My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s too
A reader sends along this moving note:
A couple of months ago, maybe, I’d asked for prayers for my father, who’s been alienated from God and the Church for more than 70 years. I mean, 70 years! Sheesh!
Well, somethin’ upstairs cookin, because the associate pastor of St. Mary’s visited Father and me at home last Wednesday, and my father was anointed and received Communion. He received again today, just like a baby bird opening wide for his crumb. He has his good days and his bad days, of course. Please pray for him— and for me.
What follows is something I wrote up for the Alzheimer’s list I’m on. “ADLO” is our jargon for Alzheimer’s Disease Loved One.
For a long time, my father’d had the most beautiful mane of thick, white
hair. When it was combed straight back, he looked like an old-fashioned,
distinguished orchestra conductor. When it was sticking up, he looked like
Albert Einstein. When it was blow-dried, I called him The Swan King. But it
had been annoying him in this hot weather, so I got a trim-comb and chopped
it. Afterwards my husband said, “Good God! That’s the worst haircut
I’ve ever seen in my entire life! What did you do to him!?”
“Well,” I groused, “It did the job.”
But it was all part of the spiffy-up before the priest’s visit. Shave,
haircut, fingernails, haircut and blow-dry, and not a molecule of detectable
urine in the atmosphere.
So our Associate Pastor, Fr. Chris, appeared at the door at 1:30 this
afternoon when it was over 90 degrees outside and, well, we’ve never had
any air-conditioning. I had all the lights out (because they make so much
HEAT) and a little fan on my ADLO Edward, and that’s all. Dim, too-warm,
I explained to Fr. Chris that my father Edward is totally blind, pretty hard
of hearing, impaired by Alzheimers and multi-infarct dementia, “understands
more than he lets on” (big grin from Edward) and — though most expressive
language has escaped him—-he’s still quite able to indicate his
preferences, to say “Amen” or not. After a little more introduction
(“Fr. Chris, you’re gonna have to yell for him to hear you at all!”)
I left them alone while I did the dishes in the kitchen.
After awhile I realized there was no conversation going on, shouted or
otherwise. I stuck my head in: “Anybody want a glass or iced tea?
Anything?” Fr. Chris remarked mildly, “No thanks, I’ll just sit here, pray
Another 5 – 10 minutes and I came in (OK, OK, I’ve got an “interferiority
complex”) and shouted in Edward’s ear, “Fr. Chris is prepared to give us
the Sacraments! Confession! and Communion! I’m receiving Communion,
myself! I think that would be a good idea.” (No response. Long pause.)
“Father! Isn’t that a good idea?” Finally Ed perked up and smiled “If you
say so, dear.”
I gave Fr. Chris the significant arched-eyebrow look and a seven-syllable
Fr. Chris said, “You know, I could just anoint him and give him Communion.
That’ll be an easier way than via Confession.” So he did the most minimal
damn dab-dab anointing I have ever seen, but Edward said “Amen” almost
inaudibly at every pause. Moved his lips soundlessly about 1/3 of the time
during the Our Father. Then I asked him if he wanted to receive Communion.
“It’s my….it’s my…. it’s, my my med med…”
“OK!” I’m still yelling. “But you understand, it’s not your prescription
meds, Edward! It’s God! Wants to be with you!” He murmurs, “It, it, it’s
oh, oh… (smiles) …OK.”
So he received, and I received.
Afterwards, Fr.Chris and I chatted quietly. I talked a little about my
mother, who died 10 years ago and had hoped for over 40 years of marriage to
see this happen, and never saw it: my Father receiving Communion. I
cried. Looked over at Ed, staring sightlessly forward, his head tilted like
he was listening to something. His hair so soft and a little tufty all
Like a lamb.