I find myself in a season of life that I did not see coming. Nine years ago, I made the decision to move back to St. Louis to care for both of my elderly parents. At that time, Mom’s health was declining and Dad was increasingly becoming tired of doing it all himself. Today at the age of 94, my dad still has me, and I have my dad. Just not the dad I had nine years ago or even a couple of months ago. The reality I’m facing today, is that he has dementia.
In the beginning of this new development, I would try to explain my reality to him, and justify what I felt I needed to do or say to protect him. This not only created frustration for me, but even more frustration for Dad. For anyone who has experienced someone with memory loss, it doesn’t matter what your reality is, it is NOT theirs.
During a conversation with my coach, Kate Michels, the key to navigate these divergent realities emerged: ACCEPTANCE. During our conversation, this statement was made:
“What I am experiencing is my normal. What dad is experiencing is his normal, in this minute, in a world that will never be the same normal again.”
The light bulb went on and it made so much sense. From that day forward, I moved into that place of acceptance which has empowered me to navigate this season of life with less resistance and a lot more peace.
So, let me set the stage and share a recent conversation between my dad and me:
An evening with a Cardinal’s ball game on TV – our nights usually consist of watching a Cardinal’s game, some college basketball, or NFL football depending on the season – I can see Dad is deep in thought and a little restless. I soon learn the reason:
“Don’t you think we need to get this back? “asks Dad.
“Get what back?”
“This trailer that we’re in. It needs to go back so we can get moved.”
“Okay, we can do that. Where do you want to take it?”
(Let me pause right here to say that Dad and I live in a 3 bedroom, split level home.)
“I don’t know, but we need to take it back.”
(Because I accept Dad’s reality that we are in a trailer, and it needs to go back, the resistance begins to fade. Dad looks around the living room, like he’s taking inventory.)
“Hey, you know what? All of our stuff is here,” he says.
“Yes, it is. What if we were to just stay here?”
The acceptance is that, at times, his conscious may be present, his subconscious may be present, or his unconscious may be present. What I am aware of is that all three are very seldom present at the same time to create that alignment. For me to expect him to be aligned is not reality.
When I can get an “Okay,” I know it’s truly okay. And for today, that is reality AND alignment.