Lessons from Messes

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Alzheimer’s can lead to messes, and today it did. And I learned some lessons.  I had just settled down in my home, after returning from giving my mom a bath, when Dad called in a panic. He could distinctly smell the “mess”, and had touched some of it–but he’s legally blind, with very little vision, and didn’t know where exactly the mess was or how far they had already tracked it by stepping in it. But he knew it was on his shoes, so he took them off and wasn’t going to move until I got there.

Thankfully my dear daughter’s school break has begun, so she went with me back to my parents’ house.  As I cleaned up my mom, Annie scrubbed the floors.  When she came into the bedroom, with her bucket and scrub brush, I told Mom to lay down so she would get her feet off the floor. I got on the bed too, to keep her calm until the floor was clean.

Mom settled in right next to me, so we were lying down closely facing each other. She put her arm around me, her head was just under my chin, and she kept patting my back with her fingers. She seemed to be very content and comfortable in her display of affection.  I asked her if she knew who I was.  She promptly answered, with no shame or embarrassment, “No.”

As I think about the whole experience, I realize that messes come in all kinds of forms. Physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc. And I can learn something from my parent’s example. First of all, sometimes I just have to be patient and still, so I don’t make the situation worse. Sometimes when I’m tempted to dive in and quick fix everything I really need to take a breath, take my shoes off, and pray for wisdom.

And then it can really help to call someone with clearer vision to help clarify the situation. An honest perspective from a trusted source can make a huge difference in how I handle problems. And sometimes, when I see things clearly, I know I need help, and I need to humbly ask for it and rest in the assurance that God meets my needs through the people He has blessed my life with.

But, I need to do my part, too.  Dad didn’t keep sitting once the floors were clean.  He took his shoes down to the laundry room and scrubbed them.  Because even though it was stinky, dirty work it was the thing he was able to do even with his limited vision. And so I’ll remember, that even though I may need to call for help in my mess, I can’t just sit back and expect others to totally clean it up.  I have to do the part that I can do, with the strength that God gives.

It seems like I should fit in some lesson here about not being in bed hugging someone when you don’t even know who they are. But honestly that moment was comforting and sweet to me, so I don’t want to “ruin” it with a lesson about not doing it.  And besides, I’d rather believe that in her heart Mom did know who I was.  And that, in the middle of a stressful event, she was hanging on to someone who loves her dearly.  And that seems like a good idea.

And these are the lessons I learned from messes.

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