Intruders in the Night

“This is Charlotte Boyles! I need help!”

That was the 4-something a.m. frantic call of Momma, who had spent all night keeping an eye on the intruders in our kitchen. My sister Vivian, on overnight “mom duty” at the time, answered from her upstairs bedroom, “I’m coming Mom!” Vivian listened to Mom’s report of suspicious activity coming from the kitchen, attempting to assure her that all was well and our home was secure. Mom was convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that there were thieves hiding in the kitchen’s pantry; she had seen them with her own eyes and had heard what they were saying. Vivian did a walk-through of the kitchen, opening and closing the pantry cabinetry and its swing-out interior doors to check inside. Nothing unusual there, but Momma still believed ‘they’ were here hiding in there somewhere.

Momma said she had a phone in her purse, and she wanted Vivian to call the police. The phone was actually the remote control for the TV. She had other emergency items packed in her purse…just in case, including a pair of scissors she would use if she had to jab her way to safety. Vivian escorted our frightened Momma back to her room, closing the draperies on the windows and doors. She stayed in the chair beside her, bringing an extra measure of security.

During all of this excitement, I slept peacefully in my bed upstairs. It was nice to have my sister on duty for this one. Both my husband and my bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived sister told me all about the adventure when I woke up.

My brother had a dental surgery appointment that morning, so I would be busy taking him to and from that appointment. While I waited for him in the surgeon’s waiting room, I made arrangements over the phone with mom’s doctor to have her urine tested to check for urinary tract infection, the usual cause for hallucinations of this magnitude. Sure enough, a few hours later, the doctor’s nurse called with the results and to let me know they had called in a prescription for me to pick up at my pharmacy.

Sleep should be less eventful for Momma in a day or two. I hope.

This pretty mug usually contains coffee…but always holds a memory of my dear friend Melinda.

I try to look for “joy” in the midst of these sometimes challenging caregiving days. Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to find the joy on days like this. But it was there nestled in something my sister showed me later in the day. She said, “Oh, Mom had this in her purse too. She wanted to save it from the robbers for you.” Viv held out a coffee mug. Not just any coffee mug. Momma had commented on the beauty of this particular mug a few days prior. I had told her it was a gift from a very special friend. As I took the Polish pottery mug from my sister’s hand, I was astounded that my mother would remember that this mug was so special to me. And even more flabbergasted that she would seek to save it from the very real (to her) robbers in our home.

My sweet Momma.

Finding Joy

 Facebook Journal Entry – February 2, 2016
Today could have been a very discouraging day. It seemed the Enemy was definitely intent on throwing into my path every obstacle he could muster as I tried to minister to my mom and brother.
It was obvious to me that from the moment mom awoke, her state of confusion was worse than I had ever seen it. As she stood in the middle of the kitchen of the home she and dad had built in 1962, she looked at me and said, “I’m really in a fog. I can’t remember where anything is. This doesn’t even look like my kitchen.”
My heart sank. Mom’s dementia was on the move again, claiming another piece of her short-term memory – and maybe even a little bit of her long-term memory as well. Together, we made it through the morning, enjoying one another’s company and figuring out life’s little dilemmas like, “Who took ALL the pens and pencils in this house?” Momma was now ready for one of her frequent naps.
While Momma napped, the next thing on my agenda was a trip to the VA hospital where my brother is a patient. My mission was to speak with the Social Security Administration (SSA) in a second attempt to set up an on-line account for Brad so I could help him apply for disability and monitor communications from home. [Last week’s previous failed attempt included getting “locked out” of his account and an unfruitful phone call to the SSA to unlock his account – a long story, complete with a one hour 20 minute hold time and a lecture about committing fraud where I was admonished that Brad needed to be present in the room while I was working on helping him.]
I arrived at the hospital armed with my generally trusty laptop and fully charged iPhone, parked myself at Brad’s bedside, and made the second call. Thankfully, our hold time was just 35 minutes and we were able to speak with a very kind and helpful representative named Brandon. In the end, even Brandon was unable to help me accomplish my goal, but he did assure us that we would be asked the very same questions at our phone interview on February 15.
Kind of frustrating. As frustrated as I was, I did recognize that even this situation was an answer to prayer. It was not the answer I was looking for, but a closed door is still an answer. I have every confidence God will open the right door in His time.
When I arrived back at Momma’s house, I was dismayed to find yet more evidence that mom was experiencing a very bad memory day. Mom was fretful and talking about “all the kids” who were visiting her yesterday. There were “so many” of them. According to mom, they were well behaved enough, but messy. She said she enjoyed spending time with each one of them, but now she was left to find where they had put all her stuff.
Sadly, there were no kids here yesterday…or any time in the last several weeks (unless you want to count her 55 and 58-year-old daughters in the kid count). Mom’s “stuff” was indeed missing. Not only were all of her pens and pencils missing again, but so was her checkbook, her shampoo, and nearly every Kleenex box in her home. Mom accused “the kids” of taking her stuff. She accused “those girls you hired” of stealing her Kleenex, complaining, “They should really bring their own.” She even accused me of using up her shampoo.
The truth is, the increasing paranoia of dementia makes Mom hide her own stuff. Her pens and pencils were tucked in her dresser drawer. The checkbook was in her purse where it belonged, but her purse was hidden. Her shampoo was sitting on top of her dresser, rather than in the shower. And the Kleenex boxes were stacked up in the corner next to her favorite chair.
Yep, it was definitely a very discouraging day. Thankfully, over the past several months, God has impressed upon my heart the need to look for joy in the midst of life’s difficulties. It’s always there. I sometimes have to look a bit harder, but I can always, always, always find joy.
Brad spent much time as a patient here from April 2015 thru March 2016

Today’s joy was found in seeing my brother looking content and better than he has since Christmas. I felt it in his heartfelt “Thank you for all you’re doing for me and Mom, Cin.”

That little bit of joy would have been enough for me to treasure in my heart, but God had more in store.
When I walked in the door with arms full of groceries later in the day, I found Momma standing in the kitchen in the same spot where earlier in the day she had stood in a scary state of confusion. This time, I found Momma experiencing absolute delight having just received a phone call from Jean, one of her friends at church. Jean told Momma she was planning to visit her on Friday and she would be bringing Momma’s friend Bev. We added that special bit of joy to Mom’s calendar so Momma can smile every time she looks at it.
MomTeen
Mom as a teen in front of her girlhood home

But God still was not finished. Momma had also received some mail – a very special Valentine from her very thoughtful sister. My Aunt Carolyn had also enclosed several old photographs from Momma’s younger days. Each picture evoked a crisp as can be memory and story for her to share with me. Incredibly special moments in time.

Thank you, dear God, for infusing incredibly difficult days with even more incredible bits of joy.