Hair-lickers and Mothering Ideals

I looked in the backseat and there she was, eating leftover breakfast out of her hair. Never mind the fact that her usual hairstyle looked like something out of "The Boxcar Children", now she was using her hair as a spoon, and with more accuracy than I had ever seen her use any utensil before, hence  this whole scene unfolding in the first place. I remember turning to Peter and remarking that she was going to show up to church looking like she had just climbed out of a puddle, if puddles were made of oatmeal, and she was wearing the purple rainboots to match. Maybe she would at least smell like sugar and spice.

Something kind of funny happens the more kids you have, and I say "kind of funny" because it is also kind of pathetic and terrifying and embarrassing too. So its the "laugh and throw up your hands but your eyes are really pleading 'help me' " sort of funny. The more kids you have, the more your ideals go out the window. At first this is probably a good thing. I mean what newborn was ever happy with a flower headband the size of her entire body and what 15 month old is thinking, "man, this sitting on the potty seat is so fun. I wish we spent all our Saturdays this way, every hour on the hour. I have no desire to play with blocks or poop my pants...or play with blocks while I poop my pants ever again! Diapers are so last year. And I bet we are having trapezoid shaped tofu as a reward for dinner tonight, because I am a vegan who totally already knows what a trapezoid is. Why is Mommy sweating and crying in the corner?" (I don't mean to offend. I'mean just saying we can all let our ideals get out of whack.)

In fact I think the main purpose child #2 served in our house his entire first year was helping me break down my ridiculous ideals. At the time I was pretty sure his purpose was to let me know I was a horrible mother, but time has given me a little perspective on that one. I know now that I am not horrible, but marginal. And if abolishing crazy-lady ideals was not the main purpose for #2, it was hands down #3's purpose: my purple boot wearing, hair licking, free-spirit. And then by the time #4 came 5 months ago, I realized I didn't really have many ideals left. Turns out that isn't the best place to be either.

My biggest problem: 2 years after the diagnosis

755 Days. That's how many days ago my dad got his formal diagnosis of Younger Onset Alzheimer's. 2 years and 3 1/2 weeks ago our lives were forever changed when we were told what in the dark, unadmitting places in our hearts we already knew. There is something about a diagnosis that slaps denial in the face and punches optimism in the gut. A couple of words can carry with them so much weight that after they trample over top of you, you lay there for a while, nursing your wounds. And that is exactly how I felt on January 15, 2014 when I got the phone call. My insides caved in on themselves at the words, and moments later I found myself still on the bed, in a heap, battered and whimpering like a wounded animal. And the truth is, I still find myself there sometimes. Because the grief that a few words carry with it can be tricky. It sneaks up on you and takes your feet right out from under you sometimes.

In these past 755 days I have learned more than in the thousands of days before. Pain is a very good teacher, if you pay attention. For most of the first year I learned a lot about grief, suffering and God's amazing, tender, un-ending, far-reaching, wrap-me-up-in-a-hug kind of love. (You can read a bitty synopsis of what I gleaned from the first year after the diagnosis here. )

This next year, I have learned entirely new things, things that might actually be more painful, which I would not have thought possible. For the first year every song at church, every inspirational quote from all the wise meme makers out there, every bible verse, applied so perfectly to the magnitude of my grief. It was daunting and right in from of me. I couldn't see past it, so everything I did see I was seeing as I looked through it. Alzheimer's became my rose colored glasses. So while I was facing deep sorrow I had been largely unfamiliar with prior, I was also presented, by the grace of God, with incredible comfort, insight and strength.

I won't say the grief subsided this past year, because the horrible thing about Alzheimer's is that the grief keeps coming in waves, a slow, steady grief, that never really lets you get your footing before it comes crashing in again. But I would say that it has changed a bit, or I have changed. Maybe it is growth. Maybe it is my tendency to stuff and deny. I'm not sure. Whatever the reason, I can see past it a bit. It is always there in the corner of my eye, and sometimes comes back and blocks my vision again almost entirely, but for the most part not everything is seen through the lens of Alzheimer's and all it brought along with it. This past year I was seeing with new vision.

And because God is gracious, because God loves me and wants what is best for me, I did not like what I saw much of this past year. What I saw told me that my biggest problem isn't Alzheimer's. It isn't grief. It isn't suffering, or pain, or injustice, or challenges of any kind. My biggest problem isn't carbs. It isn't my struggles to spell or type or proofread. And no guys, it is not the fact that man-buns are trendy now...or that there are men whose messy buns look better than mine. (Poor bald Peter is missing out on this one. Light a candle for his hair.) This past year God allowed quite a few more proverbial punches to my gut, and they came in waves much like the grief-one right after another, punches that made me realize what my biggest problem really is. My sin.

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