The other day, I was visiting my grandmother in her nursing home and had an experience that was both sad and hilarious at the same time. Grandma Yadon has always been a bit crotchety toward me, however increasingly more so as her Alzheimer’s Disease has progressed. With her heightened state of frailty and confusion, her reactions have become much like a frightened preschooler, exercising her independence and revealing her denied inadequacies at the same time.
I stepped away from her bed for just a moment, and when I turned back to her, she had grabbed a jar of Icy Hot ointment from the nearby dresser. The lid was off, and she was dabbing her thin, gnarled finger into the translucent balm and proceeding to raise her hand toward her lips. Realizing what she was doing, I quickly grabbed the jar and told her, “Grandma, this is not for your lips.”
“You can’t tell me what to do. I know what this is. See!”
“No, Grandma, this is for the pain in your knees. You use Carmex for your lips,” I said, reaching for the small, yellow jar by her bed.
Angrily, she told me I didn’t know what I was doing and quickly began rubbing a large glob of Icy Hot across her lips. Torn between laughter and horror, I wrestled the lid back on the jar, while she still held it into her hands. From the angle that she held the jar, she apparently did not realize the lid had returned, and she continued to defiantly dip her hand on the lid, and back to her lips – as if she were continuing to add more and more balm to her mouth. All the while, I tried to maintain a respectful demeanor while she glared at me as though I depriving her from the moisture her parched mouth longed for.
Finally, after three solid minutes of staring me down, rubbing her finger on the smooth plastic lid, and back to her Icy Hot coated mouth, she told me she was finished.
I didn’t have to wait for long. Within minutes, her weary eyes began to water and she started asking me if we had any ice or water. My amusement at the situation (admittedly inappropriate) was overridden by the knowledge that she had to be in a horrid state of discomfort. I spent the next forty minutes wiping her lips with ice and holding the sippee cup of cool water up to her fiery mouth. I felt horrible for her, knowing the burning sensation must have been driving her crazy, but all I could do was assist her in this miserable state.
I immediately began to think of all the times, I have defiantly stood my ground against the advice of others, only to find myself in a terrible, burning predicament. More so, how many times have I pushed forward with my life, without heeding the warnings inside, only to find myself in a place of sheer pain? There, in a circumstance created by my own brash pig-headedness, I call out and beg for an ease of my suffering. So many times, there has been plenty of opportunity for life or God to say, “I told you so”, but it has never been said. Instead, the cool, refreshing ice and healing are wiped over my self-induced pains bringing the healing that I long for and have pushed away.
While I hope I will never have true Icy Hot lips, I hope this will always serve as a reminder to myself pause, listen, and follow.