Friday, May 3, 2013

The Expected Unexpected

Winter stretched into spring and blew in with a vengeance in March. April came, and we breathed a sigh of relief, although spring was late coming. Earlier in the week, I noticed that my lilacs had finally bloomed and filled the air with their distinctive scent. May apples formed umbrellas and Missourians took to the woods in search of morel mushrooms.

May came with seventy-degree weather. Then, this morning the unexpected happened, and I woke up to snow. Seriously? Snow in May? Yes, I know, snow had been predicted, but I figured we might have some white flakes mixed in with rain, but it would melt as soon as it hit the ground. Instead, it snowed for several hours and the ground was piled with puffy white snow more befitting a winter day—not a May day.

Through my patio door, I could see green leaves covered with snow. It almost looked surreal. I can’t recall ever seeing Mother Nature so confused. I could see how a heating/cooling system could wear out trying to keep up with the drastic changes in temperature. A forty-degree variance in one week takes a lot of getting used to.

The unexpected weather made me think about other unexpected events in my life. Jim’s dementia was unexpected. He was so young that it took more than a year before dementia was diagnosed. Even after I learned everything I could about the disease, the change, though expected, was still unexpected. It didn’t seem possible that the man I knew could be consumed by a disease that erased memories and skills built over a lifetime.

Then, the expected outcome hit with unexpected emotions. It didn’t matter that I knew the disease was going to progress and take on a life of its own. A point came when our world changed, we changed too. We adapted and kept on going—taking one day at a time, or sometimes an hour at a time. Life became the peaks and valleys of human nature.

Being a primary caregiver for someone with dementia is challenging. Caregiving requires a talent for thinking on your feet, and developing an ability to expect the unexpected at all times. There is no way to sugarcoat it and say that you will always be at the top of your game. After all, the best caregiver in the world is only human. Even good caregivers make mistakes, have regrets, and may suffer from serious doubts that they can do this job day after day, year after year.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the most difficult days in our lives are the ones that define us? When you face challenges and give it your best, you develop strength and self-assurance you will never get by running away. When you look at the positive, and seek out small moments of joy, your life can take on a new purpose.

After the snow quit this morning, I walked out into the yard to have a look around. As I looked back across the yard, I could see my footprints in the snow, wandering here and there, but clearly showing where I had been as I searched for the unexpected on this strange day in May. Then, I spotted my lilacs, peeking out beneath a layer of glistening, pristine snow. It was like finding a promise of better days ahead.

Copyright by L.S. Fisher, May 2013
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