The Stranger Who Came to Stay





Well, today it happened. It came without any indication. The woman who has sat in the same place on my couch, for 2 years and 3 months, told me, “I’m not your mom!” As she laughed at me like I was crazy.

I fumbled for answers to this. Wait a minute, I thought I had the solution to jog her memory. I pointed at my brother, (her first-born son) and said, “he’s your son.” She answered, “He’s not my son!”

She looked incredulous as I asked her about her other son and daughter. “They’re not my kids!” Well, I was shocked as I tried to reason with her. She told me my other brother was just some guy that helped her move into her apartment in Milwaukee.

A little while later I pointed out the massive hurricane, headed for New York. “I’ve been to New York,” She said. “I know, I took you,” I responded. “You didn’t take me!” Again, with a look amusement, she stated, “My daughter, Carrie took me.” “Mom, that’s me!” I said, unwilling to believe this was actually happening. “You’re not Carrie!,” she said.

I couldn’t tell you how odd this was to me. A combination of bewilderment, mixed with pain. As if I was holding her by a rope, across a raging river, and she was losing her grasp. “Mom!” “Stop calling me that!” she says, “I’m not your mom!”

I know, I think, if I can just remind her of my brother she lost when I was so young. I bring up his name. “That’s Kim’s son!” “Yes, mom, but she named him after your son, my brother.” “What? That’s just crazy!” At this point she tells me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I go into the next room. There are the pictures we had just been looking at the other day. All her pictures which I had brought down from her room. I had hoped we could put them into albums and she would enjoy looking at all the memories. There is the photo album, I had put together after our trip to New York. I had taken her to see the Rockettes Christmas Show. I took my daughter as well. Here is where I will be able to help her ‘snap out of it.

I bring the album in and show her the pictures. With each picture she tells me that wasn’t my daughter and it isn’t our trip. I didn’t know what my motivation was anymore. “Am I trying to help her remember? Or am I trying to make myself forget…that she is slipping away from me.

I had taken her to her neurologist about two months ago. She had a complete personality change. Light-hearted and easy-going. Laughing constantly. She was a different person. “What happened to her?” I asked him. “Well, she’s declining, but it’s normal. At least at this point, you should be able to get her involved in a senior center with day care. She won’t fight you now.”

As sure as the sun comes up, I signed her up for two days a week, and the other personality showed up. Sharp as could be, and fighting me as she always had before. “I’m not going back to that place!” She said. “That’s a nut house!” “Oh, this is great,”I thought. Just when I thought I ‘d get a little break.

I knew something had happened, because ever since she arrived at my home, she had checked off the days on her calendar. And then she stopped. As I shared this with her doctor he said, “Is it a Mayan calendar?” I cracked up, in spite of the loss I felt.

But this is the sign that something had happened. And her doctor never shared the true diagnosis until I had him fill out the paperwork for the senior center. With a listing of Dementia, and Alzheimer’s, I was in total shock. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know something was wrong. But he had told me she had TIA’s, which he explained were mini-strokes.

“Okay,” I thought, I can live with that. As if just hearing the word mini, made everything better. No need to worry. But there is no minimizing this. As I’ve watched her slowly lose ground and I give her round the clock care, I’m at a loss for how to deal with this woman, who is now stubborn and unwilling to take part in her life. Physically hitting me and calling me names, when I’ve tried taking her to, the retreat.

Each time I mention, just getting away for a few hours, and telling her she will have some friends, so she can talk about me. That’s just not enough of a bribe for her.

Today, as I listened to her talking about her daughter, ‘Carrie,’ I had the oddest feeling. I felt as if I was prying to ask her about this daughter. I could almost see a sense of pride in her, when she talked about her. I felt as if this was, “the fly on the wall.” eavesdropping on her conversation with someone else, as she bragged about me. For the first time in my life, I felt as if she was proud of me.

Perhaps this was the Lord’s way of showing me the affection which I never received from her. To show the side of my mother which left when I was a child. There was no time for this then. Too much tragedy and I had to grow up quickly. The roles were reversed.

But now I can hear, that she really does appreciate me. Even though we are becoming strangers. And I have found some humor in it, at times. When we were going through the pictures, at one point she had said, she didn’t know me. As I struggled to convince her that I was her daughter, she stubbornly refused to accept this nonsense. I finally said, “Well, then who am I?” To which she replied, “I don’t know who you are!” And I said, “Well, then I’m going to ask you what you’re doing here, living in a stranger’s house?”

She still manages to laugh at my son. And when he came in later, I mentioned something about him being her grandson. “Oh if you say so.” she said. Unwilling to hurt the boys feelings. She just decided to let us believe this.

She told me she could get ready for bed herself. So I let her. But when I went to check on her, I asked her, “Are you okay mom?” “Yes,” she said. And I did what I always do. I bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a big hug. I said, “Goodnight mom.” “Goodnight,” She said. With the sweetest smile, and then she said, “See you in the morning.”

I guess in her mind, I may be a stranger. But a familiar stranger. And in some way, it’s security to her. She’s allowing me to call her, ‘mom,’ because she is staying here. I hope her daughter, Carrie doesn’t mind.

Push My Swing!

 I just dropped my mother off at a senior center the other day when I received a call about my brother. My brother with special needs, had been acting aggressively and hit someone. I found this shocking, as my brother never hits anyone. He does a lot of fist shaking and some obscenities may fly from his mouth, but hitting? I’ve never seen him do this.

His fist shaking between my son and him, started when he came to live with us. He lived in an abusive environment and this was a behavior he learned. Some things I’ll never know about. His scars, for example. He had no way of explaining, except to say that, “he had been burned, at a restaurant he worked at, and taken to the hospital. No incident reports ever came to the family. He has scars with no explanation.

I went to get him and the minute he saw me, he wept like a baby. I have rarely seen him cry like this. The only times, really, were the times he was returning after visits with his family. He would scream and cry. He never wanted to go back and always thought it was punishment.

I finished speaking with those in charge and turned to him. He told me, “Someone hit me!(the name I couldn’t understand), and he touched the back of his head. “He was bothering me!” Next he stood up and shook his fist at one of the women. I was in shock. But as I turned, I saw the woman standing behind me. She had a look of amusement. This bothered me. And it also seemed familiar.

I caught a glimpse of the past in my mind. I knew this look. When my mother was trying to pick up the pieces of her life, after the loss of my baby brother, her marriage, and her home. She was trying desperately to find out the best solution to caring for a son with special needs, and all of us.

Memories of my brother on a harness, connected to our clothesline, came to mind. She would do her chores, and I would keep an eye on him. It was before I went to school, and the other school kids would walk by with taunts at my brother. He would get upset and I would get very angry. “Leave him alone!” I would yell from my bedroom window.

They thought it very funny to see this big kid, leashed to his back yard. With every teasing remark or look, I felt pain. I didn’t realize that the Lord was making my heart, so soft. With each experience. I didn’t realize that He was training me to champion the cause of the meekest of this earth.

When I shared my brother’s incident with friends and people who have known him, they all seemed surprised. “Yes, I know it isn’t in his character,” I said. “He seemed quite upset that someone was bothering him. But I’ll never know the whole story. I just want to help him to learn to cope with teasing.”

I’m very much aware of the transference of spirits. Our Lord, created Adam, by breathing His spirit into him. And not long after this incident, the enemy came to influence Adam and Eve to do evil. This is another spirit. We have these spirits all around us, and they can and do, influence behaviors.

I had the same experiences with my son. He would come home from places and I knew exactly where/who he had been with, because of the way he was acting and things he was saying. His behavior was so noticeably different. And at times I felt I would have to deprogram him from the world. After beginning high school, I saw more rebellion and aggressive behavior. Every day brought a new round of challenges. “I can hang out as long as I want. You’re too restrictive. ” All the things he was spouting. He felt he should be emancipated at 14 years old, because he was comparing to others the same age.

Then I prayed about this and found the Lord reminding me that our responsibility as parents, is not in academics. It is, “to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 He also reminded me of His Words, “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. “Ephesians 6:4

I decided to home educate, and the change was almost immediate. He  has more joy and self-motivation. He has much more self-control.  I have thought how many times the Lord has warned us, as adults, to build a strong foundation on Him. So when the world’s problems and influence come, we can withstand the onslaught. How much more is it for children, or others like them? Of course I know this isn’t the answer for every parent. And it’s not always feasible. For me it was the only answer.

If we are committed believers in Christ, the Lords influence should be evident. “The old passes away.” We are transformed by the filling of His spirit, with our rebirth. The enables us to turn away from deeds of darkness. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are a positive influence in our character. One being self-control.

And conversely  the scriptures teach of the other spirits which will give evidence of the Last Days. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy , without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness, but denying His power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 2 Timothy3

I was upset to hear a woman at my brother’s school suggest the possibility of placing him in a Group Home. “I would not.” I told her. I’ve waited all my life to restore my brother to his family.” I was amazed that someone would even think, that it is better to have anyone other than a loving family member to care for these people.

Yes, it is a thankless job. It is exhausting at times. But my mother shared a story with me all my life. Me, in my baby swing and my brother cranking the handle. The minute the swing would stop, I would begin to cry. She says, “He would push your swing, the minute you began to cry. You were his baby.”

Now, on those dark days, when I feel worn out, I look at my brother. The unconditional love is flowing from him. He is so sweet and he will come give me a hug, when he senses I’m upset. Sometimes, I get a kiss on the cheek. “It’s okay, my sister,” he says.

I know that the Lord has promised, “I can do all things through Him, who strengthens me.”

That’s all I need. Another push of the swing.