Six years ago, while my sister and brother-in-law went to a reunion, I spent the weekend with my young nephew and nieces playing board games, watching movies and creating artwork. When Sunday rolled around, I packed up my things to return home, much to their dismay. They saw me as an independent adult, able to do whatever I wanted to do, so they didn’t understand why I had to leave.
“Why can’t you stay with us longer?” asked Elijah.
“Well, I need to go home and take care of Granni Jane and Papaw Jack.”
Aptly given the name of a prophet, he replied, “When are you going to take care of you?”
I’ve asked myself that question a few times since then. I know my season of caregiving will eventually come to an end. But until then, I must wait.
We all know a thing or two about waiting. In fact, the majority of our lives are spent waiting for something. Waiting to grow up. Waiting to get into the right school. Waiting for that check in the mail. Waiting for the medicine to take effect. Waiting for the light to turn green. Waiting for that promotion. Waiting for an apology or for justice to prevail. Waiting to meet our soulmate. Waiting for winter to be over. Waiting for our broken hearts to heal. Waiting for COVID to be a memory. Waiting to live the life we’ve only dared to dream.
Six years later, I’m still waiting.
When we decided it was time to put my Father in a facility, we applied to Fountainview Center for Alzheimer’s and learned new residents weren’t being admitted until January 18. So we waited. But when that day arrived, the start date for new residents had been pushed back again to February 18 because of COVID. So we’re waiting again.
Sometimes waiting is busy. Finalizing burial plans, applying for a replacement social security card, since my Father lost his years ago and we can’t find it anywhere; bloodwork, hormone treatment for prostate cancer, bone density tests and awaiting doctor recommendations.
Sometimes waiting feels like Groundhog Day with every day looking the same. A bed alarm pulls me upstairs in 5-hour intervals to tend to my Father each night and early morning. Fighting off irritability, making him a breakfast he can eat with his fingers since he’s lost the ability to hold a fork or spoon, trying to squeeze in a nap to boost my immune system, and carving out time to sit in the presence of the Lover of my soul. I look for a trapdoor to escape each day but realize my day won’t change until I do. In fact, Providence is using the monotony to change me.
Several nights ago, there was a full moon, which tends to make my Father restless. We increase his medication dosage so he’ll relax, but sometimes that doesn’t work. Normally, he only gets out of bed to use the restroom. So the first time the bed alarm went off, I positioned him on his bedside commode. His hands were moving all over the floor and he asked questions about taking care of this thing or that thing. I always tell him that it’s too late to take care of that thing tonight but after a good night’s sleep, we can take care of it tomorrow. He’s always satisfied with this answer. Unless there’s a full moon.
After a few unproductive minutes on the commode, I put him back into bed, turned off the light and left his room, only to hear the alarm go off 10 minutes later. We do this dance three times. And while we’re dancing, I’m waiting. I’m waiting for him to settle down. I’m waiting for the extra medicine to kick in. I’m waiting to have a few minutes to myself. But I’m not the only one waiting. My Father is waiting too.
He’s waiting for his mind to stop racing. He’s waiting for his body to settle down. He cannot control either so he’s literally at our mercy as to how we handle this Jack-in-the-box routine. So on this night of the full moon, I had a divinely inspired idea. I turned on the Bible app on my phone and let my Father listen to chapter after chapter of the Psalms being read aloud. He nodded his head in agreement while lying on the pillow until eventually he fell asleep. Sometimes helping someone else in their waiting helps us in ours.
There is much that happens while we wait. It doesn’t always feel like it. But like a baby growing inside the womb, a broken bone that mends itself or a caterpillar morphing into a beautiful butterfly, something is always happening in the waiting.
Just as I’m learning things that can only be learned as a caregiver, you are learning things that can only be learned as a mother or father, a business owner or missionary, an artist or an athlete. No one can learn those lessons for us. And if you feel trapped in your own mindless Groundhog Day, remind yourself that this is just a season. And something is always happening in the waiting.