A young girl pulls-up a soft armchair and settles her elderly friend near the bookstore window.  She looks a bit confused and uneasy, asking when they will be picked-up from their outing at Barnes and Noble. Her young friend, likely a paid caregiver, kindly replies that they have another hour before her next appointment. The two sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes while the older lady stares blankly at the large plate-glass window and her companion  casually flips through a cooking magazine. Every few minutes, the young girl looks-up from her magazine and engages her friend in conversation. She asks her questions pertaining to her past. “Did you like to cook when you were a young girl?” “Yes,” answers her older friend in a quiet voice. “What do you like to do?” asks the older friend of her companion. “I like to cook. I like to garden. And I like to read,” she replies.  A few minutes later, the young girl initiates more conversation and the older friend asks again, “What do you like to do?” As if this is the very first-time she has answered her question, the young girl patiently replies, “I like to cook. I like to garden. I like to read and help-out with my brothers and sisters.”  Their conversation continues in a similar fashion for the next half hour or so. Each time, the caregiver responding with kindness and patience.  Not even a hint of being annoyed by the repetitive nature of their dialogue.

Writing pen and journal in my lap, I sit nearby and can’t seem to keep my mind from drifting to these two ladies.  I am struck by the gift that this young girl so easily gives to her elderly companion.  The gift of unconditional love and grace.  While my boy does not suffer from the ravages of dementia, he shares the same driving need for familiarity and repetition.  Each day, much of our conversation consists of a series of question and answer sessions.  Do I have school today?  Yes, Ben, today is a school day.  Do I have enough time?  Will I have to rush?  I have too many chores!  Just relax, Ben.  All you need to do is get dressed and make your bed.  Is my backpack zipped?  Do I have everything that I need?  Yes, Ben.  Your backpack is zipped.

With each transition, we move through these question and answer sessions throughout the day.  My boy asking for reassurance.  My husband and I offering-up the same answers. We sometimes liken our daily life to the 1990’s Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day.  Each day, we wake-up and repeat these same conversations every day, all day, with just a few slight variations.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are days when my boy totally blows me away with his deep questions and unique ways of seeing the world.  But if I am being honest, sometimes, the daily grind just really gets to me.  These are the days when my responses are laced with sarcasm and weary sighs.  These are the days when I need to remember that scene in Barnes and Noble.  I accept the reality that I am human and will not always respond in the most loving way.  Throw-in an afternoon of loud, rambunctious pretend play, complete with impersonations of hissing cats and screeching birds, a few escalating sibling arguments, a melt-down over masking-tape not “listening,” and a lengthy dissertation from my boy describing his latest 5-page neighborhood drawing and I consider it a success if I am able to stand in the middle of the chaos without running for the door, even if I am in a comatose state.

At the same time, if my desire is to show God’s love to my family through my daily words and actions, I need to learn how to respond to these Groundhog Days with more patience.  On particularly messy days, I am trying to direct my initial response to God before the sting of harsh words spill from my mouth onto my children.  This is my prayer:  Dear Lord, I am exhausted and irritable.  Please help me to see my boy and girl just as you see them and not through my human eyes.  Give me the strength to respond with loving words.  Amen.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1