The day before Easter was truly glorious with temperatures in the seventies and lots of sunshine. I spent most of the day doing yard work and when it was time to get cleaned up, Mike and I decided this would be a good day to take Dad out to dinner. We would celebrate Easter on Saturday since Sunday was supposed to be cooler and raining.
Dad, of course, had no idea it was Easter weekend. But he was having a good day and was happy to see us. He was willing to go out to dinner with us, so Mike signed him out and we tucked him into the car, buckled his seat belt, and we were off. The last time we took him out for dinner was to Olive Garden. He and Mom loved the Tuscan soup they serve but it was obvious that the crowds, the menus, and the attentive servers were overwhelming Dad. Since our goal was to have a pleasant and celebratory experience, I guided the car to Bob Evans.
While it’s not the first place that comes to mind when celebrating a holiday, it is smaller, quieter (at least on a Saturday afternoon), and easier for a dementia patient to navigate. Our waitress picked up that Dad had problems ordering and graciously worked around that. Dad got his burger and coffee and was happy. While we had the same conversation over and over, I was able to inject humor and keep Dad laughing and having a good time. Mike was greatly relieved.
I had brought my barber kit with me in the hopes of convincing Dad to let me give him a trim when we got back to the apartment. He was getting shaggy and we’d asked the aids not to give him trims anymore because it really upsets him. In his mind, he thinks people are shoving themselves into his apartment to sell him things and he’s agitated for days. Happily, during dinner Dad asked if we could stop and buy a scissors for him to trim his mustache. I told him I brought a kit to do the job when we got back and no coaxing was necessary.
All in all, it was a good day which made me so happy for Mike. He’s experiencing what I experienced when I was caring for my mother. When with other people, my mom and now Dad can be all smiles and very charming. But when I was alone with Mom she would be impossible. Dad is doing that to Mike each day when he stops in after work. He can be very unpleasant, agitated and demanding. There are times he accuses Mike of lying about Mom Kemper or about Dad’s memory and it wears on my husband. This day and outing was a gift and we appreciate it.
After we said our goodbyes, Mike and I were walking to the car together. I mentioned how nice it was that Dad had such a good day. Mike hugged me to his side. “You’re good medicine for him,” he said, and kissed my cheek.
With those moments of encouraging one another, we keep moving ahead.
When I was around nine or ten years old, my mother told me she’d buy a horse for me if I saved enough money to pay for a saddle. She didn’t look at a tack shop that would have most likely had something more reasonable and better made. She pointed to the Sears catalog and told me that was the goal. As memory serves, it was around $200. An impossible fortune for a young girl who had no allowance, lived isolated on a farm with no transportation to get any sort of menial work. But Mom underestimated my desire and determination.
On the weekends of the school year, and every day during summer vacation, I scoured the ditches of roads and lanes miles around my house. At two cents a bottle, I found every pop and beer bottle in a two mile radius around my farm on foot with a paper bag to transport them home. One day I struck the mother lode. Most likely some teens had been drinking on the back roads and had to ditch an entire case of beer in order to not get caught. They had drunk enough to get sick, however, which made the discovery a mixed blessing. I dragged the case home (I did not have a wagon), washed off the vomit, emptied the rest of the bottles and collected my reward. My saddle jar was looking good.
I dared to dream a horse would be mine.
The money adding up made the adults nervous. It looked like I’d actually reach my goal. There was no excuse about lack of room, since we lived on a forty acre farm. I was chipping away the excuse of having tack. So they came up with a plan. Convince me to put the money in the bank to accrue interest. Of course, not a separate bank account to be able to track progress. Put it in my so called college account. I trusted these people. I followed their advice. The money disappeared and the horse never materialized. In fact, about eight years later Mom took that money and purchased some worthless land in Arizona as a retirement investment. That money did not go to any sort of education for me, nor did the land ever get used for her retirement. In her dementia, she had quit paying taxes on the lot and it went back to the county.
That’s what happened to my dream.
Recently, I dared to dream again. I dreamt that I could have an art studio that would be big enough to create in, have storage, hang art in, have classes in, fellowship in, and worship in. A creative worship studio on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. Something dedicated to both art and prayer. I talked it over with Mike. I made the pitch that it made more sense owning a property rather than paying rent every month for something too small and gave us no value in return. He was on board. We set a budget (albeit small) and started looking.
I dared to dream that things that had been spoken into my life would come to pass.
The realtor I was working with was great and on board with the vision. We looked at a lot of properties. The market is currently overheated and people looking at houses were offering far more than they were worth. Nonetheless, our plan was to steadily and patiently look and not be in a rush. But the political situation affected the markets and suddenly we were no longer in a position to purchase anything. I had dared to share the dream with others, asking them to pray. I had dared to share the dream with the realtor, wasting so much of her time. I had dared to believe the dream could come true.
I could take this failure deep into my heart and decide that dreams aren’t for me. But don’t underestimate my desire and determination. I am taking to heart the quote by Paul Tillich. “He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.”
I will continue to dare to dream.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.