Today's day out with Mom was a family outing.
I pushed my brother's wheelchair, and Mom walked beside, one hand on a handle to guide her. My job was to push the wheelchair, ensuring that I didn't crash it or move too close to a wall or step-off on the right, my mother's side. We entered the extended care unit and continued to my father's room, the room too far for my brother to travel with his walker, my mother too blind to find her own way.
It was my father's birthday, and we wondered where the caregivers had parked his wheelchair--in his room, the hallway, or in the dining facility. We found his occupational therapist tucking him back into bed, sheet and blanket up to his chin. Working popping a balloon back and forth had worn Dad out.
His card read, "We love you, Dad, and wanted to spend your 93rd birthday with you. It's good to be together."
I read the card and arrayed Dad's gifts across his chest after showing him them: a green knit shirt from home to match his new pale green plaid lounge pants, cut yellow roses from Dad's plants at home, and a dozen "two-bite" cupcakes.
Dad's mouth trembled and his eyes teared up, something I have rarely seen. My brother had not seen my dad until now, my brother's convalescence being too much for travel. His eyes teared also.
Mom saw none of this, of course, and said, "We've come to all be together on your birthday. If you start eating and get stronger, you can come home."
"No, honey," my dad said, "I'm too much for you to care for now. I'd make you sick if I came home."
Mom patted my dad's hands, and they held hands as we sang "Happy Birthday." Then a caregiver took photos of our family together.
Later as Mom and Dad talked, I looked at the photos on the camera's image screen.
This is Dad's life, I thought: his wife of 67 years, his sons, aged 61 and 59. This is his life, except for my sister, who has gone before.
Then I thought again: No, this is our life. These are the ties that bind, the manner in which the many are stitched together into one. Best I pay attention and learn.
Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved