Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nothin' But Blue Skies

From Deuteronomy 33:26-27
"...may your strength match the length of your days! There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the clouds of the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor...The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you."

This is another in the series of blessing-counting posts, even though the day didn't start out with me feeling blessed.

It was a sad morning. I went to bed last night close to tears and aware of painfully tight neck and shoulder muscles. I felt tense, stressed and anxious. I woke with sore shoulders and a headache. As I greeted the day, and the Lord, I asked for grace to have a heart of peace and thankfulness.

I went to the nursing home early to drop off clean clothes. I usually go there in the evening, so don't often see much of the daytime procedure.

Today the occupational therapist was asking a series of simple questions. Mom was supposed to say how two words were the same. For example-- cat, dog. She couldn't do it. She slowly, and with great effort, answered about two of 10 questions. They went on to other exercises and I listened silently, growing increasingly sad as I bent wire hangers back in shape and sorted clothes in the cramped closet. It was one of my mother's "blank" days.

Like most southern women, she is very particular about her clothes, her makeup, her jewelry and her hair. Wisconsin women, even elderly ones, do not usually wear bright green or fuscia or royal blue polyester pants. Not so southern women! My mother's Texas tastes run to bright colors. She worked in a small clothing store from about age 70 till 80 when she finally "retired" because the owner died and the store closed. I thought about those things as I placed socks and pajamas in the tiny drawer and hung colorful blouses with "Southern Lady" on the label tag, placing them beside the bright-hued slacks. I pictured her at 80, waiting on customers and finding clothes and shoes and purses, smiling at wealthy women and silently enduring the disdain of her employer.

I glanced at her, sitting quietly on her bedside, afghan over her knees as she knit her brows and tried desperately to answer a few simple questions. Her hair was sticking up in several directions, but she looked cute in a striped shirt and blue jeans with cuffs rolled up. She chuckled self-consciously and glanced over at me with a kind of desperation. "I know this is easy. I know I should be able to answer" she said with embarrassment in her voice. The therapist was kind and tried to be reassuring. It didn't work. Tears filled my eyes and I left the room for a quick stroll down the hall to regain my composure.

A C.D. player was blaring old-time tunes in the front room. "Nothin' but blue skies....from now on..." I was not feeling too peaceful or thankful so far.

Autumn has arrived in Wisconsin. The air is a bit cool and the leaves are getting tinged with the first hints of fall color. There is a patio at the nursing home, so when the therapist left I took my mother outside, being careful to punch the right combination into the keypad by the door so as not to be blasted with an alarm. I have actually been missing her daily weather comments.

Gaudy, glitter-decked lawn ornaments featuring glowing pumpkins and cornucopias decorated the walkway. "Oh, look at those pretty fall decorations!" said my mother in childlike glee. She sat at the wrought-iron table and sipped a cappucino I had brought from the local Kwik Trip. "Mmm. This is good." She smiled and relaxed a little. "Look at those beautiful clouds." She pulled her sweater closer as a cool breeze lifted the fake leaf garlands wound around the fence marked, KEEP CLOSED FOR THE SAFETY OF RESIDENTS.

"What a beautiful fall day. Look at the pretty leaves. And look at those beautiful clouds." She grew silent and looked at me seriously. "I am not all here" she said. "I can't remember things." "I know" I replied simply, and she looked surprised. "What do you mean, you know? How can you tell?"

"I talk to you. I understand that you can't remember things. I can tell that you are changing. I know it makes you sad. It makes me sad too. " Surprise filled her face again. She said, "I hope I get better." "Me too" I said.

"You know what?" I blurted out, suddenly feeling more cheerful, "You can be glad you are partly here. Your roommate is younger than you, but she lies curled up most of the time. She cannot walk. She cannot communicate. She does not look at the bird feeder outside her window. You can sit here on this nice patio, look at the clouds, taste a cappucino and enjoy the morning. For a woman aged 89, that's not so bad!"

My mother's face brightened. "I can. That is good. Thank you for bringing me outside."

A moment passed. "Have you noticed those beautiful clouds and the blue color of the sky?"

"Yep, I sure have" I replied.
Thank you, Jesus the Creator of all , for the crisp air, the beautiful fluffy clouds and the bright blue color of the sky.
May your everlasting arms be under us.


will smama said...

Great post. Thank you.

Jody Harrington said...

Very touching and well written. We're going through a similar time in the life of my huband's father. As he says, "It's like we're on the shore and Dad is in a boat gradually drifting farther and farther away from us."

Jeni said...

Thank you for sharing this post. Like you, I too am now witnessing the passing of two beloved aunts - one to cancer and the other to age, senility and just plain overworked status and stress for many years.

To see the latter aunt's mind fading -and the speed of the process has picked up greatly in the past 3 weeks - is so painful. It's been coming on for the past few years - we could see it happening and knew nothing could be done to halt this.

She cared for her only child - now 49 - severely mentally and physically challenged - with very little outside assistance but 3 weeks ago, due to many factors, the state came in and removed her and her daughter from the family homestead.

Much as I know the move was a necessity, it hurt to see her lose that last shred of independence as well as the thing that was actually forcing her to keep going, to try to remember as best she could. Since then, there are times when she no longer even recognizes some of her nieces -something that never happened before.

Please remember both my aunts in prayer as well as my cousin that they will have the peace of the Lord with them. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as well as you and your family, like mine, are all on a very similar journey. One that is painful to watch, to endure for all, but also, in another vein, must be looked at as a new beginning for our loved ones, as well as for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

hugs to you. Thank you for this. It's so beautiful though sad, and yes a glimmer of hope, in those beautiful clouds and the autumn day.

be blessed

it's ok to cry, you don't have to have your composure all the time, and it's ok too to rant at God. It isn't fair, it isn't nice, but as you've found out, there is a shimmering silver lining in this cloud and you offered that to your mum. deep down it resonated. Jesus gives us a long-term hope and future. Hang on to that with both hands!


HeyJules said...

What a touching and blessed moment for you to have with your mom. Thanks to God, even the hardest of times can be filled with a blue sky or two.

Anonymous said...

Great Post. Praying for you and mom.

Anonymous said...

Reading your post I was reminded of the saying that goes something like "Learn to take pleasure in the small things because there are so very many more of them". But I also quickly realized that what passed between you and your mother, the insight you had and her acknowlegement of it, the joy in God's creation, the honesty in communication...were no 'small' things at all. They were deep, God-filled, meaningful things to be cherished. Thank you for sharing these private gems with us Dorcas. love, Maureen

net said...

(((Singing Owl))) Got your back in prayer!

Truth said...

What a beautiful post! Thanks for the reminder to be thankful in everything. My husband's favorite saying/song "Blue Skies."