It’s hard rearranging my time, schedule, home and life around someone who doesn’t know who I am anymore. But it’s even harder for my husband. Because it’s his mom who doesn’t remember us.
My 95 year old mother-in-law has lived with us for almost three years now. At first she didn’t remember our names, but she knew how we were related to her. Now we are “the people who run this place”.
But she has no memory that this place is her home now. When she sits with us in the living room, and her bedroom is out of sight, she wonders how she’s going to get home and if we will drive her. We tell her she lives here and she laughs and shakes her head with disbelief.
Her short-term memory has gotten so poor that we leave her supper dishes out in front of her until she goes to bed, because several times she hasn’t believed that she had supper. Once, when my daughters were caring for her, she insisted on three full meals, in the couple hours they were with her, because she kept forgetting that she’d just eaten and didn’t believe them when they told her she had.
We can’t leave her alone anymore, so my husband and I have lost the freedom of running off spontaneously on his days off. We need to plan ahead. We’re thankful we have family close by that are willing to help, but it’s still an adjustment.
Sometimes the emotions of being forgotten gets to my husband. Sometimes seeing a new decline in his once very intelligent mother, breaks his heart a little more. But I’m impressed how strong and steady and kind and patient he is. God gave me grace for my own mama, but I was still very emotional and often came home after caring for her in tears.
I love and care about my mother-in-law. I want to do the best we can for her. But caring for her doesn’t seize me emotionally like caring for my own mama did. Maybe I’m tougher for what I’ve already been through. Or maybe the attachment level just isn’t the same. Probably both. I don’t break down crying, but I don’t have the sweet joy moments either.
Just the littlest things would give me joy with, Mama. Like when she’d want to sit by me, or put her head on my shoulder. Or when she’d give little love taps to my arm or back. Or when she remembered anything. Even just my middle name. Like this night that I journaled about, five years ago…
I was visiting with Mama, sitting next to her and holding her hand, when she abruptly asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I answered with the first thing that popped into my head, “Be happy.”
“I am,” Mom said. And then added, “I did that.” And she looked at me expectantly, like now that she’d done that I should tell her what to do next.
“I love you, Mama.”
“I know,” Mom said matter of factly.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No,” she answered, with no hesitation or remorse.
“I’m Cheryl. Or Sherry. You can call me Sherry if you want.”
Mom was leaning over in her rocking chair, her head almost resting on the arm of her chair. She looked up at me and said, “Sherry…Sherry Lynn?”
And even though in days gone by, hearing my middle name often meant I was in trouble, now it meant that some part of Mama remembered my name. And I was happy, too.
Now I know Mama is truly happy, because she believed in Jesus and is with Him. And I know I will see her again someday! And she will know me and my whole name and all the precious memories we shared!
Meanwhile, God has given me another mother to love. Another mother who doesn’t know my name. But He gives grace for this, too.
“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (KJV)