Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Slow Good-bye

“Alzheimer’s Disease” is a term I’ve grown to dislike. What bothers me most about it is that word “disease”. That implies that this is an unnatural state, caused by outside influences, and can be cured by medical intervention. Is that true? I don’t know.

My mother has Alzheimer’s. In the last 10 years we’ve slowly been saying good-bye to her, as we see her slipping away a little more each time we visit her. Grief has become so much a part of my life that I almost don’t notice it anymore. Grieving as I remember what she was like when I was a young girl. Grieving as I remember her joy in her grandchildren. Grieving for the loss all of the conversations that we can no longer have. Grieving because we live 600 miles away and can’t visit her every day. Or week. Or month. Grieving because I know that one time very soon we’ll visit her and she won’t know who we are. And grieving because I may never be able to visit her again. This is the grief that has been part of my life for the last several years.

In the last few months she’s progressed (isn’t that a funny way of saying it?) to the point where she can no longer be taken care of at home and has been admitted to a nursing care facility. Saying good-bye is no longer one of the privileges we have: in some ways she’s already gone.

But then she isn’t. When we visited her last week she knew who we were, even though she couldn’t place names and faces together. She laughed with us when we told a story of what the cat did. She exclaimed at how tall her grandsons have gotten. She wasn’t ready to say good-bye when it was time for us to leave. She is still there, inside that increasingly aging body, inside the mind that can’t form words to communicate.

I know people worry about me, how I’m handling the fact that my mother is dying such a slow death. Wondering how I’m reacting to the fact that she’s dying the same way her mother did, and possibly the same way I will die. But I try to tell them I’m okay. I believe in the providence of God. What is happening to my mother is within His grasp. He is in control of it, and He is the one who brings good of every situation. Even this one. I trust Him with the past, present and future. All of it. No exceptions.

And I pray for grace to thank God for even this. And He gives that grace every day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birdwatching 101

I love birdwatching. I can't remember when it may have started - I do remember trying to identify birds by their songs when I was quite young...probably 8 or 9 years old. I've been trying to improve my skills little by little ever since then, which has been more than 40 years. So why did I title this entry Birdwatching 101? Because I always feel like I have so much to learn! I could spend so much more time at this than I do, and I could learn so much more....

The current birding project that is under construction is a bird garden. The former owners of our house had an above ground pool, which meant we inherited a lovely round circle in our yard, right next to the patio. We've hauled in top soil, landscaping timber and mulch to create a not-so-level area, and expanded the circle in a couple directions. The goal is to make a mini-habitat for the birds, with various levels of shrubs, plenty of cover and natural food, a bird bath, and several different feeding stations. We have a natural windbreak of hybrid willows on the north side of this area, and the birds already love those trees for cover and for nesting.

This is the second winter for the garden, and the birds are certainly enjoying it. The shrubs that have been planted aren't large enough to provide shelter yet, so the birds make good use of an existing Barberry bush and our recycled Christmas tree. We have three different feeding stations and water available, so we are getting visitors. Mostly house sparrows, but I've also seen a couple other varieties of sparrows, juncos, chickadees, cardinals, mourning doves, northern flickers, and once or twice a Merlin - my husband likes to say that we feed all kinds of birds here!

The fun part is watching our new kitten. Maggie-cat has a front row seat on all the action - behind the glass of the patio door. She spends hours stalking the sparrows, crouching behind the door frame, and watching, watching, watching....and of course wishing the glass was non-existent!

And of course, since it's January, the planning for the spring has begun. I think this spring we'll plant some annual vines for color and height while we wait for the holly and weigela to grow - a teepee of scarlet runner beans and thunbergia would make a nice focal point next to the birdbath....