If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you are aware that my mom has Alzheimer's Disease. Because the disease causes brain degeneration over a period of time (the length of time is different with each case), she is losing the ability to care for herself. At her current stage of the disease's progression she needs help with everything from bathing, to getting dressed, to having someone prepare food and help her eat. Now, where it becomes tricky is that she understands she must shower, get dressed, and eat when it is brought to her attention. These are all things that she enjoys...they have not yet become a battle. However, her brain cannot communicate what steps she must take to accomplish these tasks on her own.
With that background, you understand that someone must care for her needs. Even those that seem the most basic and instinctive. I always knew my dad, Jim Bain, cared deeply for our family and that he loved my mom. Our family joke, with my mom being his third wife and my dad being my mom's third engagement, is the the third "Jim" was a charm. By the time they were married and had their first (and favorite) child they had only known each other 16 months. I know there must have been many days, with three children born within four years, my parents thought an empty nest seemed lifetimes away. I remember the day my dad called to tell me that my mom, indeed, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It was the day my world seemed to "flip." In the months to follow, my dad and I began confiding in each other about my mom and our feelings. One night, with a shaky voice, he told me that the one thing he looked forward to was growing old with her. God was there in those moments and I began to see my dad as my mom's husband. I grasped how difficult it was for him to imagine the outcomes doctor's give patients like my mom. My dad and I would later spend a summer attending the dreaded support group meetings. Afterward, we would try not to cry during our dinner at Jason's Deli. My dad always said that he would do anything he could to help her. He has not taken that promise lightly.
My dad takes my mom everywhere he goes. She watches his workouts at The Gym and has learned to love their chocolate peanut butter protein shakes. He bathes and dresses her everyday. He has learned, from my aunt, how to blow dry and style her hair, how to apply makeup, and is currently learning how to dye her hair, too. My dad has always had an interest in women's fashion, and now I know what God was preparing him for. He holds her when she cries for reasons she can't communicate. He validates her fear, but assures her that he will always protect, love, and care for her. He tells her how beautiful she is and that he is so lucky he has such a wonderful wife.
In the last five years I have thought a lot about my mom's disease. I have thought about what a good person she is and that it isn't fair that she will slowly lose her mind. I think about her fear, that she knows she is sick, and how much pain she feels when she gets upset with herself. I think about God. I think about when she was created, that He knew every sin she would commit and He still chose to impart grace. I think about when God created my mom, in those first few moments she was woven in the womb, He knew she also needed my sweet dad.
Dad, I am proud of you.