Monday, April 14, 2014

The Catch

(The last picture of our parents together, taken on their 58th anniversary, Christmas Day, 2007.)

Dad died six years ago tomorrow and Mom followed suit a year later. She, like so many, fell victim to Alzheimer's. Mom's condition had a tremendous impact on my father. Dad loved Mom so much that he literally gave his life to take care of her. I wish that my students could have witnessed this first hand instead of simply through my classroom narratives. This entry is from March 13, 2007.

I read it, I think, when I was in high school. Joseph Heller's novel, Catch-22, was published in 1961. With a setting from the Second World War, Catch-22 became a catch-phrase for a paradox or no-win situation. The title was based on an imaginary military regulation dealing with mental fitness for combat. A pilot could get out of flying combat missions if he could prove insanity. However, if you applied for removal, you knew the missions were dangerous. Therefore, you were sane and thus ineligible to be relieved of duty. In other words, there was no way out of the perceived predicament. The main character in Heller's book, Captain John Yossarian, was stuck.

I am visiting my folks for Spring Break. I've chronicled Mom's descent into the abyss of Alzheimer's in a number of entries. I usually see her at intervals of several months. She seems to have plateaued in the past year. In some ways, she actually seems better. Therein lies our family version of Catch-22. On Mom's good days, she is a wanderer, capable of unknowingly destroying family heirlooms and valuable property while putting herself in danger. I cringe when she picks up a knife or approaches anything made of glass. On Mom's good days, Dad tends to have bad days. He is worn to a frazzle trying to keep up with her, watching her like a hawk to keep Mom from hurting herself. Invariably, as soon as he picks up the phone on my nightly call, I can tell what kind of day Mom has had by the tone of Dad's voice. On many nights, our conversation is interrupted by,"!" On the other hand, when Mom has a bad day, when she is lethargic and non-communicative, Dad can accomplish much more, often for Mom's own benefit, in terms of cooking and household chores. It's a paradox. When she has good days, he has bad and when she has bad days, he has good. (You realize I'm speaking in practical terms, not referencing his constant grief for her deterioration or in the intellectual loss of his best friend.) There is no solution, at least from an earthly perspective. 

Paul had a Catch-22 dilemma. He fervently wished to leave this mortal existence and join the Lord in the eternal reward but his services/encouragement were desperately needed by the Christians in Philippi. He clarifies his conflict in Philippians 1, verses 23-24:
"I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."
Like us, Paul couldn't have it both ways. You can't be here and in heaven concurrently so he, through the Lord, took the most useful option, staying put. Mom and Dad will make it. It isn't always pretty but it is the will of God and people are learning because of their examples. Mom shows that you can be amazingly sweet and kind in spite of everything and Dad shows you can be faithful and loving, also in spite of everything. In Heller's book, Yossarian was looking for a way out. My dad isn't.

Applicable quote of the day:
"When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch-22, I'm tempted to reply, 'Who has?' "
Joseph Heller

God bless,

Luke 18:1
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1 comment:

Susan said...

Thanks for posting one of my favorite pictures of Roger and Nelda. I feel I was especially blessed living with them and trying to make the load easier. You mentioned your mom unknowingly destroying family heirlooms. I remember the expression on your dad's face when he realized Nelda was eating his Bible! One other time your dad crushed Nelda's pills to put in her soup and put them in mine by mistake! I began to feel funny and sluggish while I watched Nelda come to life with way too much energy. I had to ask for an extension on my research methods exam that night.

I miss them every day and would not trade one minute of the time I had with each of them.