Tuesday, December 7, 2010

end of the year

It is the end of the year and I am feeling a bit reflective.
I recently returned home, having been in Chicago for a few days; this time to finish helping move Mom into assisted living.
I sense she is rather reflective these days, thinking about all the changes she has experienced in the past several years. She and Dad sold their house and bought a condo which they loved. Within a few years, they sold that and moved to Covenant Village, the graduated care facility in Northbrook where they now live. Dad moved to the secured Alzheimer's unit in March; we just moved Mom to assisted living December 2. The loss of independence has caused her to feel unsettled, displaced, confused, uncertain. One can hardly blame her! She thinks back to days not long ago when she could roll over to see Dad there next to her in bed; they companionably watched TV together at night; ate breakfast together. Now they live those intimate moments alone. And she thinks about it.
So do I.

What I think about is all the wonderful years they have loved each other. I am particularly aware of it when I visit and see Dad struggle to stand when Mom slowly walks down the hall toward him. She arrives to greet him and he wraps her in a hug and beams at her, tears occassionally coming to his eyes. He tells her he loves her. He tells her how beautiful she is.
He usually knows who she is but there are times when he confuses her with his mother or his beloved first wife who died long years ago. But he knows one thing for sure; he loves this woman mightily.
When I see this scene, I reflect on how their love is alive at a mitochondrial level. No function or malfunction of his mind has touched his love for her.
As for Mom? She rarely misses a moment to sit with him. Each day, all day, she is there with him. She doesn't always understand him when he tries to talk. His eyes are not always open. He has no news to share with her, no idea to add to the conversation. But she loves him as he loves her. Just being together is enough now.

So I reflect on these things at the end of this year of great change. I think about how I have been privileged to see that love when it was much younger and exuberant. I think about how I have been "programmed" to want their kind of love. I think about how blessed I am to get glimpses of a deep, abiding, secure, faithful, mature love near the end of its days.
And I am thankful.