Home of the Brave

My 4th of July was sprinkled with bursts of beautiful moments. Quick hugs from my children. Fireworks. Unsolicited help from a friend at a time when it was greatly needed. A last minute opportunity to bless someone. One of my favorite types of candy. Bursts that sustained me throughout the otherwise exhausting day.

Most of my hours were spent packing and cleaning my mother's home and then finally, just before the late night fireworks began, locking her door for the last time and slipping her keys in the apartment office drop box.

My mother is mentally fragile and medically unwell. It's difficult to explain. She is okay, ish. She is doing better, ish. But still, the recommendation was made, and taken, to move her out of her apartment and into a place where she will have around the clock care. They feel as though, on top of her bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, that maybe we are dealing with early onset dementia as well and it's just not safe for her to be alone.

She's confused though, and thinks she is coming home soon. But she's not. She thinks that I haven't packed up her apartment, or "torn it apart" as she says. But I have. And I know it's necessary but it's also a hard pill to swallow, which is an appropriate pun in her case. It's for the best, of course. She gets to play bingo and do crafts and make friends with ladies with names like Estelle and Gloria. These are all very exciting prospects for her, but come with challenges.

Packing her things, deciding what to keep, what to toss, what to store, what to bring to her, etc. was tiring. Going through old photo albums and taking pictures off of the wall pulled me by the wrist and forced me down memory lane, making both pleasant and sad stops along the way.

I found pictures of my kids, of me, of my siblings and thier families. I turned them over and saw, in her shaky, all capital letters scrawl, things like,

"Evelyn, what a cutie!"

"Michael, he's all boy!"

"My grandson Dominic, he's a model!"

I kept all of the pictures but tossed her VHS tapes. If she asks about them, I might tell her that we used this fancy computer program to put all of the videos onto one device. "In fact mom," I could say "not only did we transfer all 200 of the VHS movies you had, but also thousands more! Great program. It's called Netflix!" She would be so impressed, once I taught her how to use it.

My feelings of practicality mixed with bits of guilt were ever-present on this fourth of July. It's comforting to realize that that's a normal reaction in my situation. But it's even more comforting to know that she is being cared for. That's she's being social and interacting with others. She's actually one of the youngest, most sprightly ones in the place, which is not how I'd typically describe her. She's getting the medical care that she needs.

This new home is much better for her, but it doesn't mean that she is dealing with the change unfazed. I keep reminding her that she needs to be brave, to stay positive, and to trust God in all of this. And I'll do the same.

Are you being, or have you ever been, faced with making tough decisions regarding your parents or grandparents? Let me know. We can face it together.