Oh, what a happy relationship it was. I liked to sit with the “old man,” which I have become, and trade stories, teasing him and making him laugh; then we would laugh together. This gave me a wonderful vision for my relationship with God. Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

Harry McAvoy: Doing battle with the dragons

By  Harry McAvoy
  • April 16, 2021

Those of us living with serious health concerns know the days can be long. I have always appreciated an expression I heard years ago: The days are long, but the years are short. 

When I was younger, the notion that the years were short helped me to keep my foot on the pedal, achieving what mattered to Jennifer and I.  Back then, it didn’t seem like the days were long because there was so much to do, and when I appeared to have down time the Bride or one of our six children would fill the empty spaces.

Now as I live with memory loss, those long days can be a problem. For example, this morning I am at home, shaved and showered, all dressed up with my hair in order, but no place to go. Of course, there is my dear friend Neve, our 97-pound dog, who needs regular attending to. Neve, like me, is living with serious health issues, so most days we walk a few doors down the street, then a few doors up the street; before stopping to stand, stare and wonder. It is wet out today, so I hope she doesn’t wonder for too long. We will probably do this five or six times before the day runs out.

With Neve taken care of, the Bride usually leaves me a few chores, but even so, I often have more time than things to do. I hope Jennifer doesn’t see this article.

Early in my journey with memory loss, it occurred to me a mind without purpose is like an open door where the dragons can rush in. All the big scary things of life, the fears and the what ifs, are never far away. If you give them room, they will be relentless, especially when one is frightened and suffering.

So, what to do?  How does one battle with big, scary, fire-breathing dragons? As I have heard it said, the best defence is a good offence. Every day I work at maintaining a grateful heart and ensuring my dance card is full. When seeking to have a grateful heart it helps to keep counting my blessings, and it is even better when you have them written down and your list never too far away. 

As for my dance card being full, I generally try to start each day with more items than I can actually get done. I then prioritize by thinking about what is important to the Bride. Jennifer might dispute the veracity of this statement, but it is true, most days.

Then, I am careful to build in time with God, which includes Mass via Internet if necessary, time with Mary in her rosary and some good spiritual reading, with a bit of time left over for pondering. Finally, I add whatever else needs to be done, including leftovers from yesterday.

The older I get the more my time with God has become important. It helps that I was blessed to have had a wonderful relationship with my own father, who was a man after God’s heart. When I was with my dad, I never forgot that he was father and I was son. Even when he was struggling with Alzheimer’s he deserved and received my respect.

Oh, what a happy relationship it was. I liked to sit with the “old man,” which I have become, and trade stories, teasing him and making him laugh; then we would laugh together. This gave me a wonderful vision for my relationship with God. While I am always respectful, I am also happy and at peace in God’s presence, and I try to stay close all day long, even while completing the Bride’s additions to my to do list.

As the years have worn on, and I have worn down, I have come to understand by keeping my priorities straight, my days will be happier. God is first, my loved ones and others are second. I take care of myself through prayer, walking, reading and writing, and staying in touch with those who suffer, and those with whom I laugh.

I am happy to report that loving God and neighbour, through kind words and small acts of service, fills my days with meaning and helps me do battle with the dragons when they appear.

(McAvoy has been sharing his journey of dealing with memory loss with Register readers.)

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