A week with Lois looks like this:
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: Lois spends the day at St. Agnes, a fantastic adult daycare we have found in Valparaiso. We drop her off in the morning and pick her up in the evening. She spends a day full of activities, in a genuinely caring environment. In the evening she is home with us for dinner and the evening’s entertainment.
Tuesday and Friday: Lois spends the day with her grand daughter, who usually picks her up around 11 and brings her home anywhere between 5 and 9 pm. They visit family, go shopping, see movies and just enjoy being together.
Saturday and Sunday: Lois spends her full days with us. She occasionally is able to see family on those days as well.
Seems simple, no?
Well, yes and no.
During the week we fit in homeschooling, library trips, various activities, attempts at seeing friends and family, meals, grocery shopping, etc., etc. We try to visit a museum or something special of that sort every other week or so. I would like to add to that list long, leisure filled hours reading, drinking coca cola and napping, but that would just be crazy.
The demands of four small children, a husband, and just life in general are enough to keep me on my toes. Before Lois came to live with us I would frequently end the day feeling behind, feeling like I failed my kids or my husband, feeling as if I was climbing a never-ending mountain of laundry, meals and diapers. I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture because our life is truly blessed and happy. I have wonderful kids and and a fantastic husband. But I think all of you understand the feeling of not being able to catch up, of wanting to do, be, make more.
Now Lois is here and I truly have More. More laundry, more meals and snacks, more messes, more diapers, more running around. WhooooOOO! It is a never ending roller coaster of fun in these parts!
In our minds, when we started this whole old-person-living-in-our-house thing, we had this lovely little life.
And of course we would fit in exercise, Church, lots of activities and then expand by adding another elder! Or two!
We knew our life would not be this way. Our life pre-Lois looked nothing like that. My two year old makes sure that our life looks so not like that. My three year old makes sure life is exciting. My inability to choose laundry over reading a good book on the couch makes our life a little messier than the picture in my head.
Life with Lois goes much like the schedule at the very top of this page, with a few additions. Imagine you have a three year old. This three year old has an exceptionally short attention span, is incredibly social, does not take naps, will not spend time alone, cannot leave the house without getting lost, frequently forgets in which direction the bathroom is and also believes himself to be a fully functioning and capable adult.
This is life with Lois.
On the evenings she comes home from daycare she is happy and engaged, but incredibly tired. She would head to bed at 5pm if possible. But if we let her go to bed at 5, she is up at 2am. And we get grumpy when we wake up at 2am.
The days when she goes out with her grand daughter are good for her and for us. We attempt to catch up on things that we can’t do when she’s around. But if her grand daughter is unable to show up and we don’t find out until 11am on the day, it throws our plans out the window.
Our hardest days are on the weekends. Mike is still working, so he attempts to stack all his appointments on one weekend day. By doing that he is able to be home more during the week, which is a HUGE help. But on the long day when he is gone on the weekend it can get a little ugly. Our family in the area have helped us out immensely by taking one or two or all of the kids for the day, which lightens my load quite a bit. Because nothing says happy Sunday like Del bouncing off the walls like a pinball, Lois grouching and shushing, me chewing out kids with gritted teeth for being too crazy and then all of us going to Long John Silvers because I cannot manage to cook and keep the peace all at once.
Lois needs to be engaged at all times. And that is what is so difficult. We were worried that we would have a little old lady who never left her room and only watched soaps. Lois wants to chat, watch TV and dance. WITH YOU. No watching tv in her room, no napping and no dancing alone. She is entirely uninterested in crafts and playing simple games like dominoes and Uno are too difficult for her. Everything must be done with another person. We have discovered the music channel on cable, so our house is frequently rockin‘ out to the Golden Oldies or Classic Country. Good thing we like both. The music channel is a huge help, because I’ll turn it on loud in the living room and Lois will dance with Josie while I make supper.
Wheel of Fortune and Price is Right are life savers. Lois loves them, the kids love them, I have a nostalgic affection for them. And as a plus the commercials are all for laxatives and medicaid help so nobody is asking for the barbie pony purple princess rock star band at the end of the show. We all win!
Don’t you want to come live with us?
So now you are asking yourself, why do we do this, again?
This world is so overwhelmed with poor. My friend Shannon and I have frequent conversations asking ourselves if we are doing enough, how could we do more, and does it even matter? Now, Shannon could save the world on will power alone. I’m proud to be her friend and to see all the amazing things she does. And I LOVE that she drags her two kids to all the crazy things she does. But does she make a difference? Does my little family make a difference?
I think we do.
When you serve certain types of poor you don’t see a difference. When you go to soup kitchens and homeless shelters you only see incredible need. It feels never ending. A bowl of soup will not magically solve a persons problems. When you serve an old lady with dementia, and old lady who does not know your name after living with you for three months, you don’t see much difference. You don’t see the difference in the poor you serve, maybe. But you see the difference in your family and your children.
I’m hoping to raise my children to serve the poor. I’m hoping to help them see Christ in the dirty uncomfortable people. Because it’s easy to see Christ in the people that make you feel good and happy. It’s easy to to see Christ in the freshly scrubbed and shiny people in the next pew over. But it is hard to treat the poor as human, let alone see Christ in them.
So on our good days, Elia helps Lois figure out which of her morning pills she chews and which ones she swallows. We all pile into Lois’s room to watch the Price is Right before bundling her off to see her grand daughter. Josie learns how to do the twist, much to the delight of the old lady. On the good days I don’t find pee on the bathroom floor – not once! On the good days, we go to a museum, have a nice supper and watch a family movie before heading to bed.
And every day, whether good or not, Lois’s last words to us are, “Good night, I love you.”
To which we answer, “We love you too.”
And that is why we do this.
* Name change, blah, blah, blah.