Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Day Out with Mom #16: clutching at realizations

"The days are so long," my dad tells me. His eyes are red and tear-filled. His lips tremble.

His time with Mom and me today is a mixture of absolute clarity and confusion. He is calm, yet there is also a presence of sadness and loss that I cannot alleviate or ignore. I feel sad and guilty, helpless and yet happy that today we can share an actual conversation of content.

We continue our rocking horse conversation, the emotional content in clear focus: "All these old people sitting in their wheelchairs slumped forward, sleeping, doing nothing," and the confused intellect: "Are we still at the old place?" or as when I first saw Dad, holding the hand of an older patient, "Is this woman my wife?"

I reply, "No, Dad, that's a lady that grabs people who get too close and holds their hand. She grabbed Mom's the other day." The woman's actions make so much sense to me--touch another person, make contact.

Dad tells my mother, "I've been going all over this place trying to find you."

"I just wanted to cry," Mom tells me later, and then says, "I do cry at night, cry and cry."

"Today," I tell her, "Dad said, 'I wish I was strong enough to come home.'"

"He said that?"

"Yes. He wanted to come home but knew he was too weak. Today he knew."

This knowledge adds solace to sadness as we sit in the inner courtyard, not saying much. I trim Dad's fingernails and toenails and then shave him, this time he being unable to use his electric shaver. Mom reaches over to hug Dad, pats his hand, feels his fresh-shaven cheek and then kisses it. A little sad and a little quiet, we are together.

Dad had been quietly crying when when I first saw him this morning and he had asked me if the woman clutching his hand were Mom. He was relieved when he was told that it wasn't. He was relieved to see me, that I was there with him. Then, an aide releasing the woman's hand, Dad had helped me turn the wheelchair to take him to Mom.

There is no cure for old age. "When I was a nurse over sixty-five years ago," Mom says, "Dr. Craviotta said, 'You're born, you live, you die. That's what life is.' We have to accept that and make the most of it."

When I was a baby, my parents helped me learn to walk, guiding my first footsteps down the path. Now they teach me--one blind and using my arm for support, the other in a wheelchair--how to navigate that same path as it turns vague and overgrown. There is no path without wilderness. Sojourners all, moving and unmoving, we get along as best we can.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler


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