“You’re Kimberly, right?” he asked.
“My daughter, right?” He nodded in a half statement, half question.
“Right,” I smiled.
He patted my knee and looked at me, “You know I was married before.”
“I know,” I chuckled through my response, “to my mother.” (My parents divorced, and my dad remarried over thirty years ago.)
We sat in silence side by side on the sofa like strangers on a park bench. I longed to find the question that would connect us back together again. I silently searched my mind for one memory we could share.
Talking to my dad is like a waltz these days as wisps of memory dance in and out of our conversations. Timing is everything. Mornings are better than evenings. In person is better than phone calls. Sharing his childhood memories are better than mine. A question answer cadence is repeated over and over — 1-2-3, 1-2-3.
God is teaching me many things through my dad’s journey with dementia.
My dad can no longer join me in the world in which I live. The present day is missing for him. He often struggles with knowing if it is morning or evening or even if he is married or not. When I go visit him, I can’t expect to have a conversation with him as I have had in the past. He doesn’t really know who I am. To him, I have become “that nice young person who comes to visit.”
In order to connect with my dad, I have to find out where he is in his memories and join him there. I have to go to where he is. I cannot force him to see me for who I am and where we currently are; he just can’t connect to me in that way. Trying to get him to be who he was is a struggle in futility that leaves us both frustrated. It is impossible. He can’t change. But I can.
The struggle I have with connecting with my dad has opened my eyes to the dilemma God faced in building a relationship with us after our sin separated us from Him. He was perfect and holy, but because of our brokenness, we couldn’t go to where He was. No matter how hard we could try, we couldn’t be good enough to be in relationship with Him.
Yet God still deeply desired to be in communion with us, so He chose to come to where we were. He sent Jesus to dwell with us by becoming human, being born as a baby. I can’t expect my dad to be with me in the present, but I can join him in the past. When I am with him, I purposely choose to be where he is in his memories, and God did the same for us. He purposely chose to become like us so we could have a relationship with Him.
Even when we are in relationship with Him, God doesn’t expect us to be something we are not. He knows we are frail, sinful, and needy. So He meets us where we’re at. In John 4, Jesus met the Samaritan woman right where she was — at the well at noon. He knew she would be there and chose to come into her town, her space, to quench her insatiable thirst for love. He doesn’t require us to be perfect or even good to be loved by Him. Bit by bit and by the grace we have in Christ, God’s love draws us closer to Him.
That day sitting on the couch with my dad, I asked a question that unlocked a memory. My dad proceeded to tell me a story from his childhood. As he talked of hunting rabbits in the winter snow of Minnesota, I had him back — his voice and expression the same as it had once been. And in that moment, it was enough. Likewise, with each step of faith I take, with each whispered prayer I make, I move closer to my heavenly Father, who never stops reaching out to meet me where I am. With each moment of spiritual connection I have with Him, I sense His steadfast, faithful love — a love that will never give up on me.
I take heart knowing that God will keep working through the circumstances of my life to connect with me, just like I will continue to work to stay close to my Dad as we waltz within his memories.Leave a Comment