My husband experienced the opportunity to eat his soup bowl yesterday. It truly was his first time. It made me think about dementia, and how his firsts are going to increase, not decrease.
He doesn’t have many firsts at this stage, but sometimes he tells me that he has never been somewhere before, and he has. Sometimes he tells me he has never met people that he has known for years. Church has been particularly difficult for him. He says that there are a lot of new people attending, and wonders where everyone he once knew have gone. He thinks they have all transferred to another church.
It makes me think about the fact that I love getting up before everyone else in the morning. I cherish the newness of each new day. I delight in the sunrise and the way that the sunlight lays across the valley. I enjoy looking at the mountain range and the colors of the trees across my brother’s maple orchard. I look forward to seeing the farm and the church in the distance, that reminds me of both my church and biological family who pray for us and support us from afar. Each morning brings similarity, yet fresh subtle differences, especially in autumn.
Perhaps the increased newness is a gift from God. Imagine, each day as a new day. It’s like a lifetime of second chances. The failures, shortcomings, and just plain horsepucky that crosses our path each day is forgotten, and a new fresh page has been supplied. How scary in one respect, yet exciting in another.
As I write this, my 10-month old granddaughter is reaching for the keys and running her hands across the keyboard. She removed the key protector and is placing it on her head. She has recently learned to wave “hi” and “bye” and is taking steps on her own when held by her hands. She seemingly learns something new every day.
What if we thought about dementia as an opportunity to learn new things every day, much the same as our youngest grandchild? Is it always going to be bad? What if we didn’t think of each decline as a negative action? Instead, we thought of it as an opportunity to look at life experiences with a new lens, for the first time again? We often think, “If only I had a redo button, I would have done ______ so much differently.” Perhaps dementia gives the gift to hit the redo button.
I find it interesting that some will say, “If only I could go back to High School, college, early 20″s…” In Dementialand, you kind of do. When we first realized that something was not right, my husband was going through a mid-life crisis that brought him back to his rebellious teenage years. What we didn’t know then, was that he was sick. His brain was damaged, and that it wasn’t his fault. Whatever the cause, doctors guess too many blows to the head and he was regressing. Having experienced my husband’s rebellious teenage years twice, I do not wish to go back to that time.
However, I do enjoy seeing my husband’s face light up when I bring home a “new to him” movie, or introduce him to a “new to him” friend, or take him to a “new to him” place. I enjoy taking him to the ocean to see what is new each day. I love how his face lights up when I bring him his favorite coffee or a sweet treat from the store. I love how he has developed a sweet tooth, and he delights in candy, ice cream, donuts, and cake. It makes my heart happy when he is happy.
Perhaps looking at each day and each experience with new eyes, with a new lens, we would appreciate life, and our daily gifts and blessings rather than blow through each day missing them. So today, I thank God for the all things new and old. I thank him for my husband, my children and grand children, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews. I thank him for my beautiful home, church, job, community, and friends. I thank him for the horsepucky, because it has made me the person I am today. I am even grateful for dementia and complicated medical issues, because it has brought me to the place where I notice and I appreciate, and feel closer to my Maker.
May each new day be like eating a soup bowl- perfectly new and fantastically delicious.