold night.  Finding peace among the turmoil I also found rest, allowingy myself to let go and let God further work His  miracles.  When awareness allowed me to ponder, I reviewed my broken and bruised body and while I will never dismiss the seriousness of my many and varied injuries, I am still amazed that I only suffered a broken neck, head fracture and broken ribs.  In actuality, I should be dead.  I can only believe there must be some part of my life’s mission which has not been completed.  Why else would Heavenly guided unseen hands cushion my descent to the pavement?

Originally posted 2010-05-09 00:35:36.

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