Towing My Mother’s Row

My mom was diagnosed with advanced stage Alzheimer’s disease and I was her primary caregiver; this is a short story (entitled Towing My Mother’s Row) about me and my mom’s journey through Alzheimer’s disease:

Towing My Mother’s Row

Introduction-Scene 1

My dad loved to talk to me about growing up with my mom in their small hometown.  Their two families picked cotton in the same field and to hear my dad tell the story, my mom was the worst cotton picker ever.  My dad said that you could always tell which rows had been assigned to my mom, because they were the rows that had plenty of cotton still left to be picked on them.

My favorite part of my dad’s story is what my grandpa (my mom’s father) did to help her; following picking his many rows of cotton, he would go behind my mom and finish picking her rows of cotton too.  My dad told me that what my grandpa did was called “towing someone’s row”.  The term back then had literal meaning, but in today’s time, the term is figurative.  My grandpa finished picking my mom’s row(s) of cotton because she was unable to do it herself; and that’s what the term is all about – consistently helping others who for whatever reason are unable to do things themselves.

I’m a “row tow-er”, I consistently provide care to my mother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and this is my short story about Towing My Mother’s Row!

Priority of Love-Scene 2

Love, “it beareth all things, it hopeth all things, it endures all things, it never faileth!” (1 Corinthians 13:7) I have many roles to fulfill in life: I’m a daughter to Annie, a sister to Wanda, an aunt to Kevin, Kenny, Kennedy and Kylie. I’m a child of God (a Christian) and a church member at St. Mary’s.  I’m the Steward of Live His Love and I’m a Trainer at Unidad of Miami Beach.  I’m a friend and a good neighbor to many (I hope) and I run a small household.  Everyone of my roles are important, however, they all can’t take the same priority in my life.  To be the most successful me possible, I must prioritize my roles and the responsibilities that come with them.  I remember reading somewhere, “that when you say yes to something, you are at the same time saying no to something else”.  I have learned that for those times when I must say “no” to something by default, that I must be willing to accept the consequences for your decision.  I said “yes” to the role of being my mother’s care-giver and by default it meant that I had to say “no” to coming in to work early, staying at work late or taking work projects home; the eventual consequence was that I was fired from a position that I had held for 4.5 years.  It hurt tremendously not to have received a word of thank you for the contributions that I had made to that organization and to have heard that my services no longer provided them any value, but I still do not regret making my mom’s care a priority!  Why? Because “love beareth all things, it hopeth all things, it endures all things, it never faileth”!

Health and Strength-Scenes 3 and 4

Recently, I moved my health to a position of one of my top priorities in life.  I’m a tennis fanatic and in my mind’s eye, I see myself as being quite good.  However, if you were to ever watch me play, you would clearly see that my mind’s eye version of how I play is only wishful thinking.  My Tennis partner (Minister Mikel) helps to bring me back to reality each time we play, because rarely, if ever, am I able to beat her at the game.  But there’s something that I have begun to notice as I play tennis with Minister Mikel…I’m getting healthier, even though I’m losing games.  I’m getting stonger, even though I’m losing sets.  I’m getting into better shape, even though I’m losing matches.  What I’m doing is building physical health and strength!

Many viewed my firing as a failure and I must admit that there were times when I did as well.  But during the last 1.5 years at my former place of employment when I was undergoing intensive disciplinary action, I made reading the Bible one of my top priorities in life.  And even though I so very much desired to resign my position as a Trainer with that organization (the more intense the disciplinary action became) I kept reading “that no weapon formed against me shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).  Almost each day as I worked, I so desired to give up the fight, but I kept reading “be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  And nearing my end days at my former position when the feedback I was consistently receiving was so very negative and even I couldn’t understand how I could have possibly qualified for the position I held if all of things being written and spoken about me were true, I just kept on reading that “in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have already overcome the world” (John 16:33).  What I was doing was building spiritual health and strength!  What a precious gift from God to have spirtual health and strength!

I believe it was spiritual health and strength that allowed my grandpa to “tow my mother’s row”.  Can you only imagine how tired he must have been to have worked in the cotton fields all day long in the boiling how sun and to arrive at the end of the day to find that his baby girl yet again wasn’t able to completely pick the cotton on the row(s) assigned to her?  Yet, from my father’s observations, my grandpa seemingly understood that due to my mom’s young age at the time, she simply was unable to pick all of the cotton on her row(s) and without complaint, he simply “towed her row”!

I’m not as good at “row tow-ing” as I have observed my dad and mom to have been as I was growing up.  You see, I learned “row tow-ing” from them…so many countless family members and friends I have watched them help over my years being their daughter!  But spiritual health and strength allows me to be the best “row tow-er” I can possibly be.  In Luke 6:44, I read that “every tree is known by his own fruit”.  By “towing my mother’s row”, I produce fruit that I want to be known for: “the fruit of love, peace, gentleness, joy, patience, faith, goodness, kindness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  I’m grateful for the challenges I faced on my former job, I’m grateful for the difficulties I face in “towing my mother’s row”.  I’m grateful because each challenge and difficulty has resulted in a stronger, healthier, spiritual me!

Reflections of Peace-Scene 5

One of my favorite stories of the Bible is when the disciples found themselves in the midst of a storm; they awaken Jesus and asked “Master, carest not that we perish?” (Matthew 8:23-27)  I ask Jesus that often, “don’t you see what I’m going through, don’t you care that it’s too much for me to handle?”  But what I loveabout this Biblical story is that Jesus awaken asking the disciples “why are you so fearful? Oh ye of little faith” and he rebukes the wind and the storm ceased!  Faith and peace co-exist in the same space.  All throughout the gospels, Jesus acknowledges the importance of faith; and even for those lacking faith, he still shows himself faithful, granting healings as evidence that the peace we seek is tied to believing and having faith in his ability to meet our needs.

My mom has what I call “episodes” from time to time; the Alzheimer’s disease causes her to become confused, frustrated and even belligerent and angry.  I used to pray for peace in my mother’s life, but I’ve made changes to my prayer and I now pray for my peace as well!  During my mom’s episodic time periods, I have been spat on, I’ve been yelled at, I’ve had my hair pulled and I’ve been looked at with burning red eyes of fury but I continue to pray for both peace for my mom and peace for me.  Why? Because her “episodes” have taught me that my peace, brings about her peace.

My faith in God’s ability to do “all things well” (Mark 7:37), allows me to have peace in the midst of a chaotic or episodic situation.  So when I think that what I’m going through seems pointless, I’m reminded that “[I am] the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”. ( Matthew 5:14-16)

My purpose is to be that reflection of faith and peace for the world to see!

God doesn’t leave you exposed-Scene 6

One Thursday evening my mom had to be hospitalized as a result of having pneumonia.  I stayed with her deep into the night at the hospital and I arranged for a sitter to be with her while I worked that Friday.  When I arrived to the hospital following work that Friday, nurses were in the process of transferring her to the Psyche Ward because of her Alzheimer’s.  I once again maintained watch over her late into the night, until I built a level of trust with the nurse assigned to her.  Saturday morning, following shift change, I arrived to her room to find her in bed, completly physically exposed.  Staff told me that she kept pulling her IV (Intravenous Fluid) out of her arm (which cause her to remove her clothing), so they took the IV out of her arm and left her in that unclothe state.

I dressed her in her hospital garments and I draped her sheets over her and I step into my role as her “row tow-er”; maintaining quiet watch at her bedside the entire day.  I ensured she ate and drank something every time she opened her eyes.  I rubbed her forehead and I prayed and sang quietly to ensure she knew she had not been left alone in that Psyche Ward.

On that day my faith in God grew exponentially!  Faith is knowing God will meet your needs.  God loves my mom dearly.  How do I know?  God meet my mom’s needs that day in the Psyche Ward; he didn’t allow her to remain physically and mentally exposed.  He gave her me to raise up from a child so that in her elderly years I would assume my assignment at the appropriate time and stand guard at her bedside to “tow her row”.

Good Medicine-Scene 7

My mom’s former doctor requested a palliative care assessment to be conducted on her.  The specialist that he requested to assess her stated that she was in stage 6 of a 7 stage illness.  He provided me a sheet paper that listed the varying stages of terminal illnesses; interestingly enough, the final step of stage 7 is the inabilty to smile. What this sheet of paper was inferring was that death was imminent once my mom was no longer able to smile.  I quickly rebuked that diagnosis and immediately obtained my mom a new doctor, because both me and mom are children of the most high King, and although we understand that we will each face death, it doesn’t mean that we stop smiling.

So each day I welcome my mom into a new day that have been filled with fresh new mercies as she awakens. (Lamentations 3:22-23)!  I inquire as to if she slept well and I ask about her physical and mental well being.  I ask what it is that she would like to eat for breakfast, even though she has lost most of her vocabulary to tell me what she wants, she still has enough vocabulary to share with me that she’s hungry.

The Bible tells me that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).  A part of my priorities is to make time to ensure that my mother laughs each day; I refuse to allow her spirit to become crushed.  I hold conversations with her, just to keep her talking and smiling; for my mother still has laughter within her.  Recently, I went to get up out of the living room chair that I was sitting in and I lost my balance and fell back into the chair.  I began to laugh, but more importantly, my mom out laughed me.  Good medicine to the spirit!

Leroy and Annie- Scene 8

I’m far from perfect as a “row tow-er”; I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way.  And I don’t know if my grandpa ever knew that my dad was watching him as he “towed my mother’s row” (so many years ago) but I honor my grandpa for setting an example that my parents chose to immolate, which later caused me to immolate them.  I’ve grown in the “row towing”; I’ve become more loving, more patient, more peaceful and more faithful.  My symbolic tree is producing fruit that I want to be known for, my symbolic light is shining bright upon the highest hill of the city and I’m stronger and healthier spiritually than I ever imagined.

Towing my mother’s row is by far the hardest role I have ever had in my life, but I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey thus far.  I’m grateful for my grandparents Mattie and Richard Gresham and words could never express my love for my parents Leroy and Annie Lue Williams.  I dedicate this short story to these very special people; may the words within these scense cause you to Live His Love each moment of your remaining life!

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