Friday, November 10, 2017

You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

...or at least, change its bedroom furniture around.  ;-)

For almost all of the 45 years since my parents had this house built, a bed has stood at a certain spot in the master bedroom (visible, for example, in the third picture in this post).  I can't remember my parents' bed ever being in a different place (although I do remember several different beds they had through the years, my favorite being a waterbed that I thought was the Height of Luxury when I was a child); and when Jeff and I moved here 12 years ago, we may have had a brief stint of placing our bed diagonally in a corner (it's been too long ago for me to remember if we actually did leave the bed like that for a while, or if we quickly realized how much wasted space there was in that position and decided to move it back to a more traditional location).  But other than that, there's always been a bed in the spot between the two windows in the long wall.  Where else should a bed go in that room?! 

In the late spring of this year, I was itching for a change; so one day while Jeff was gone, I moved around the furniture to try having the bed in a diagonal position again.  Wouldn't you know, I again realized I didn't like it--and what's more, in the process I pulled something in my back and paid for it for a number of weeks after that!

But that didn't stop me. 

Jeff and I decided to move the furniture around yet again--including having the bed on the short wall instead of the long--and this is what we came up with.

We have loved it.  :)

From the hallway looking in...
 The baby corner, with maternity photos, baby name meaning signs, etc.--it's the place I nursed and rocked my babies.
The nursery opens right off ours--a very neat feature my parents included when they designed this house.
 There, where that dresser is, is the spot where the bed always stood!  But no more...
 Now it's on the short wall...
 ...under the gorgeous painting Jeff's dad did, and the two Jerusalem mirrors that came back with us when we returned from Israel in 2005.
 It gives the room a little different feel...
 ...but we've enjoyed it.
 Continuing around the room...

 Jeff gave me this figurine many years ago when we lived in Tel Aviv.  Somehow it's survived all these years!  That might be due to my strict "no fighting in my bedroom! this is a peace zone!" guideline I repeat to my children when they start wrestling or fighting with light sabers or playing Active Shooter v. Police with their nerf guns!  ;-)
 At the homeschool convention last year, one of the speakers gave out this paper with a crucial reminder that I've needed over and over since then as I have felt that I am NOT ENOUGH...but GOD IS.

 Sometimes in life, it's nice to shake things up a little bit. 
It's also nice to have a soft place to land--even if the location has changed.  :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Giving Honor to Whom Honor Is Due

A little over seven years ago, my dad, at the young age of 70, officially retired from his medical practice and looked ahead to the future.  I'm sure he had no idea whatsoever how big a role in his retirement a nearby clinic would play.

The clinic is called Heartland, and it serves the needs of various groups in our Old Order and conservative Mennonite community--some of whom were Dad's patients through the years, and some of whom were his dad's patients once upon a time!  :)  Ever since Dad retired, he has played a back-up role at the clinic, helping out by giving advice or by filling in when the other personnel were away.  And for quite a few months, he actually helped the clinic stay open when the PA who was working there moved on and left a gap that took the board a little while to fill.  

Dad has loved the clinic, and I do believe it's accurate to say he is well-loved by the clinic.  :)

A few weeks ago, the board and other personnel of the clinic held a short ceremony and a reception to honor Dad; and we were delighted to be at that.
Benjamin, of course, was delighted to find something with wheels to play with while we were waiting for the ceremony to start!  :)

Someone from the clinic told me that they had thought about opening it up to all the patients of the clinic, but knew there was no way they could handle such a large crowd...and indeed, I'm sure that's very true.
The crowd that was there, however, (maybe half of whom are pictured above) gave a vivid glimpse of how much appreciation there is in the community for Dad's assistance through the years.
There was a time of sharing, and it was touching to hear the words of gratitude flow from the lips of those gathered.

The lady below, standing beside Dad, is Donna, the office manager and, I believe, the chief organizer of the event.  From my interactions with her, I can attest to the fact that she is a jewel with a heart of joyful caring.

As the talking went on, Benjamin got a little restless and preferred to march up and down the hill to explore new territory.  I had passed the camera off to Josiah, so he got a lot of these shots, including these great ones of his littlest brother.  :)

As a continuing memorial to their gratitude, the people of the clinic had planted a tree in honor of Dad--an October Glory maple, which is the same variety as two of the ones we have here by our driveway. In addition, a sign was made to stand at the base of the tree.

The stand for this sign was made by an Old Order buggy-maker who lives very close to the clinic.  It's hard to see the detail in this photo, but the stand itself is a work of art.  Incidentally, Moriah took a special liking to this stand-maker, and an enduring image I have in my head (but not in a photo, out of respect for the practices of Old Orders in regards to photography) is Moriah perched on a bench beside this older gentleman at the end of the evening.  She was growing tired, but was content to be there with him, chattering away about this or that; and he was so kind to listen to and talk with her.  :)

At some point, Tobin passed his cowboy hat off to Benjamin.  :)

Benjamin and David have such a sweet relationship.
It was great to have Dad's brother Rufus (they don't look anything alike, do they?)  ;-)  and his wife Elaine there. 
It is always a treat to spend time with them...

...and they always bring a jovial mood along with them.  :)
Two weeks after the ceremony, the kids and I drove up to the clinic and took a look at "Grandpa's tree." Sure enough, the leaves had changed colors; and although the leaves in this area have been dull across the board this year, it gave us a glimpse of the glory that awaits in coming years.  :)
You know, it's one thing to know and respect and love someone deeply.  It's another thing to see that admiration and affection being given to them by others who know them.  What a heart-warming evening this was!  What a treasure to see Dad be honored in this way!  What gratitude fills my heart as I think about the kindnesses that have been shown to Dad at the clinic since the fall of 2010!

Sometimes it sounds like Dad might want to retire again  ;-)  -- to stop being the fill-in doctor at the clinic.  But it doesn't take long until he's saying again, "I think I'll drop by the clinic today and see how things are going..." :)

What a special place...and a special man...and a very special evening!!  :)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

I've Always Liked 76 {My Mother's Birthday}

Ever since I was old enough to know that I was born in the year 1976 ("I'm a bicentennial baby!" I used to crow proudly), I've liked the number 76.

Now I have a new reason to like it.

My mother's birthday was four days ago, and she turned--you guessed it--76.  :)

The day before her birthday, as I was searching for a fitting card for her, was a time of tears for me, and I wrote about that on Facebook.  I'll copy that here...

Today is my mother's birthday.
Yesterday, I stood in the card aisle at Walmart, searching high and low for a birthday card that would be appropriate and would express my thoughts as I contemplate and celebrate the marvelous woman who gave me birth and who has meant so very much to me through the years.
It was a surprisingly difficult task.
With all the diversity that modern card companies emphasize in their selection, where is the birthday card for a mother with Alzheimer's? Where is the card that says, "Mom, you're right here, but I miss you so much. I can hold your hand, but I can't even hear you say my name"? Where is the card that says, "Mom, your memories--of me, of yourself, of birthdays, of everything--are gone; but my memories of you are still so precious to my soul that sometimes I just break down and cry because it hurts so much"? Where is the card that says, "Mom, I feel like I ought to wish you a happy birthday because that's what people do in birthday cards, but what I really wish is that this horrible disease that I hate so much had never come into existence...and that, if it had begun, it would never have begun in you"?
Birthday cards for mothers tend to be lovely and eloquent; and there I stood, surrounded by pieces of card stock paper with glitter and sequins and flowers and ribbons and all shades of pinks and purples and beautiful verses expressing inexpressible love. And I couldn't find a single one that I felt right about giving her.
Oh, I knew she wouldn't know the difference. But the chasm between what those cards expressed and what my inner voice was saying was so great that I felt like I just couldn't do it.
What I felt like I really could do, but didn't let myself, was sit right down on the floor and weep, howling out all the pain and grief of losing her in this inexorable, no-u-turn-allowed march of departure. There was a bonnet-wearing, Old Order Mennonite lady in the card aisle with me, and I wondered what she would do if I broke down and said, "My mother has Alzheimer's, and she's having a birthday, and I can't find a card for her, and I don't know what to do!"
Of course, I held it inside--all those feelings of sorrow that remind me that, even though most days I'm quietly resigned to the reality of this disease and am able to focus on being grateful for the blessings despite the bereavement, on some days, the knife that lodged itself firmly in my heart 13 years ago when I first KNEW that she had Alzheimer's takes another wicked twist and cruelly carves out another piece of my heart. But as I finally made my selection and continued on to finish my shopping, I literally felt sick to my stomach. While I added yogurt and pretzels, Very Berry Cheerios and Italian sausage, tortillas and chewing gum to my cart, my stomach physically hurt--a striking reminder of the emotional pain I carry within.
It had been a while since a grief wave had hit me so strongly. Boy, this one was a doozy.
In the end, the card I chose was uncomplicated. I thought Mother would like the pretty pink flowers on the front, and the message inside was short and sweet--not even coming close to divulging the depth of my love and admiration and appreciation for my beloved mother, but not saying anything untrue either. Simplicity seemed the best choice.
As I sit here now, the tears flowing down as I write, I console myself with the fact that for many, MANY of her birthdays, she knew full well how much I love her. The years when her mind was still sharp were filled with a multitude of tender expressions of love from her to me and from me to her. And I believe that, when heaven brings the ultimate restoration to her body and mind--and to mine, too, when I meet her there--we will have a million more chances to delight in each other's love.
And we won't even need birthday cards to do it. 

So that was the time of grief, but her actual birthday was a time of smiles.  We went to visit her that morning and found her wonderfully alert and happy.  She made great eye contact and, even if she wasn't fully aware of what was going on, really connected with the children as they brought her various small gifts, sang "happy birthday" to her, talked with her, and hugged her.

While we were there, I thought, "Wow, she is really having a good day!" At home, looking through the pictures, I thought, "If you didn't know how severe her Alzheimer's is, you certainly wouldn't suspect it from the way she looks in these photos." Right now, I'm thinking, "What a sweet, sweet gift for her to be so responsive; it truly made it a happy birthday."

Here she was as she turned 76 years old...

 Moriah and Shav had helped me pick out a birthday balloon for her.

 This is the card that I had agonized over the day before.

 Seeing her happy face puts a big smile on mine!

 Tobin had picked some of Grandpa's roses and arranged them in a vase for Grandma.
 I'm always so grateful when Benjamin gets a chance to be around his grandma, because one of these days, if she lives long enough, he's going to make a memory with her that sticks in his mind.

 I spotted this on the table and was glad for the reminder it gave me to give thanks--yes, even in this circumstance.

 While we were there, Moriah quickly drew a picture for Grandma...
 ...and took the time to explain what she drew.

Benjamin sure loves his grandpa.  :)

 I absolutely LOVE the way my mother is looking at my daughter in these pictures--really seeing her, really listening, really responding to what is going on.  Priceless!

 Benjamin was enjoying Grandma's balloon!  :)

 I didn't think to get pictures of each of the children with my mom, but I'm thankful that I got these of David hugging his grandma goodbye...

 ...and Moriah doing the same.

Walking out of the nursing home, I couldn't help but wish that there wasn't any reason for my beloved mother to be in it! But on this day, my sorrow was tempered by satisfaction, and my anguish gave way to comfort: it had been a happy birthday after all.

I do not take such moments for granted...