Love Unplugged

I spoke to my mother, Pearl, on the phone today today.  In her heyday, she was a beautiful young woman — the point of affection for many a U.S. Marine.

Her life was difficult.  She grew up in the poor southern state of North Carolina during the Great Depression.  She picked tobacco and cotton as a child.  Often, the only thing she had to eat was a piece of fatback and morsel of fried cornbread.

Mom is a dreamer.  She always wanted to be a doctor but she was never able to realize that dream.  When you are poor, sometimes dreams never come true.  But that didn’t stop her.  She became a medical transcriptionist and learned a wealth of information about the medical profession.  She still didn’t stop.   She continued to dream through her children.  I am the beneficiary of her dreams.

Mom loved music, yet she never had the chance to learn how to play the piano.  She made sure I knew how to play.  She made sure I sang in the church choir and played in the school band.

Mom loved to learn.   Of all the things she gave me, this heritage has been priceless to me.  She always made sure I understood how to learn and visibly demonstrated to me the importance of being a life-long learner.  Every week, we loaded up the family car for our trip to the library, where she encouraged me to check out books way above my reading level.

Now Mom is almost 84 and lives deep within the muffled word of Alzheimer’s.  She cries at the drop of a hat but she can’t control it.  She doesn’t remember one sentence from the next.  I repeat everything I say as if I had never said it the first time.

Yet, in this crazy, mean world of Alzheimer’s, beauty has emerged.  The things she says to me now — the things that are really important to her — are not hidden.  Things like, “you are my precious daughter.”  Things like, “I named you Kathy Jo because it was the most beautiful name I had ever heard – and it suited you.”  Things like, “I love you so much.”  How lovely to hear “I love you” over and over again and know she means it.

Some of these things were difficult to say in her earlier years before the disease began to rape and ravage her mind.  The boundaries of our sinful world tend to tie up the tongue when we think we are in control.  Each conversation I have with her is increasingly difficult and I often end them holding back tears of sadness, thoughtfully remembering how it used to be.

It is very hard to see the deterioration of a woman who used to nothing short of a spitfire.   She was the USO dancing queen – literally!  Her life was full of hardship but she always persevered.

Mom wanted very badly to be a good mother, yet like the rest of us, she was flawed.  Still, she never stopped giving it her best effort.

For instance, I had a wonderful horse once named Gracey.  My mother does not like animals of any kind.  I love animals of all kinds.  Her love for me was so great that she went with me and tried to love Gracey with me.  Love often asks you to do the things you dislike the most.

Even though my mother is not the same woman she once was, my love for her has grown and expanded because I have seen into the innocence of her heart.  The truth of her heart.  It is nothing short of Love Unplugged.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuse in the shadow of your wings.  Psalm 36:7

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