Strength While Weak: Facing a Loved Ones Alzheimer’s
Today I have a guest blogger, Canadian Nancy Rempel. Nancy has served for decades as a cross-cultural worker in the Middle East and elsewhere. She enjoys the beautiful Canadian countryside and writing accounts of the ways God has worked in her life. Nancy is husband to Don and mother and mother-in-law to two adult sons and one daughter-in-law.
In the dead of night, I could hear the commotion through my earplugs. Voices. Banging. Shuffling around. The light from my parents’ room glared under my bedroom door. Roused from my sleep, I slipped out into the hallway, unprepared for the drama.
It was 2003, and I was 47 years old. I had traveled alone to visit my parents in Kelowna, B.C. leaving my husband and two sons behind in Nebraska. My mission during the week-long visit was specific. Help my parents, my family.
Days before my flight, I had chatted with my father on the phone. The joy dad exuded as he spoke with me failed to conceal the awful truth – he was disappearing. Being eclipsed by Alzheimer’s.
My life-of-the-party father had become reclusive. It didn’t help that he had lost his driving privileges. Plus, interacting with others had become awkward. He must have felt like he was in a foreign country where everyone knew the rules and cues but him.
When my plane landed in Kelowna, my parents were not there to meet me. Mom couldn’t leave Dad alone.
As I settled into my parents’ bedroom (for some reason, they now slept in my old bedroom), I began to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. Dad was agitated and sad. Something had sucked peace and order out of the house. Mom was at the end of herself covering for him.
The weight of the disease was suffocating my parents. I was afraid of being crushed under it. I hid myself in the Lord, my fortress, and waited.
In the hallway outside my bedroom that night, the three of us stood. My exhausted mother hovering around dad with hands raised at her sides, ready to help, protect, give. My father, unsure, tense, and surly, looking through both of us. Me, drowning in inadequacy.
Concluding we were both intruders; dad swung his powerful arm at mom. She managed to duck in time. I stepped backward; my mind was swirling. As Dad scuttled off down the hallway with mom keeping a safe distance on his heels, I phoned a friend. We prayed, and I called 911.
When I made the call that night, I was unsure if I was doing the right thing. When I asked that they dispatch the police first before the ambulance, it seemed overdramatic and disloyal. I felt like a little girl using her parents’ phone to tell on them.
Just outside our dark ring of private turmoil, God was on the move. Intervening.
Dad suddenly became docile and slumped into his rocking chair. The young police officer reasoned with dad in French, my father’s native tongue. Gentle ambulance attendants conveyed mom and dad to the hospital. A bed was made available for dad in the psych ward to be assessed. A garden of help opened to us.
In the wee hours of that morning, mom and I drove home from the hospital. Two fragile, grateful women. Clay pots in a hurricane. Tossed. Battered. Marveling at God’s perfect deliverance. We lay down and slept.
The night’s kerfuffle had not been some test to reveal how strong, wise, or adequate we were for life’s challenges. We were none of the above.
Instead, it had been a gift, a reminder that “when I am weak, then I am strong”.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
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