My mother has a great plan:
While she in on a much-deserved vacation out of state, I can spend some time with my grandmother.
I can spend the time she normally spends with her octogenarian mother-in-law every day, next door to the farm house where she has resided with my father since he brought her to the ends of the earth and out of inner city Toledo.
Grammy is suffering from a form of dementia called "sundowners." Her memory, shot full of holes like Swiss cheese, worsens as the day progresses, completely vanishing as the sun slips beneath the horizon.
I can relieve the in-home care for which she begrudgingly pays, convinced the family she has loved and tended for decades are simply out to steal her money.
I resisted at first. I thought I had enough stress in my life without answering the same question five times over in five minutes. I thought I could tend to my needs easier than to the needs of a woman who can't remember that she recently had eye surgery and shouldn't keep rubbing where there are stitches in her face.
But if my mother knows anything, she knows stress. And yet she still begins each day with her mother-in-law, the woman who taught her to pluck chickens and love the man she bore from her own womb.
I can handle a few days of breakfast duty. I'm free anyway.
But Grammy cannot remember plucking chickens. She remembers snatches of her youth and young adulthood, which undoubtedly held flocks upon flocks of chickens, but she completely forgets her youngest son even when she continually asks after her oldest. She doesn't remember my name until prompted, and she certainly doesn't remember rocking me in her green chair.
I do. Whenever I feel bad, I remember this. I hear the creak of the chair. I smell her baby powder. I feel assured.
Grammy mixes up her childhood homes for the insurance offices where she worked for decades. She confuses a television remote for a magic wand that will cook her meals. She confuses the people who love her for people who are out to get her.
I used to pity her.
Before that, I used to want to be her. I wanted to have her enduring patience, I wanted to model her eternal love for her family.
I wanted to have a marriage that lasted for more than 60 years.
I wanted a jewelry box full of vintage treasures that smelled of baby powder.
But now all I want is to forget like she forgets. The people she knows, the sights she has seen, sacrificing who and what she loved to forget who and what she hated. To overlook the treasured friends to completely forget her enemies.
What must it be like to have no recollection of your own transgressions, of the evidence you have mounted against those you have hurt? Oh what bliss, to be ignorant of the rules you have broken, the feelings you have hurt, the consequences you have enacted for those around you!
How much goodness are you willing to sacrifice to forget pain? What's it worth? How do you cling to hope?
It is a Lenten question, certainly.
I pray that hope is the answer.
Look for me next week, and you will find me in a little homestead next door to a struggling farm.
Clinging to the good.