Monday, February 2, 2015

His Incredible, Amazing Grace

I touch his arm, I rub his back and call his name, willing him to open his eyes and look at me or even just nod his head to give some indication that he sees me and knows I'm there.  But no matter how hard I try, he doesn't respond. He just sits in his wheelchair, his head cocked to one side with his eyes closed.

He is almost 90 and hardly ever talks anymore.  I get angry sometimes because I want some sign, however little, that all the time I spend with him makes a difference.  But there is very little encouragement from him.

When my father won't talk to me, won't even look at me, I know in my head it's not personal, but it hurts just the same.  I know it's the dementia, but it's frustrating just the same.

The Lord reminds me to just keep loving him and that's what I try to do, although I wonder if he's even aware of the love I give by fixing his hair, cleaning his glasses, feeding him oranges, giving him hugs as best I can while he sits in the wheelchair, kissing him good-bye and telling him "I love you." He used to respond to those gestures, but not anymore.

I sometimes take his rejection personally because it causes me to remember those times when I was young, when I felt a greater rejection.  I always knew my Dad loved me even though he never said it. We were not a demonstrative family - no hugs, kisses or "I love yous" when I was growing up.  He was mostly an absent Dad (there, but not there), more from ignorance than being deliberate, I know that now.  He worked a lot, two jobs at times, to provide for us.  Like most men of his generation, providing for their families was the way they showed their love.  They hadn't been physically shown love so they had no model to learn from.  Days were hard, you did what you had to do.

But there was always a tenderness underneath all the gruffness and there were glimpses of it throughout my childhood.  He cried easily, but would always hold back the tears.  He never knew how to show his emotion in what he thought were acceptable ways.

As we both grew older and I came to understand him a bit better, I was the one who took the first step with a hug at holiday time and then the awkward "I love you" that was difficult to get out the first time but got easier each time I said it.

My mother died and then I had to talk directly to him.  Communication with him up til then had always been kept to simple conversation, doing most of my dialogue with my Mom,  As we began to communicate more, he began sharing more of himself with me.

He remarried, a lovely woman who was so good to him, but it was all too brief and she died almost six years into their time together. By then, he was in a nursing home.  He had suffered a stroke and had difficulty with balance and fell a lot.  Exhausted, she just couldn't care for him anymore at home and we understood.

Now, it's just him and I communicating directly again.  After she died, I became his confidant and he confessed things to me a daughter never wants to hear, but he needed someone to listen and I asked the Lord to mercifully let me forget a lot of the details.  He has!!

I'm at the nursing home 3-4 afternoons a week, sometimes more.  I take my Dad to Bingo and other activities just so he can be around other people.  He very seldom engages anymore, with anyone, but at least it gets him out of his room for awhile.  I ache for him.  I know he wants to go home to be with the Lord, and honestly, I pray to that end.   He is tired, weary and has made peace with his past transgressions.

It's hard to see your Dad like this.  The strong man who could do anything in the eyes of a little girl; the strong man who took such good care of us, the strong man who worked two jobs most of his life is gone, just a memory now and I am the one who has to be strong for him.

I touch his arm, kiss his cheek, tell him I love him and that I'll be back soon.  He just sits there in his wheelchair, waiting for the nurse to put him to bed, his only refuge now.........

God's grace poured out on me for this time in our lives gets me through this.  His grace gives me strength to go back to that nursing home time after time.  I need grace for this and I have grace for this.  His incredible, amazing grace!

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