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The view from the window at my kitchen sink is fantastic. It overlooks a section of a broad boulevard that’s lined with quaint little shops. There’s a bakery, a bank, a bagel shop, a hairdresser, a gym, a dry cleaners, and a small sandwich shop and grill.
But this morning it was extra special. I saw a car pull up in front of the gym and the girl on the driver’s side got out, went around the back of the car, and opened the rear door. She took something out of the backseat and then went to the passenger side. Opening the passenger door, she unfolded what was under her arm, which turned out to be a wheelchair. She helped the passenger get into the wheelchair and wheeled her into the hair salon.
This brought back a flood of memories … way back to many years ago, after I had just finished graduate school. I had tried teaching on the elementary level for a while, and although I really enjoyed it, I wasn’t fulfilled. So I applied to law school, and lo and behold I was accepted – early acceptance. No one in the family was more amazed than I was!
I was very excited, and at the end of August I started my orientation. I was home getting dinner ready and waiting for my parents to come home from their errands so I could fill them in on everything that was happening before my classes started when the phone rang. It was the police and there had been a “vehicular situation,” and my parents were being taken to the hospital.
I met them there, and while my mother was not injured, my father was not in good shape. He tried, but he couldn’t make it, and we lost him. My mother was distraught, and had a mild case of dementia. At that point, the only thing that had succeeded in soothing her was having my father around, and now that was gone.
Someone had to take care of her. My wonderful sister lived out of state and was a tenured professor, and there was no way that she could manage going back-and-forth on such short notice. But I was available, classes at my school hadn’t started yet, and I could always go back. So that’s what I did and that started the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my life.
I was with my mother all the time, we went everywhere together, we went for a ride every day. We had our nails done together and if she got upset the only thing that would calm her down was my off-key singing, which made her burst into laughter all the time. And, oh, how she loved getting her hair done! It was always such a wonderful day, and the stylist was so kind and loving to her. She looked so beautiful!
As her dementia progressed, she would ask again over and over where her sweetheart was, and I would say he would be right home, which calmed her down right away. And I told her how beautiful her hair looked and how much he loved her and that she looked like a movie star. This would make her happy, and she would start smiling, and then 30 seconds later, she would ask me where he was. And we would start all over again. I would say he’d be right home and she would calm down …
What a blessing to have those days with her. As I remembered that time, I saw the girl who was pushing the wheelchair along the sidewalk and said a prayer that the Holy Spirit would bless her with both the fortitude to do what she had to do and the comfort of the insights and perspectives that I had so wonderfully received.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.