I am here in a state of change. We all share this common state, demarcated by zig zag borders. By intricate design and wondrous intent, our world is destined to change. Every single micro-moment. It expresses itself anew. Fluid, not stagnant. Tension rises and falls as we lean into and out of our status quo. Our normals rise up and say we are new, this morning. Every morning, like Mercy.
Some days it creeps in. Finds its way into our world in a subtle, nuanced fashion. The transformation, almost undetectable, like my children’s height on the family growth chart, documented even as adults at Thanksgiving at Woodland Heights, grandparents and parents, archivists of change, measured in pieces of inches. Even when there is no readable, registrable growth to pencil in. We hold a vigil, meet the change.
Other days it storms into McClellanville on an October day, making landfall in my hometown, going by the infamous name Hurricane Matthew. We mark time “before Hugo” and “after Hugo” and now “when Matthew came”. Rubbish, piled up curbside waiting to be hauled off. Memories we can physically trash. This is my classroom. Here I learn about a world turned on its head, askew, a bit.
Both the art and science of Life are static. It is blooming, sprouting, dying, ebbing, flowing, shifting, while engraving its mark on of us. By God’s Divine design.
Sometimes It draws lines in the sand, divides us into us and them and asks us to vote. To remain a people of community, one nation under God, still bound together, undivided. We teeter on the cusp of change. Reconciling personal change and practicing the art of re-embracing our neighbors on all sides provides a united front for the forward movement.
Gardeners can bear witness. So can pollsters and politicians. And tide chart makers.Perhaps we are not blue or red, but in fact more the color of the hydrangea at Mersea, lavender. A sea of color, rising and falling.
Renovation has become a way of life for my husband and me. We make our home in a house built in 1904, nestled in a tiny shrimping village. I named it Mersea, a phonetic expression of my gratitude for the privilege of calling this old house near the sea my home.
Our pace of restoration waxes and wanes. Some Sundays we change a door knob or two and cut back Milkweed vines off the lamppost. Other days we take on bigger projects like laying a patio and fire-pit from century-old brick or ripping out a worn-out screened porch. We are at once at peace with the slowness of change and at a place of tension. Adding and removing. Both and.
On honest days, I say I don’t want it this way at all. I want it by my design, my way, my timing. Now. Will we ever come to a point of finally finished. Will we ever fully embrace the imperfection of our state of now. The overhaul of Mersea to a state of perfection? I may never see every room and board and fixture standing shiny, perfect and new. And that must be okay with me.
I tell myself it is wiser and healthier to be at peace with the condition of now. Reconciling myself to it feels critical to gaining peace. Hard fought peace, in the midst of pain with my mother’s Dementia washes over me. Some days.
On others I weep.
I feel disrupted and disturbed by what I cannot avoid. Reconciliation draws on all of me. Calls on all I am and all I have. Requires me to go digging deep into the wellspring of my faith. I am weak but He is strong.
Doctors, caregivers and support groups can tell you this is “by the book”.This is the route that Dementia takes as it moves through a body. This deterioration of basic skills, like speech, mobility, and remembering the words to “You Are My Sunshine”. A first-born daughter can read, listen and educate herself on the textbook progression of the disease. But there is pain in some change. There is deep undeniable pain in this.
This is momma. This is Maggie. I struggle to reconcile the fact that she is a faint shadow of my other mother. The one I’ve known for a lifetime. For 58 years. And so I cry. She still recognizes my face. I claim a victory in my battle with the disease. On my last visit, she whispered “you are my Elizabeth.” She had me when she was twenty. That is a long time to be someone’s Elizabeth.
But I am forced to reconcile the old and new. The pain and whatever joy is left. It is well that I do. It is an act of restoration, the past and the present. I hold to what fragments a fraying, fracturing disease leaves in its wake. This disease splinters, splits and breaks.
On Sunday, we tore down the old chicken coop. (Even our chickens benefit from the renovation at Mersea). My husband sawed the salvageable part from the current coop to use for the new one. A favorite neighbor stopped by and called it the “chicken palace.” I wouldn’t call it grand. But somehow, the chickens seem a bit happier in their renovated home.
As we rebuilt the hen house, our favorite hen pulled herself apart from the flock of seven and monitored every move. (She is either Esther or Maggie). It was as if she mourned the demolition of her old home.
This Penciled Wyandotte Bantam hen flew into the nesting box, a remnant of the former coop, as we ripped and sawed wire and wood. We strained to move the coop to a new place in the garden. My husband caught my eye as we moaned and struggled with the heavy load. How odd, how poignant. She had ridden out the move inside her favorite nesting box. It was a bumpy ride for one brave hen. But she felt compelled to witness the change, first hand. And then delighted in what was presented to her on the other side.
One Monday, my mother, Maggie, was moved from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility where teams of medical professionals will join my family in the fight against the changes in her mind, body and spirit. Dementia compels me to salvage what is good and worthy. Even beauty washed up in a tide of sorrow.
While I can not restore my mother to perfect health, I am working toward reconciling myself to the changes in her life and naturally, in my own. I pray for God’s mercy and I see goodness and beauty in small moments of miracle, even in the pain. Even in the grief. She remembers to tell stories, ones I know well and even one’s she has never brought to the surface. I strain to hear, to understand, and to decode her new speech.
When this November comes and goes, we will be under another a canopy, as a country and people in community. A lavender canopy, quilted together, a mix of blues and reds. Perhaps we can find peace in the change. Living with change we did not ask for or want. But finding something worth fighting for. Hard won Peace in the state of change. Peace with ourselves, our families, our neighbors and this new state of things.
Reconciliation is never easy. But I am finding beauty in reconciling the old with the new. The then and now. And re-learning in small increments, to love in new ways. Flawed and imperfect, yet struggling to reconcile what is before me. To be changed for good in the midst of change. Changes in me, my mother, my world, my Mersea.