Simple Joy

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“These things I have spoken to you so… My joy may be in you, and… your joy may be made full.” John 15:11 NASB
Two days a week, I take my mother to an adult memory -care facility. I drop her off mid-morning and fetch her eight hours later. Activities such as balloon volleyball start her day, followed by lunch. Other activities such as crafts stimulate her in the afternoon, with a meal in the evening. Because she enjoys social interaction, she eats better than at home.
I prefer to pick her up as she finishes her dinner. While they eat a dessert, I pull up a chair and join them. Yesterday, Mom was with Leo, Emily, and Rob who are in various stages of their disease.
With vascular dementia, Mother may not decline further, but each person is different. When I arrive, she announces to everyone at the table, I am her son. Though she says this every time, no one remembers. So she continues with a humorous story about my birth, which she’s told thousands of times to anyone willing to listen. (The punchline? She wanted a girl but got twin boys.) To the patients, it’s a new tale which they enjoy.
Leo has Alzheimer disease and is a permanent resident. A year ago, he spoke, but now he’s silent. The aging man is withdrawing deeper into his own remoteness and spends most of his day with his face in his hands. Leo no longer feeds himself, and there’s a half-eaten piece of spice cake on the table in front of him. Did the staff rush to help someone, or did he refuse to eat?
Robert is a new full-time resident who is vocal and pleasant. He compliments me on my shirt since he’s partial to blue. Robert’s still a sharp dresser and claims he has a similar one. As with most dementia patients in the early stages, the conversation appears reasonable, at first.
A year ago, Emily was more verbal than now. Resembling a schoolteacher with glasses hanging from her neck, she eats a dessert without comments. She only titters at my jokes.
While Robert compliments my shirt, again, I fork the cake and aim at Leo’s mouth. He surprises me and opens wide to accept it then holds his head a little higher. Leo’s lifeless eyes seem to awaken as he enjoys the sweet pastry.

As Mother starts an often-repeated story, everyone dining smiles. Rob invites me to his house for coffee, Emily offers an occasional, schoolgirl giggle, and Leo accepts another fork of cake. Though I’m the only one with worldly pressures, I ignore my everyday concerns for a while and enter their dream world.
God created man in His own image…. -Genesis 1:27 NASB
A child of the King, we’ve inherited a gene-like piece of God. It’s divine. Though our bodies may fail and our minds dim, His indwelling presence will always be in us. As we sit around the table, light-hearted and senseless, the joy of the Lord is here. Pleasure comes in unexpected times and places.
When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door… we don’t see the one… opened for us. – Helen Keller

(©)  2018 Ronald Milburn