Midnight Writer

...the road goes on forever

Betty’s New Home

Betty in her new room

Last weekend was an interesting one for our family, with some unexpected results.

Gini and I had an annual trip planned. The West Texas District of the Church of the Nazarene has an annual event for pastors of churches on the district called Shepherd’s Rest. Gini is the Family Pastor for our church, Pursuit Fellowship Church of the Nazarene, and the retreat is special to her so I tag along.

It’s been increasingly difficult to find a solution for what to do with Betty when we do this annual trip. Originally, Gini had planned on leaving her with a couple from our church that have often taken her in during the day; however problems with that plan came up.

Betty’s dementia has gotten progressively worse. As she’s lost the ability to care for herself; her frustration has turned on the person tasked with taking on the responsibility of caring for her – her daughter (and my wife) Gini. She’s often become combative. I don’t actually blame Betty, it’s the nightmare disease that she suffers from. The combination of being physically an adult, occasional memories of what used to be, and the inability to completely understand those things will never be again, all produce frustration that too often leads to anger. But it’s the the type of anger you would see in a 2 year old, but just is so hard to deal with when seeing it in an adult.

Gini had made the decision not to leave her with our friends from church because she had become so combative, and instead checked into short term respite care. She spoke to a local nursing home, 3 miles away, and the next day they called to say they had an opening.

She’s angry with me all the time, and I want my mother to be happy when I see her.

When Gini brought her things for the weekend, the conversation turned to making it more permanent, and Gini made the difficult decision to make that change.

I was unaware of the decision that this was to be permanent. For much of our retreat I thought it was just for the weekend. When she broke the news to me, Gini put it in a way that broke my heart. “She’s angry with me all the time, and I want my mother to be happy when I see her”.

I understand the decision. I do not believe I would have 3 1/2 years ago, when we started this little adventure, but I do now. I believe it is our moral duty to our parents to care for them if they need it, and Betty definitely needed it.

However, it was not me that was bearing the responsibility for her care. I was the “fun Uncle” to Gini’s role as the responsible care-giver. I got to sneak her ice cream sandwiches after Gini finished cleaning her up and dressing her. After I got over the initial disappointment of the decision and put more thought into it, I can understand why Gini is tired, and wants her mom to smile and her face to light up when she sees Gini coming.

One thing is for certain – as much as this is a change for Betty’s last season of her life, it is for Gini and me as well. Except for a short period (less than 3 months) when our daughter and grand-daughter moved out, and a young man that had been in Gini’s youth group as a teen moved in to board for a few months; we have not lived alone in our house. We’ve often been free to go do what we want, but the house was “shared”. This is a new season for us as well, we will finally actually be “empty nesters”.

Except, of course, for Gabby the Cockatoo, and the dogs Bubbie and Cooper.

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My name is Herb Parsons, your semi-average 66-year-old guy. I’ve been married to my wife Gini for 28 years, and between us, we have 5 children and 11 grandchildren (currently).