Aug 2, 2007

Time: A Precious Commodity

By Kari Diane Pike

It’s one of those “I need a vacation from my vacation” days, but I still have a house full of company and many more things I want to do with my children and grandchildren before they all return home or go back to school. Time has become a precious commodity and I have enjoyed spending every minute of it!

I spent some time trying to communicate with my aging father-in-law. He is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Most of the time he just wanders about, as if he’s looking for something, but isn’t sure what it is he’s looking for. His speech is usually unintelligible, and he hasn’t eaten solid foods for a couple of weeks now. The doctor has issued orders for Hospice to step in and assist my mother-in-law in caring for her beloved companion. Yet, even as bad as he is, he has moments when he can remember. Mom found him standing in front of their pictures on the wall; a much younger couple with a tribe of young children around them.

He pointed at the picture, tears coursing down his cheeks, and clearly said,

“I miss her.”

Mom just hugged him and said, “She’s still here. She’s just old and gray.”

I spent time with my children and grandchildren on the beach. There were nearly sixty people at the reunion and 22 of them belonged to me! When our four-year-old granddaughter wandered off, I wanted to stop time in its tracks. I wanted everything and everyone in the entire world to freeze instantly so that we could find Audrey and know that she was safe. My heart was filled with fear and panic as I frantically searched up and down the beach for her blonde braided pigtails looped like “Websie ears” and her little blue swimsuit with purple butterflies. I quickly realized that panic and fear not only prevented me from seeing with my physical eyes, but my spiritual eyes and ears could not function well either. Finally, the Spirit pressed hard enough that I felt my mind fill with the knowledge that it was time to stop being afraid and start listening to the direction that was waiting for me. I prayed for forgiveness and that much needed direction.

The next thought to come to my mind was to go to the Life Guard Station. I took a step forward then thought, “No, it’s only been a couple of minutes. I don’t need to bother the life guards yet.” But when I turned to walk in the opposite direction I again had the thought to go to the Life Guard Station. The third time the thought came to me, I started running in the direction of the station. My six and a half foot son joined me. I told him where I was going. He nodded and looked towards the tower. Then he smiled and pointed at a little girl curled up in the director’s chair normally occupied by the life guard.

“Is that her?”

My feet flew across the deep, soft sand. When we reached the tower, I grabbed Audrey up and hugged her to me tightly, burying my face in the sandy fold of her neck, taking in the sunscreen scent of her skin and letting the salt of my tears mix with the salty residue of the beach. The warmth of her skin melted the last icy shards of fear left in my heart. I sent humble prayers of gratitude for the watchful care and patience we received.

I spent time doing things I have never done before. Instead of wading in the ocean, I gave up my fear and walked neck deep into the water. I swam in the surf, letting the waves wash over me. I even learned how to boogie board! What a rush to feel the power of the water lift and push you to shore. I didn’t get on the surf board yet, but there’s always next year!

I spent time making memories. At the San Diego Zoo, I ate insects with my grandkids. I even have pictures to prove it. We placed the little critters on our tongues and before we chewed, we stuck them out for the entire world to see. The bugs reminded me of the outside of a soggy sunflower seed. Not very sweet, but memorable indeed.

Now I choose to step further outside my comfort zone. I am ready to release the fear of not being good enough and put more of myself into my writing and teaching. Time is the stuff life is made of and I intend to make the most of it!


  1. What a neat reunion at the beach! I'm impressed with your descriptive talent, and felt I was right there, seeing and feeling everything. I did wonder how Auudrey's mother was reacting -- still too panicky to think?

    I haven't gotten excited about doing much playing around in the Pacific--it's too cold. But one day I swam out into the much warmer Atlantic just far enough to get that 'all alone in the middle of the ocean' feeling of isolation and freedom which lasted only as long as I didn't look behind me. I loved it. That is, until I lost my balance trying to stand in the shallows while returning to the beach. A goodly wave knocked me sprawling and propelled my astonished body forward, filling my swim suit with sand. I felt quite insulted! How wonderful the outdoor cold shower felt. The only sand left then was on the bottom of my feet. The contortions I made trying to get that peck or so of sand out while maintaining modesty, I leave to your imagination

    I'm sorry that yo ur father struggles to comprehend. I remember my sister writing me, a good half year after Mother had died, saying, "How would you answer when Dad asked, 'How long have I been dead?'" It's sad, but yet there is still a beauty and dignity about elderly parents, or at least we feel it when we care for them. I missed the last couple of years with my father because we were stationed in Japan. I'm glad you are able to spend more time with your father. Family is what counts! Yea for yours.

  2. Audrey's mother was caring for her newborn at the time and unaware of the incident as it happened. Her father was searching the other side of the beach. While concerned, he hadn't panicked, yet. Audrey has always been a wanderer. We've had to call for the police to search for her before. Doors are kept locked and usually a tight leash...but dog gone it...we turned our heads just long enough for that amazing sea gull to lure her away! It couldn't have been more than half a minute.

  3. What a wonderful reunion. Precious time, indeed. I think your family is blessed that you are observant, that you see how precious these times are. My mother, at 86, is declining in her mental and physical abilities. It's sad to see her forgetful, and sadder to see the memories she has are times she has been hurt or offended. I would want my few remaining memories to be happy, which means I better make them that way now so they'll come back happy down the road. Thanks for sharing a wonderful time!

  4. This was such a great posting! You absolutely MUST get out there and write--which you were doing when you posted this, I know. Please believe that you can!

    I was touched by the vignette with your mother- and father-in-law. And by Anna's comment. I remember my mother-in-law saying, in full-blown Alzheimer's, "You don't know what it's like not to know who you are."


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