After a long week at work, I went to visit my dad and grandmother this weekend. It’s become quite a ritual. Occasionally, my brother comes along too. But usually it’s just my dad and I visiting grandmother together.
My dad usually picks me up on a Saturday morning from the trainstation and together we drive to granny’s apartment. During the half hour drive my dad tends to talk about whatever he likes to share; From his encounters with the neighbors, his own view on the world or just random memories. It’s awkward but nice. I don’t always agree with everything my dad states but I’ve learned to smile and nod. It was a nice weather out with some sunshine. Spring was on it’s way. So whenever dad would say something I didn’t like I’d just change the topic to the weather.
Eventually we arrive at grandmother’s place. My dad usually walks in first. She will always greet me with “Hello Miss, how are you”. There are moments when she will admit to have seen my face before. God willing, granny will turn 95 later this year, she suffers from Alzheimer which causes dementia and so I really can’t blame her for not being able to remember me… Sometimes she will mistake my father, her own son, for her late husband. Sometimes she will think she is also visiting, while she is at home. But there are also moments when she is able to talk about anything with a clear mind. Daylight saving time 2017 in Netherlands began at 02:00 on Sunday, 26 March. Yet despite her Alzheimer, granny managed to have all her clocks set at summer time way before everyone else did.
Like always, we have coffee together and a Dutch big cookie that my dad buys at his local bakery. Then after an hour or so a nurse comes to fix my grandmother’s afternoon meal. The nurse said that it was my uncle, my dad’s brother, who had already changed the clocks on Wednesday when he was visiting.
Health care for the elderly has suffered some mayor cuts and setbacks. Nurses are understaffed and often hardly have more than 15 minutes to help each client. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing and getting dressed in the morning are things my grandmother needs assistance with.
Dad’s side of the family is quite the complicated bunch. They hardly see or speak to each other. They aren’t that social, have narcissistic tendencies and can go berserk over a slice of bread. Seriously, it feels like trying to walk on eggshells whenever encountering anyone of the family… A few nurses have confided in me how difficult they find it to deal with the family and especially with my uncle, my dad’s brother. My uncle has official authority over my grandmother ever since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer.
To me it was just weird to have a stranger come and make dinner for grandmother, while dad and I just sit in the other room. Why pay someone to prepare a meal in the microwave when you can easily have a nice meal together? It would be nicer if we just ate together as a family thing.
My uncle is a neurotic control freak. Numerous times both me and my brother told him that we were willing to help granny too. We would love to do more than just come and drink coffee with granny. But my uncle prefers the nurses, because he doesn’t trust me or my brother. Yeah, that sure gives one a good feeling, doesn’t it? Yeah.
In the back of my mind I try to convince myself that it’s all just fear of the unknown and that my uncle is trying to do the best he can for his mother. But at the same time my grandmother with Alzheimer is alone in her big apartment for most of her days and that just breaks my heart.
All I could do was pray to God for grandma and her situation and this family. I had a feeling God wanted me to speak to the nurses in private about it too. The nurses and I agree that granny shouldn’t be living alone. On the other hand my dad and his siblings are scared that if they would put granny in a retirement home, that it could mean the end. You hear so many nasty stories of bad retirement homes. Another option would be to have granny live with a family member. But nobody wants that… I would but hey, who am I? It’s a heartbreaking dilemma.
Then this Saturday, I guess the nurse that came to prepare granny’s meal, informed us that they will no longer come and prepare a warm meal for grandmother when there are visitors over. The visitors are supposed to prepare food for grandma too. Grandmother’s health care insurance will charge her extra if a nurse has to prepare food while there are visitors over who are able to work with a microwave themselves. Something that made a lot of sense to me. Honestly, I was quite happy about this news. Eating together is fun, right? But my dad called his brother right away and they were both not too amused about this change.
The day went by like a painful slow growing pimple waiting to burst. But it was not all that bad. Granny was happy to have people over. Dad eventually was in an OK mood. The cookies and coffee were nice. It was nice.
After visiting grandmother dad and I traveled to his house. We had Chinese takeaway for dinner and watched soccer together. I hate soccer. I only watch it because dad likes it so much. But dad seems to be less of a grumpy old man and lightens up a little whenever his daughter decides to visit him every once in a while. So if this means I have to sit through a gut wrenching soccer match, then so be it.
Even though time often feels like it goes by too slow, you never know when it’ll be over. My dad isn’t the easiest guy on the planet, but he’s my dad and I would hate myself even more if I didn’t try spending time with him. Because, someday it’ll all be over.
*sigh* You can’t choose your family, they say. All I can do is pray to God that He’ll be merciful on them and give wisdom and strength to deal with what lies ahead.
On Sunday we went to see grandmother again. Of course we had cookies and coffee. We looked at old pictures, talked about old memories. It was nice. There was no nurse interrupting this time to come and make dinner. This time, dad prepared granny’s afternoon meal. I offered to help but dad insisted to do it himself. He still thought it was a bit weird. But grandma seemed to enjoy it, spending dinner time with her family, eating dinner together. Even if it’s just a microwave dinner.
After granny finished her meal, we sat a little while in the living room and eventually said our goodbyes and dad drove me to the trainstation where he had picked me up on Saturday. On our way he was still a grumpy about the nurses not coming to warm granny’s dinner when there ar visitors over. He might be grumpy about it the next time we go see granny. He and his siblings might remain grumpy about it for years to come. We’ll see. But granny seems to not mind, she seems to like the fact that her kids are making her dinner instead of a total stranger. Despite of her Alzheimer, she still appreciates that.
I remember I stepped into an overcrowded train. I felt like shit, I looked like shit. My prayer to God that afternoon was literally “Lord I am sorry, I think I’ll skip this time and go home.” Which I could have easily done. But God had different plans, I guess… Somehow, I zoned out and woke up the moment my train arrived in the capital city of the country where my church happens to be located.
Church was interesting after spending time with the family. My tolerance for bullshit was drained. And did I mention that I felt like shit? Somehow I ended up singing with the church band even though I wasn’t dressed for the occasion in my torn up hipster jeans. Things were going rather chaotic, as usual. It was getting to me. It wasn’t all bad though. During worship I felt inspired by The Spirit to sing spontaneous words of worship. It had been years ago since I had done this in front of a crowd. Normally I manage to restrain myself, because not everyone is used to experience spontaneous worship.
We have a few new younger girls singing in the band. They can’t sing and they are basically just standing there, looking pretty and lip syncing or messing up the words…. If you do that at a normal party, fine by me. But not in God’s house, not as a worship team. At the end of the service, much to everyone’s surprise, I just dropped the microphone and left. I was so done…
The weekend went by faster than it felt like it did. Thank God it’s all over for now.