My own small world has changed more rapidly than I care to accept at this moment in time.
|Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo
By Marilyn Mackenzie
April 14, 2002
My visit to my parents home in Michigan was one fraught with pain and various other emotions as I sought to understand the illnesses that attacked my father so fiercely and so quickly. Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s disease. Pneumonia. A horrible rash about which neither doctors nor Internet sites could offer any solutions or relief for the now frail man. My father was once a man who stood so proud and strong as a tradesman in my youth; now he weighed in at a mere 144 pounds. And the prospect of him losing even more weight, even though my mother faithfully offered him a variety of foods, seemed imminent.
Sometimes I had to retreat into myself rather than expose myself to any more pain and confusion about the condition of the shell of a man who has taken over my father’s body.
Dad knew, knows, that sometimes he says some rather odd things, and he has learned to question whether or not the things he sees are real. Are there really children hiding behind each chair in the living room? "No, dad, there are no children there." It’s pretty silly that I see cars racing up and down the walls, isn't it? "Yes, Dad, that is rather silly. But you've earned the right to have such silly thoughts."
Sometimes, too, I retreated to another world, a world of the past. On one such occasion, I ventured outside even though the temperatures were horribly low for one who has lived in either Texas or Florida for the past 24 years.
It snowed while I was in Michigan, but rather than enjoying the wonder of each unique snowflake, I found myself ignoring that part of God’s northern winters. No poems or poetic thoughts invaded my brain about the wonder of snow, and I was surprised about that. As one who has written often, both in poetry and prose, about the wonder of God’s creation, about birds and squirrels and about flowers and sunshine, I was surprised that no words sprung forth about those cold crystals called snow.
Rather, as I stood shivering in the yard, the words "eeny, meeny, miney, mo" echoed in my brain. What did they mean? Was I following in my father’s footsteps and imagining things that did not exist? Still the words "eeny, meeny, miney, mo" continued to invade my thought process.
I turned and looked at the back of the home where my parents have only lived for a few short months. Suddenly their house reminded me of my grandmother’s home, the home of my father’s mother. That seemed rather odd to me, for the house itself did not look like the one in which grandma lived. The yard didn't smell like grandma’s yard, either. She always had a lot of cats, and their use of the yard as their sandbox always made the yard smell bad. My parents had no cats, although they did feed birds and squirrels. While there, I saw some of the largest squirrels I'd ever seen.
Perhaps I thought of my grandmother’s home because she also had Alzeimer’s, or at least some form of dementia. Seeing my father in his new state of confusion probably reminded me of the confusion my grandmother suffered.
And the words, "eeny, meeny, miney, mo" echoed in my brain once more. What could they mean? As I tried to analyze why those words kept forcing their way in front of the memories and thoughts of times gone by, I realized they, too, were from another world.
I remembered using those words to pick teammates as a child. The continuation of the phrase was, of course, "catch a n**** by his toes." The "n word", something our world finally stopped using. When my sister, a full thirteen years younger than me, started using such phrases to pick teammates, she and her friends said, "catch a tigger by his toes." Tigger? Did they mean tiger, and just needed something to rhyme with the old word? Or had they discovered Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too?
By the time my son was in preschool and elementary, neither the "n word" nor "Tigger" were a part of the phrases he used to pick teammates to play. Some aging parent or grandparent had taught his class "auka, bauka, soda cracker, auka, bauka, boo, in comes Uncle Sam, and out goes y – o - u." The kids loved using that one just as much as they loved hearing the silly rhymes in Dr. Seuss books.
The cold finally penetrated my very being, and I retreated back into the house. Still the words "eeny, meeny, miney, mo" echoed in my head. I fled to the basement and wrote those words in my increasingly full notebook (perhaps I need to invest in a laptop computer for times such as these). Along side that phrase, I added the words. The world is ever changing.
The world is ever changing, I wrote. With that, the echoing words were silenced. I'd uncovered the mystery that the recesses of my mind were trying to shout to me that day.
Gone are the times of jump rope rhymes like,
"Birdie, Birdie in the sky,
Why'd ya do that in my eye?
Birdie, Birdie in the sky,
Gee, I'm glad that cows don't fly."
Gone, too, I realized were Thanksgiving dinners with a peanut butter jar in the midst of turkey, dressing, candied yams and cranberry sauce. It was Dad who used to enjoy a piece of peanut butter bread at each meal, even Thanksgiving dinner.
The world is ever changing, and my own small world has changed more rapidly than I care to accept at this moment in time. My father has changed and will continue to change over the next few weeks or months. Along with him, my mother, my siblings and I are changing and will continue to change as well.
As ever, as I finished writing in my notebook, as I concluded my pondering, I offered a prayer. I thanked the Lord for showing me a few years ago that writing down my thoughts was a good way to get through any crisis. I thanked him for showing me that sometimes the public viewing of my painful struggles can help others. And then I quietly pondered one more thing. What would I do if I didn't have the Lord Jesus to lean on? How do others survive who don't know him?