Sunday, November 28, 2010

The price of Alzheimer's

9:56 p.m. Today's project, after church, was to stop at Ralphs for sandwiches and supplies for the taco dinner I later served at Home Fellowship, and head out to Sandhaven Pines to get our tree cut down and set up at home.
I had thought we could get to it on Saturday while our youngest and biggest son was home, but he left for Fresno, and I hadn't really gotten the living room situated for a tree just yet. An afternoon visit to our son in San Bernardino took up the rest of the precious supply of sunlight, so Steve and I worked on the outdoor Christmas lights and went out to dinner at Creola's. That may seem odd with so much leftover Thanksgiving food in the house, but our modest meals of salmon for him and steak for me really hit the spot! Most of the turkey leftovers are now frozen anyway. We will not waste a single scrap of food, you can count on that!
I went to bed praying for some help for Steve to bring in and set up the tree. Because the young men at the tree farm chop down, net, and tie the tree to the roof rack of the Jeep, getting it home wouldn't be a problem. But when I texted my son Kriss and son-in-law Nick in the morning, neither were available. Kriss had opened up his Starbucks at 4:30 a.m., and Nick was on deadline with his Master's thesis. But I was still praying and searching for help, because Steve and I just would not be able to handle the 12 foot beauty by ourselves. In past years, when he had a complete system for setting up our trees, it might have been feasible. But last year, even with Kriss' help, he struggled to stay on task.
Jesus told us in Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." After joking with Brent and Debbie about the lack of help from their busy adult children also, Steve and I went into the sanctuary to sit further up front than usual, and who should come along and sit in front of us but Bob and Debbie Snyder, good friends who have come to my assistance with Steve in the past.
On went the Holy Spirit's light bulb, and during the greeting time, I asked Bob if they could come over about 1:30 to help with the tree (and enjoy some pie!) We discussed the details (including the three kinds of pie we had) after church, and Steve and I joyfully went to get our tree.
All went well at the house for Steve and me, despite many stops and starts, him not realizing that we could use an ax on the wet wood to help with sawing off the bottom, confusion as to where to place the tree stand once we set up the tree, and many other details that could have frustrated us both. I absolutely credit and give the glory to the Lord for my new-found, supernatural ability to help my husband. I have no technical or mechanical know-how whatsoever, yet I continually come up with solutions or things to try that Steve could have done in his sleep in past years. He truly was a mechanical genius. Problem solving would be taking place that I was never even aware of, because I would have been busy in the kitchen or directing the kids to complete other Christmas decorating tasks.
At this point, my choices are to sit in a heap with ashes on my head, mourning the loss of Steve's abilities and brain function, or get on with helping him and asking others for help as well. I choose the latter!
Bob and Debbie came over, the four of us had fun getting the mega-tree set up, and then we sat down for a visit, pie and coffee. What a wonderful gift koinonia (fellowship centered in Christ) is, especially now that we need to be surrounded by friends! The Apostle Paul lists the gift of "showing mercy, with cheerfulness" and meeting "the needs of the saints" as gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:3-13, just as he lists teaching, prophesying and prayer!
After Home Fellowship, Steve and I came home to continue decorating. He had some difficulty putting the boxes from which I'd taken manger scenes, decorative room accents and stocking holders, back into the closet he'd taken them out of yesterday. He just wouldn't --or couldn't --believe that there was nothing in the boxes but the newspaper pieces the figurines had been wrapped in, and he could put them away until January. That took direct supervision on my part, but he got it done. I have read that mid-stage Alzheimer's is characterized by the affected one having no recognition of the facts right in front of their face. I have prepared myself for this stage, yet when it happens, it's still shocking. But the Lord has me maintain a calm demeanor and not get tired of repeating instructions, step by step, in an encouraging tone. I'm getting used to interrupting my tasks--such as cleaning out the containers I'd taken food in for Home Fellowship. Helping my husband feel useful is more important!
It was still early enough for Steve to put the lights on the tree, a job he has done to perfection for 29 years, something that would be positive for him to do. Now that it's year 30, however, I came upon him standing on the stairs, with some lights at the top rear of the tree, and tangles streaming downward--something that never would have happened before. I stopped my washing of the bean pot and the crockpot to gently persuade him to remove the lights and stretch them out in a straight line on the living room carpet and begin again, which I helped him to do. This upset him, but I recruited Heidi, a methodical schoolteacher like her mom, to assist her dad.
Our tree doesn't look as professionally lit as it did have last year, but with the baubles and ornaments added, it will be fine. That's the price of Alzheimer's--nothing will ever be entirely the same. But we'll do as well as we can for as long as we can, as the Lord gives me strength to look upward, to ask Him what standards to relax, what temporal joys to forego.
After what Christ has done for me, there is nothing that I will hold back from Him, or cling too closely to. I doubt that I even know the meaning of sacrifice, even on a relatively minor level...I still want to have a say in what my house looks like, and I want to choose how I will spend my time--that's my flesh rearing up! I need to consult with my Lord daily, and have a peace when He informs me of the way He wants me to live.
Not my will, Father, but Thine be done!

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