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Welcome to “Bumper-to-Bumper-ville”! January 6, 2009

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Devotionals, Holidays.
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Christmas this year was… different.

And I must confess, I wasn’t looking forward to it. At least, not at first.

There are two reasons why I was dreading Christmas this year.  One, during the month of October, I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that Christmas was going to be sad and full of grief.  And I couldn’t shake this feeling at all.  I’m not a superstitious person, but this… grief… I just couldn’t shake it! So that was troubling, to say the least.  Two, my mom is losing her memory.  And I kept wondering during October and November if she was even going to make it through Christmas before she lost her memory completely.  So instead of looking forward to the Christmas holidays, I found myself dreading them.

Since my mom is battling with memory loss, she really can’t Christmas shop on her own any more.  She can still take care of herself, and go to the grocery store, and do the usual things.  But anything out of the normal routine?  It’s just not going to happen.  So I planned on helping her shop and clean the house, and do whatever else she wanted to do, to prepare for the holidays.  I wasn’t looking forward to the task at all, because I knew she would be asking me the same questions over and over again, and she wouldn’t even remember most of what we did or what I told her.  Still, I wanted her to enjoy the season as much as possible, so I made the 6-hour trip to her house.  There was such a mixture of emotions swirling inside of me: happiness from being on the road (I enjoy travelling), willingness to help my mom out, love for my mom, heaviness and sadness over my mom’s condition, dread over the Christmas season, and this grief I couldn’t shake.  It was just a little… too much to bear.  But I was determined to help Mom out, and make things easier on her, so I hit the road.

NOW… let me tell you how God stepped in to the picture.  It still amazes me.

You know how it is…. you’re driving along, and you start to think about all sorts of things.  Whose mind doesn’t wander or get deep in thought, while they drive during a long trip?  So I began to think about all of the people I have met over the past year, and all of the situations that I know many of them are facing: job loss due to layoffs, loss of family members, divorces, court cases, illnesses, new births….. all life changes, and mostly major life changes.

And then I thought of one friend that I have recently reconnected with.  “Rich” is his name, and I recently found Rich through that social interaction wonder called “Facebook.”  His story really took me by surprise when he responded to my email, and told me all that had been happening in his life.  In my response back to him, I told Rich that I would call him soon.  So that day on the road, I thought, “well, hang it all, I’m just going to call him right now!” And so I did.

When he answered the phone, he responded with the most jovial tone, which made me smile.  You see, he’s battling the after effects of colon cancer, and it’s not always been easy.  The chemo has some wicked side effects, even though he’s assured me that he’s not really had it that bad.  When I called him that Friday before Christmas, he was in the hospital getting IVs because he was dealing with dehydration.  During our entire conversation, he was so positive, so upbeat, and so encouraging.  And though I never let on, I cried a little, just because I was so touched with his attitude and his demeanor.   It was amazing to me that he could have so much fun in the hospital, while dealing with what’s going on.  I listened to, or overheard rather, the little snippets of conversation he had with the nurses when they came in to check his “vital signs” and do other things for him, like turn off beeping IV pumps, change IV bags, give him antibiotics, and so forth.  And he told me that he meets such interesting people in the hospital, and that he was sure God was taking good care of him.

And then he asked me how I was doing.

I shared with him, almost apologetically, about my mom, and how things were going with her, and why I was on the road.  I told him how very sad it all was, and how I was not looking forward to dealing with this.  Rich took it all in, listening very patiently (just like he always does).  I was almost crying by the time I got finished with my little story.

And then Rich said the most amazing thing, even though it was something that I should have been thinking anyway.  He didn’t respond with shock or dismay, or anything like that.  He said, “Well… you know what you need to do.  You need to just enjoy her, for what time you have left with her.  It doesn’t matter if she remembers anything about your time together or not.  What matters is, you spent time with her.  You spent time with her, while you had the time to do so. So just go and enjoy yourself, and don’t worry about whether or not she remembers. ” 

You could have knocked me down with a feather.

He was right.  And then later on in the conversation, as we were saying our goodbyes, so he could eat his “yummy” hospital food, Rich said, “Tell you what.  Tell your mom that I said hello, and give her a hug from me.  She doesn’t know me at all, but that doesn’t matter; just tell her that I said hello.”  Chuckling as I assured him that I would do just that, I said yet another goodbye, and hung up my cell phone, and continued down the interstate.

Rich’s comments hung in the car, like shining ornaments on a beautiful Christmas tree, like gorgeous snowflakes falling in slow motion.  And I cried, thanking God for bringing him back into my life. And I lost a little bit of the interstate, as my mind wandered back to our brief time of knowing each other in college.

See, the only thing I really remember about Rich from our college days, was that he was never down.  Never.  Or at least, he never showed it.  He was always smiling.  And it dawned on me that maybe it was a choice he had made.  And it was a choice that I needed to make, that no matter how bad things seemed to be, they weren’t really that bad.  And the bad never lasted that long, really, no matter what the bad was all about.

Through the course of some other events, like forgetting my purse and having to retrace one third of my trip so that my husband could meet me and give me my purse, I didn’t actually arrive at my mom’s house until the next day.  But once I arrived, she informed me that she really didn’t want to face Christmas shopping.  So I offered to go by myself.  I thought to myself, and then reassured my mom, it can’t be… that bad.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve shopped in such a big city.  Oh my word!  I was amazed at the traffic! Hence the title to this post.  But instead of allowing it to get me irritated and overwhelmed, I remembered Rich’s attitude and his comments, and about how I could just… make a choice.  So, instead of allowing the crazy traffic all around me to frustrate and anger me, I chose to let it remind me of all the good times I had as a teenager shopping in that city with my best friends.  I remembered how we would design our routes to make the best use of our time and avoid as much traffic as possible, even though there was no way I could retrace those routes now.  This big city had redone too many streets, so I knew it would be best to stick with the interstates and major highways to save time, if I could.  But the bumper-to-bumper traffic made saving time impossible. Still, it wasn’t all that bad.

I went to my first store and was greeted by a salesman who really helped me out a lot.  Out of all the people in the store, he approached me and helped me find what I needed. Thanking him after paying for my purchases, I headed for my next store.  In the hustle and bustle of traffic, I missed the turn to the store… twice! But instead of getting upset and angry like so many other drivers were obviously becoming, I just chuckled.  After all, I was doing it for my mom, and it wasn’t so bad.

This procedure repeated itself more than once, as I attempted to find store after store, got lost and turned around, and retraced my steps so I could get into the parking lot of the store that I had just… passed… so I could make my purchases, and then go on the the next store, that I would inevitably… go right past…

But instead of grumbling and complaining, I found myself giggling and chuckling, and smiling all the way through the madness, while I thought of my friend in the hospital with an IV hooked to his arm.

Then, the last stop on my shopping expedition brought me to the mall, where the traffic was enormous and tempers were flaring.  But instead of joining the throngs in their shopping exasperations, I remembered back to my high school days, when my friends and I would play “stalk the shopper.” See, the only way to get a parking spot anywhere in the mall parking lot, was to follow a shopper that was obviously going back to his or her car.  You had to drive very slowly so you could see which car the person was walking toward, then wait for them to get in and pull their car out, and then quickly swing in as soon as the driver vacated the space, all the while hoping that someone else wasn’t coming toward the space from the other direction, ready to steal it from you if they could.  Hence the name of the game: stalk the shopper.

And remembering that game brought outright laughter from deep within me somewhere.

A shopping trip that I had hoped would only take me an hour, or 90 minutes tops, took me three hours at best.  And then I headed back across this huge city, to my mom’s house where she and I would get in the car and go out to celebrate our birthdays.  And all in all, it wasn’t all that bad.

I left the next day, after staying up really late to wrap presents, and made the 6-hour drive home, stopping back by my in-law’s house to drop off some things.  Once I got home, I was dog tired.  But it wasn’t a bad trip at all.  And all the way home, I thought about my friend, such a trooper, and how deeply his words had touched me.

Remember that Rich told me to tell my mom that he said hello?  Even though she didn’t know him at all, and wouldn’t remember that I had given her that message?  Well, on the way to dinner Saturday night, I told her.  They’ve never met, and she was quite surprised that she would be getting a greeting from a young man she didn’t know.  But her response was cute: “well! how lovely!”  But it brought a smile to her face, and that’s what matters, right?

I arrived back home late on the Sunday night before Christmas, and checked my inbox to see if my friend had sent me another message. Yes, he had. And I thought back on what a difference his comments had made in my entire weekend.  I had begun my trip with a blanket of sadness and grief surrounding me.  I finished my trip with a larger smile on my face, a bit more twinkle in my eye, and little more sunshine in my day. 

Because, after all, it’s not that bad, really, even when it’s bad.  And I did get to enjoy my mom, even if she doesn’t remember a thing about it. Which, evidently, she didn’t, because she called me late Monday night, after I had spent the weekend with her and gone to dinner with her for our birthdays.  Yes, indeed, she called and said to me, “Oh! I forgot to call you for your birthday, so Happy Birthday!”  And instead of crying, I just laughed and shook my head in amazement.

Because even when it’s bad, it’s not all that bad, and the bad isn’t going to last forever.  Right?

So yeah, I got to enjoy my mom one more time, while she can still halfway remember who I am.  And that’s what matters.

 

Thanks, Rich. 🙂

Today’s Cookie  Crumb:

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4

If you would like to read Rich’s blog about his experience, then go to:

http://web.me.com/richwillis/CancerBlog/Home_Base.html

Trust me.  You’ll be a different person once you’ve read it!

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Comments»

1. syinly - January 7, 2009

Thank you I enjoyed your post. My grandmother is getting to that point also where she doesn’t remember much. At first I wanted to avoid her but after reading your post. I will not do that. She does make my laugh some times because of the things she forgets. You are right we should enjoy our loves if doesn’t matter if they remember it or not. We will and God will be pleased.

2. The Cookie Lady - January 7, 2009

I’m sorry about your grandmother, but I can empathize. I hope you have many wonderful memories of your grandmother in the new year! While you’re at it, get her to talk about “the old days” as much as you can, and write that stuff down! Get her to tell you about her childhood, and her grandparents, and all of those wonderful stories while she can still remember them, because it’s all a part of your heritage. And heritage is a beautiful thing, even with the hard parts and the trials.

And you know what they say, “When an elderly person passes away, a library closes.”

3. Faye - January 16, 2009

Thanks, Michelle! Yeah, that’s the Rich I remember. I’m so glad that you got to enjoy your mom! And I’m so glad you learned that lesson about making the choice to see the good. It’s one of those life lessons that last and last and last.

Love your blog! I’m gonna have to keep returning!

4. The Cookie Lady - January 16, 2009

Gosh, thanks, Faye! That’s so sweet of you to say that you love my blog. I’m such a newbie at blogging, but I love it. Please feel free to give me pointers!

Making the choice to see the good…. what a valuable lesson! I’m trying so hard to instill it in my boys. I want them to be able to see life from a “sunny” perspective, even when the skies are gray, you know? And just like me, they’re learning it, and by God’s grace we’re all getting better at it.

God bless you! I’ll be visiting your blog often too!


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