Has it really been two years since I moved my seventy-eight-year-old baby sister out of the house, where she had lived for forty-three years, and into an adult, assisted living facility? Seems impossible! June suffers from Alzheimer’s.
For many heartbreaking weeks, I cleaned out, threw away, gave away, sold, and packed up my sister’s whole life, with the exception of a few choice items, saved to furnish and decorate her room at the new residence. Those were stormy, tearful, exhaustingly sad days for both of us.
In the beginning, being extremely paranoid, June was certain that her caregivers were stealing her jewelry and clothing. She would wad up her favorite things and hide them in drawers or in the corner behind the bureau. She was combative to the degree that caregivers were hesitant to enter her room. I tried to be there to smooth the path for everyone. That’s hard, but that’s who I am. Over the months, with the adjustment of medication, things improved.
I had committed to spending two afternoons a week with my sister. As a court appointed guardian and conservator, I am required to see her only once a month. But, she is my sister! So, I went faithfully on Tuesday and Friday afternoon. Did I want to go? Not always! Sometimes we fussed because I had little enough sense to try to reason with her. When I finally learned to agree with my sister, or just keep silent, the yelling stopped and things were much calmer.
When I was angry with her, as I often was, I tried to remember special times we had shared. I thought of the chubby toddler with big blue eyes and a mass of curly hair. I remembered the sweet kindergartener I pushed high in the swings at recess time, the summers we sat in the living room floor playing “Sorry” all day long. Could I ever forget picking cotton beside her on Saturdays, in the summer heat, and the fun of singing together at church, and her poetry? Of course, I remember the joy of singing at her wedding, and the sorrow at seeing the tears slide down her cheeks, as we stood beside the grave of her infant, stillborn son. O, so many memories! Precious memories!
I have been sick this week, so I didn’t see June until yesterday. Length of time evades her now. If I say, “I’ll be back in three days,” that could be thirty days or tomorrow, so she is always pleased and surprised when I show up. When I enter her room, like a child, with twinkling eyes, she asks, “Did you bring me something?” I always take her a bit of chocolate. I break it into small pieces and put it in her mouth. She can no longer grip with her hands.
Our two hours together are spent watching “The Waltons,” and “Little House.” She cannot manipulate the remote, so the TV stays on the same channel. Actually, June talks continually always trying to tell me something that has happened or something she wants me to remember. When she loses her words, she says, “I know what I want to say, but I can’t say it.” If I try to help her by contributing a word or a name, she declares that I am worse off than she is. Sometimes, out of frustration, she is angered, but many times she just laughs and I laugh with her.
Yesterday we talked about her husband. When I called her attention to his handsome photo on the bureau, she said. “I was wondering where he is.”
“Oh, sweetie, you remember,” I said. “He is in heaven waiting for you.”
Her eyes widened, and with a smile, she said, “Oh, yes, in heaven!”
Then she said, “You look very pretty today.”
Looking at my watch I realized it was time to go. “Is it all right if I leave?” I asked.
“Yes, but please be careful out there,” she replied. “You know, you’re the only one I’ve got.”
I was surprised, gratefully surprised, at the pleasant time we had together. Driving home, I realized that when I finally quit trying to fix her, trying to make her remember things she could not remember, when I decided to accept her as she is, our relationship improved immediately. I pray for us every morning, but, honestly, I pray for myself more than for June. I pray that God will give me wisdom, and understanding, a gentle spirit, and an abundance of love.
Now I look forward to our visits. It is no longer a chore to be dispatched, but a time to be enjoyed.
Let me encourage you today. Accept your loved ones for who they are. You cannot fix them, but you can love them, pray for them, and serve them. God will do the rest.
Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” These words speak for themselves.
REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!