He wanted his sausage, egg and cheese biscuit…and he wanted it NOW!
And not a Jimmy Dean one from the basement freezer. He wanted one from McDonald’s. The one in Malaga.
My poor father-in-law! It had been a long and confusing couple of days around here.
Let me tell you about it. I really do have a point. And it’s not a plug for McDonald’s.
Kenny’s parents, both in their early 90’s, have lived with us just short of two years. The months have flown by and I am stunned when I realize how long we have shared a home. It has been delightful. Honestly.
But a couple of weeks ago, Mom began to stay in bed a lot, very much out of character for this spunky, no nonsense farmer’s daughter. I could tell she wasn’t feeling well at all. She also was barely eating and so she was very weak and shaky. Now she is just not a complainer and she doesn’t want to bother me, so it was pretty hard to get a lot of information. She also doesn’t like to go to the doctor and she knows how I feel about that. Bit by bit, though, her daughter and I pieced together enough information to be quite concerned. I’ll spare you the details!
And, sadly, this all began the week of their SEVENTIETH wedding anniversary! I told you she was spunky! And so is he.
We did some scrambling to accommodate our various party plans. The evening of July 25, seventy years after they had so innocently repeated their vows to stay together forever, Mom valiantly managed to sit, a bit wobbly, at my dining room table. She and Dad basked in the love and gratitude of several of their children, celebrating that very special, remarkable day. She ate very little. But she smiled a lot.
Dad enjoyed the evening. He loves having his children near. But he was clueless. A nasty stroke several years back left him with some frustrating memory issues and word retrieval problems. Mom said he had no idea it was their anniversary. He ate a lot and he smiled too. It was a joyous occasion whether he understood its purpose or not. They went to bed early, tired and happy.
But it took its toll.
Mom was terrible in the morning (Friday). She couldn’t even lift her head off the pillow without a lot of effort. I really thought we should go to the ER, but she adamantly refused. Her doctor would be back from his vacation on Monday morning, and she agreed she would go in to see him then. She let me call and make an appointment. The weekend loomed in front of us, though, and I was nervous about waiting that long. Something was very wrong with her. I know it sounds dramatic, but I am an experienced caregiver and have served quite a few ill and elderly ladies. I hoped she could last until Monday.
Slowly, with me supporting her, Mom quite literally staggered to her chair. We agreed she should try to drink something and attempt to eat some toast. Dad just hovered about like a frail and anxious helicopter. I fixed him some coffee and juice and got him his morning pills. Mom does everything for him, including driving him around in their pickup truck. That day, though, she couldn’t help him; she couldn’t really even do for herself. He was unhappy. The news was on and they wanted to watch it; that is their morning routine and they settled in. I went to get dressed.
When I returned, I thought Mom was a bit better. Relieved, I told them both that I had a 10 o’clock mentoring appointment in Vineland and another one at noon. I was conflicted, uncertain what to do. I hated to leave them. I told them I was happy to cancel if they wanted me to stay, but they assured me all was well. Mom just wanted to rest. And she was tired of us both fussing over her.
I reluctantly decided to go. I suggested I would bring Mom some chicken soup from Chick-fil-A when I came home in the afternoon and asked Dad what I could bring him. That’s when he told me he wanted me to go to Malaga. It took us a few minutes to figure out what he was trying to communicate. Finally it was clear. He wanted a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. From McDonald’s. From Malaga. Mom started to object, reminding him I was going somewhere else, but I assured her I would be happy to indulge him and get what he wanted on my way home. I did fuss around a bit more and then felt a little better about leaving. As I kissed them goodbye, I reminded Dad I would be bringing him the sandwich later on, thinking he would be pleased.
“Oh, no,” he said, clearly annoyed. “I want it now. Go to Malaga now.”
Well, it was nearly 9:30. Mission: Impossible. Not if I needed to be in Vineland by 10. I live in Pittsgrove.
And I had just gotten a new phone. My contacts were not downloaded correctly. I wasn’t sure I had the information necessary to cancel my first appointment in time. Mom and I tried to explain that I would be bringing the biscuit home for lunch or dinner, but Dad stubbornly repeated that he wanted it now. I sat down, conflicted, thinking what to do, when Mom pushed forward in her chair and said sweetly, “Well, I guess if you could help me out of this chair, I could pull on some clothes. I think I could get us to the Drive-Thru.”
Now, mind you, she was sicker than I have ever seen her—and I have been in the family for 49 years and a friend of the family’s for much longer than that. She had basically been in bed for over a week with few exceptions. She had quietly talked to her daughter and Kenny about some end of life matters. But this dear wife, not trying to manipulate me, not just sucking it up, not simply being a martyr, wanted to set her own personal and significant problems aside and sacrifice herself to please her man. Willingly. Readily. He wanted a biscuit. She would take him to get it.
No wonder they’ve lasted seventy years.
Sometimes I don’t feel like passing Kenny the salt.
Now I didn’t let her do it. I suddenly (Thank you, Jesus) remembered that Kenny’s brother, who was supposed to be taking them to Lobster House that day as his gift to them, was coming instead for a visit. I called him to see when he was coming and to ask him to make a detour to Malaga. He was happy to oblige. Dad got his biscuit. I kept my appointment. And Mom, after a lot of poking, prodding, and testing this week, finally has a diagnosis or two and is making a slow but steady recovery. She really was (and is) very sick. And she still doesn’t like to go to the doctor.
So here’s my point...well, one of them. My in-laws, by their own admission, are not perfect people. Nor was their marriage ever a perfect marriage. But when they vowed to see it through, to stick it out for better or worse, in sickness or in health, ‘til death would part them (maybe sooner now than later), they meant it. Their lives haven’t always been easy. There have been some very ugly and difficult days. There has been fun, laughter, and music. There has been sadness, pain and confusion. But I have witnessed them pull together and cry out to their God…in joy and in sorrow. They know He is the One who has been with them from the beginning of their long journey. He is the faithful One. Hadn’t they each pledged, “…so help me God?” He did.
I was humbled that busy morning. I felt I had just witnessed something beautiful and sacred. Yes, I was convicted of my own selfishness and laziness. Yes, I was embarrassed that I don’t always want to love and serve Kenny like that. No, I don’t want to be uncaring and egocentric. Yes, I want to have a good marriage. There is much to be learned from watching their tender care of each other, and I want to be a good student.
But there was so much more. And this is my most important point. You see, I don’t think that touching scene from the lengthy story of their marriage was really about Mom and Dad at all.
I think it was a God moment just for me.
In the unselfish, unconditional, sacrificial love Mom displayed to a rather cranky, insensitive man whose mind betrays him, I saw my Father’s perfect love for me, one, oh, so undeserving: weak, ungrateful, forgetful, selfish, broken, demanding and miserable. Yet He unconditionally, selflessly and lavishly pours out His love to me over and over. It is simply unfathomable.
And it has and will last much, much longer than 70 years.
Doesn’t He do that for you, too?
Yes, He does. Look no further than the cross.
It’s His love that compels us to love.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. John 13:34-35
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
Consider the words from the beautiful hymn, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.
How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure