Many of us are at the point in our lives when we are helping our aging parents. It seems like many more people are living into their 90s now, but maybe that’s not true. I may notice it more now because I’m dealing with my dad who’s 93 years old. What I’m discovering is that anything “new” is hard for my dad to grasp. This is not said in a derogatory fashion but as a simple fact. We all change as we get older and our ability to handle “new” things becomes harder. For me this discovery came in the form of an upper partial denture plate made just for my dad.
A few weeks ago dad lost his front tooth–totally lost it. There was a cap on it which fell out and took the whole tooth with it. The dentist pulled the root and then said that a partial plate would do the trick. The partial plate would include the front tooth as well as a molar on the side. This would make it fit better and be easier to put in and take out each day. All of that sounds great in theory but in real life, not so great! I took him back to the dentist to be fitted. The appliance went right in his mouth and fit very well. We were told to leave it in overnight the first night. So far, so good…but then came the next afternoon.
I prepared the container for the appliance and then told him where to grab it in order to take it out. He grabbed everywhere else but where he was supposed to grab. So I put on gloves and took it out. The next morning I came in to help him put it in. He couldn’t see where to put it and I explained how to feel where to put it but my gloves had to come on again. He couldn’t understand how to do it. The whole process is “new” to him. The result is that I have a “new” process. I go by every morning and put it in, then every night to take it out.
“New” is hard for people in their 90s, but “new” is also hard for me in my 60s. This is not what I wanted to be doing. I have a hard time working in other people’s mouths. It brings a nauseous feeling to me. Even as I write this my stomach gets a little queasy. What am I to do with this “new” in my life? I’ve struggled with it, but I do understand it. I’ve struggled with it, but I can do it. I’ve struggled with it, but God is doing a work in me.
- God is changing my natural reaction to other people’s mouths. I’m surprised at how God has given me grace to do something that causes me to be sick. The feelings are not as prevalent now. This is can only be God who is doing this for me. It’s certainly not my own will, because it screams against doing this for my dad. “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Psalm 145:9 God knows my frailty. He gives me mercy and grace in my frailty.
- God is giving me strength in my weakness. The truth is I get tired. Sometimes I just want to stop doing what I’m doing but God has other plans for me. He wants me to depend on him and not on myself. I don’t have the strength to persevere in this tooth insertion process. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;…” Psalm 28:7a God always helps me, on that I can rely.
- God is giving me an opportunity to serve my dad. It’s great to serve others when it’s something we enjoy doing. I love to cook. So if I get the chance to cook for someone, I’m there! Is my cooking serving? Yes but it is a serving opportunity that I enjoy as much as the recipients. “…but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13b All service is to be done in love for others. I may not like this service, but it is a time in which I can love dad well.
“New” can be hard for us at any age but as we persevere in the “new” we will begin to see that it becomes “old”. God created us so wonderfully in that we can adjust to the “new” situations we face in life. The goal for followers of Christ is that the adjustments we make will result in us looking more like Jesus.
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18