Imagine waking up on a Sunday morning, brushing your teeth, making a pot of coffee and warming up some frozen pancakes for breakfast. After getting dressed, you walk to your garage, only to discover you forgot your keys. You go back to the house but the hook where your keys dangled for 50 some years is empty. Figuring you might have left them in the car, you go back to the garage, only there is a strange car parked in your driveway.
A man rolls down his window and says, “Hey! You ready to go?”
You don’t recognize the man, but he’s looking at you expectantly and inside you feel like you should go with him, but you don’t know why. You get in and try to fasten your seatbelt, but can’t seem to do it. The man is talking to you, but his words aren’t making sense and fear creeps up on you as you realize the dangerous situation you are in.
Before you decide to jump out of a moving car, he pulls in to the church parking lot. Relieved, you get out and walk up the steps. Inside the church a sea of unfamiliar faces turn to stare at you. Where did all these new people come from? You sit in the back pew because the congregation intimidates you. The piano begins to play and everyone rises to sing an opening hymn. You open the old, navy-blue hymnal, but the words and music have been replaced with doodles and gibberish. Everyone around you is singing, and while you recognize the tune, you’ve forgotten the words so you simply hum along. You feel eyes staring at you, judging you.
The pastor begins his sermon, but for the life of you, his words don’t make any sense. He is speaking English, but the words sound strange. You vaguely remember a childhood story about a girl who falls down a hole into a mystifying world. Perhaps that is what has happened to you.
After service, it’s your job to collect and count the money. It’s been your job for 30 years. You know the routine. After collecting the money, you start to count it, but you continuously lose your place and have to start over. Tears of frustration burn your eyes. Glancing to your right, you see a group of women and they are staring at you and whispering. You feel naked and exposed. All you want is to get home. Stuffing the money in the bank bag and tucking it under your arm, you run out of the church.
Once outside you look for your car, but can’t find it. Frazzled and confused, you just start walking in the direction you think is home. It seems like you’ve been walking forever. You hate to admit it, but you might be lost. How can you be lost? You’ve lived in the same place for 57 years! Someone must be playing a trick on you! Those strangers at the church! Why are they out to get you?
Coming toward you is a woman. Should you turn and run or ask for help? Asking for help is out of the question. She’ll think your stupid or worse, crazy! You’re frozen with uncertainty.
“Mom! Mom!” The woman calls. You look behind you, but you are alone. She must be talking to you; this woman is your daughter. The fear that has gripped your heart transforms into irritation.
“What are you doing? Why did you just walk out of church like that?”
“Those old biddies were talking about me behind my back!” You spit out in anger. The woman that is your daughter rolls her eyes and takes your arm, leading you like a puppy.
Finally you are home! But there’s a large man in the middle of your kitchen and he’s glaring at you. “Do you know you put a glass coffee pot on the stove and left it on? Do you want to burn the house down?” He scolds you.
You say nothing. You don’t know him. He has no right to lecture you in your own house, but he’s a man, a much larger man than you. You stay quiet. He leaves. The woman that is supposed to be your daughter looks at you with a mix of pity and sadness. “I’ll be back over to make you lunch. There’s a pot of coffee already made.”
She leaves and you slump down in your chair, finally letting your tears fall. You are not a helpless child! You are not an ignorant fool! But that’s how you are treated. You decide that going back to church would be a mistake. All the comfort and security you used to find under its steeple has disappeared; instead you feel fear and anxiety.
Pulling yourself together, you change out of your Sunday best. Heading into your kitchen, you decide not to wait on the woman who claims to be your daughter to make you lunch. You are perfectly capable of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You open the breadbox and see a plate stacked with pancakes. Now who would go and put pancakes in the breadbox you wonder.
Dedicated to my Grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Writing about the illness, its effect on her and its effect on me has helped me to cope with the anger and anguish I feel.
Lord, I pray that in the midst of her confusion and hopelessness, when she is crying in frustration, you will gather my grandma in your arms and hold her. You are the only one who is capable of overcoming this devastating disease. Amen.