Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging and frustrating. But for me, it’s something I want to do. My goal has always been to keep Jim at home with me as long as possible, and hopefully, he’ll never need to live in a facility. But after getting to know many people faced with my same circumstances, I realize what I’m trying to do is not for everyone. But it still surprises me when my decision to keep Jim at home strikes a raw nerve in some people.
One particular evening stands out to me. We had been with friends out of town, and Jim had a difficult day. I knew a change of environment usually upset him, so his demeanor didn’t faze me much. I knew it would quickly pass. But one of our friends had grown weary of Jim’s anxiety and outbursts and saw the situation quite differently. While eight of us were having dinner at our rental house, my friend stood up and confronted me. “What is the end game here?” he demanded angrily. I was shocked. The questions he was really asking were “Why are you doing this?” and “Why don’t you put Jim in a facility?” I muttered something about this not being the time to talk about it, and he left the table.
His question and obvious anger stayed with me. What is my “end game” all about? It is about a lot of things. I think Jim is happier at home, and I think I am happier with him at home. That in itself is enough. But there is more to it than just being happy, and I’m sure others in my situation feel the same way. One experience we had years ago really gets to the heart of how I feel.
Dating Jim was like a competitive sport. He was incredibly handsome, and women loved flirting with him. He was always dating two or three women at a time. I was obviously out of my league. I decided this relationship would need serious prayer, so I designated the intersection of Providence and Hwy. 51 as my “Jim Prayer” intersection. Every time I went through that intersection, I prayed for our relationship. One day while driving through the intersection – and at the very moment I was praying – I saw Jim coming from the opposite direction. I was so startled that he was suddenly right there. When our eyes met, I gave him a sheepish grin and drove on. About a year later we married.
Two years after that, I casually asked Jim if he remembered when he decided to marry me. He said, “I remember exactly. I was driving through the intersection of Providence and Hwy. 51. I looked up and there you were. You had this funny little smile on your face. I decided then I wanted to marry you.” I was stunned. At the moment I was praying for our relationship, Jim decided to marry me. After I told Jim the part of the story he didn’t know, it was a watershed moment for us. We realized there was no question the Lord had brought us together, and that knowledge marked us for life.
So when the question “What is the end game?” arises, I can answer that one. The Lord has blessed us with a 30-year relationship. I always want to honor and protect what God has given us, so I will take care of Jim as long as I can. I want to enjoy the gift of love and devotion God gave us for as many days and years as we can. That is my end game.
And finally, Merry Christmas to all! May this 2017 holiday season be a time your most treasured family members remember warmly for many years to come. Luke 2: 11-14