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The Circle of Family Life

My husband and I went to visit mother-in-law last weekend. She lives in the memory care unit of a nursing home. She’s been dealing with dementia for many years, and she finally got to the point where she needed 24-hour care. She’s been in her new home for a few months and seems to have adjusted well.

I’m grateful that she still recognizes us and is always happy to see us. We want to spend time with her, even though it’s heartbreaking to see her so confused. She usually has something she’s trying to tell us, but she has difficulty finding her train of thought.

During our visit, she told us several times about how she lost her false teeth, and someone found them just before breakfast the day we were there. She couldn’t tell us exactly how long they had been lost, but she was positive that the lady who cleans her room found them under her bed that morning.

I always feel like a failure when I leave the nursing home. My husband and I both have full-time jobs and no medical training. I know on an intellectual level that we are not capable of the providing the kind of 24-hour care she requires. However, my emotions want me to load her up in the car and bring her home with me. There is no way I could take care of her, though. The only thing I can do for her is to visit and try to make her feel special.

After we bid my mother-in-law goodbye, my husband called my stepson to see if he and his family were up for a visit. He needed to talk to his son about something, and I needed a hug from one of my grandchildren.

I wasn’t disappointed. My granddaughter came running up to me with a game in her hand. Believe it or not, it was one I had played with her daddy when he was a little boy – Don’t Break the Ice. We played several rounds, and her grandpa took a few turns, as well. Then we played a guessing game, followed by a game of Twister in which I chose not to participate. I was afraid Twister might be a bit much for my recently healed knee.

I left my stepson’s house with my heart full of love. I realized that while there isn’t much I can do for my mother-in-law, there is a great deal I can do for my grandchildren. I intend to spend all the time I can playing games and laughing with them, as my mother-in-law did for my stepchildren when they were small. I suppose it’s part of the circle of life.

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