Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Beginnings?

New Beginnings - while the past still keeps holding on . . .

It has been a while since I have written. In fact, it seems a while since I have done anything that I really, really want to do. So many times I have started something, only to have the phone ring, someone need something, or just find myself too involved in other work - to get anything else done! That's why I was so happy when I finally was able to start working on a brand new blanket. It is a baby blanket, that I promised to make a few months ago. I started it with yarn of soft pink, and right away I found myself so relaxed, as I worked on the delicate little shells that would make the blanket. And then I looked over at the other side of the room. There, I saw the beautiful blanket I had finally finished a few days ago. As I looked at it, sadness seemed to sweep over me. Each stitch of that blanket seemed to mark a period in time for me - a time of difficulty and much sadness . . .
You see, I had decided to start making something, the day before my dad was to have surgery. I was to take both mom and dad to the hospital, and wait with mom as the doctors worked on my dad. They had told us that he might not make it, as his condition (the cancer) was getting quite bad. As I thought about sitting there for hours with my mom - I knew I would need something else to occupy my mind.

The day of dad's surgery, I had my crochet bag all ready to go. I had bought a few different colors of yarn, hoping to make a blanket. It was July 8th, and I guess I will never forget that day - or many other days during the next few months. That day was the beginning of so much - - - dad's struggles - mom's losses - and a brand new afghan . . . Dad made it through the surgery. During his recovery, I made sure that either myself or others brought mom back and forth to visit dad. I had a schedule on my calendar of everyone who might be able to help drive mom. Her dementia had grown, and she was unable to drive herself to the hospital without worrying she might get lost. She hated giving up control of so many things - driving, doing the bills - all of it was lost during this time period.

During that time, on the days when I took mom back and forth, I brought my crochet bag. Each day I would sit there with mom and dad and crochet. During those days I would let them talk about whatever they wanted to, as I sat quietly listening. I heard stories about their courtship, and the day that dad asked for mom's hand in marriage. I heard stories about their childhoods, and all the things they did "way back when". When dad was moved to a nursing home, my crochet bag went there as well. We would take dad out for walks (pushing him in his wheelchair) all around the home. When he was tired, we would sit inside - and I would crochet. Slowly, the blanket started to grow.

I wish I could say that dad got better and better. But he didn't. He was discharged on Aug. 2nd, and ended up in ICU on the 3rd! He had somehow contacted sepsis. Again, we went back and forth to the hospital. I brought my crochet bag, and wondered if they would let me take it in. They did! As my dad was hooked up to monitors and machine, I sat with mom and crocheted. All the nurses seemed to love the blanket, and it was something to talk about while dad was so sick. I remember being afraid to look up from the blanket at the monitor above my dad. His blood pressure was always up there, and when it was 58/35 - I have to admit - I was so scared. Maybe this was going to be it! But again, dad got better.

When dad went to the nursing home for the 2nd time, mom seemed to get more upset with how things were going. She hated that we were all driving her back and forth. She hated admitting that she was having trouble writing checks and paying bills. Because of that, dad had started handing me the bills, and I would hide them in my bag under the blanket. Even the nurses and social workers had started giving me paperwork for my dad. It was never easy - knowing that I was taking more and more away from mom. But her mind was slowly losing bits and pieces - and I have to admit, I worried what would happen to her when dad was gone.

I still remember the day that mom looked at the blanket I had just taken out of my crochet bag. Maybe she knew that dad had given me the check book. Maybe she was just in a bad mood. But on that day she told me she was tired of seeing the same thing over and over again! She didn't want to see that blanket any more! As she told me that, I wondered what to do. I put the blanket away, and just sat talking with her and my dad. That night, I took the blanket out of the bag, and put a baby sweater that I had started working on, into it.

The next day, when I brought mom to the nursing home, I took out the sweater to show mom and dad. "Where is that beautiful blanket?" she asked. I just kind of stared at her, wondering what to say. All that day, my mom told everyone who came to visit about the blanket - and that I didn't have it there that day. That night, the blanket went back into my bag - and stayed there.
I guess I have to admit, I really did hope that my dad and mom would have more time together. When dad was discharged from the home in September, we all knew that mom wouldn't be able to take care of him on her own. Wayne took them to his home on Cape Cod. I really did hope they would be there for awhile. But dad was still very sick, and the cancer was still growing. Wayne would sit up with him all night, as dad fought the pain. He needed more help than we could give him, and we wondered if again, mom and dad would have to be separated.

To this day, I don't know how it happened - but a nursing home agreed to take both mom and dad together! They could even be in the same room! We brought pictures, and knick-knacks, and all sorts of things for my mom to decorate that room. When she was done, it was so pretty! She had put up all sorts of fall and Halloween decorations. Everyone in the home loved to see that room! Each day I would visit them, bringing my crochet bag. Most of those days, I didn't even touch it. Dad was getting sicker, and within days - he was in a coma-like state. I went to the nursing home each morning - bringing my crochet bag. Sometimes I was able to sit and just crochet, as others sat and held my dad's hands. Other times, I would take over - as we tried to keep my dad from flailing in the bed. He would talk, but mostly it was bits and pieces of words and phrases - seeming to talk about his past and childhood. Each day I would go home and drop my bag by the door, knowing I would pick it up again - the next day. Each night I went to bed wondering if this would be the night that I would get the call - that dad was gone.

On October 13th, I walked into their room and knew from my brother Rob's face that dad was much worse. As I sat next to his bed, I whispered to him softly - telling him that we would take good care of mom. Over the next few hours, we called my brother Wayne to tell him that dad was dieing. It was that afternoon, with my aunts, brother, and mom beside him - my dad passed away. I had left the room just moments earlier - to call Wayne and make sure he was coming. In those few moments, dad had slipped away. As I walked back into the room, my dad looked like he had just fallen asleep. As I knelt next to him, I held his hand, closed his eyes, and said goodbye to my dad. As I turned from my dad, I found myself in my brother’s arms sobbing. That afternoon, we held on tight to one another, wondering what to do next. That night, I took not only my crochet bag, but my mom - home with me. Over the next few days and weeks, my crochet bag sat right next to my big comfy chair. It was there during all the arrangements and funeral. It was there as I took care of my mom over the next week. And it has been there, as I worked through all the paperwork and legal work that followed my dad's death. Each time I needed comforting, I worked on that blanket. Through the holidays that seemed so different - I found myself working on the blanket.

Now as I look over at that beautiful blanket, I realize how much it helped me through such a difficult time. It was there at the hospital, it was there in the nursing homes, and it was there the day my dad passed away.

I know that I still have some hurts inside of me. I know that today has been a day of tears. And yet I also know that there are brand new things waiting, just around the corner. Just as a new little baby will be born this spring, I know that good things are ahead. Each time in my life, when I have faced terrible things - I know that God has given me the strength to get through them. And after each one, He has given me a promise - of Hope and New life! He promised that to me - and to all of us.

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and hope."
(Jeremiah 29:11)

I guess today was a day of looking back, even though I know I am starting to look forward. It hasn't been easy, and I still have times that hurt. But just like that new blanket I am starting, I can feel the new stories, and new beginnings - about to happen.
It is my hope and prayer that each you will also be blessed with new Hope and New Life - in this brand New Year! Even as you struggle through the difficulties, I know that right around the corner - is the gifts God has waiting - just for you . . .
God bless you and keep you in this brand New Year!
In His Perfect Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers