Tuesday, April 7, 2009
It was one of those crazy days last week. Cell phone ringing non-stop, countless pull-overs in various parking lots to take various notes from those calls, impossible deadlines and looming end of month loose ends to tie.....And, down to just a few hours to get it done.
I don't mind it. It is on those days I seem to thrive and I realize my full potential. I accepted long ago that I fly by the seat of my pants and I'm only fooling myself to think I operate any differently.
On this day; however, I was tired. I mean seriously tired. I reached into my purse to pull out my standard crutch - a cigarette - only to realize I was out.
Really not a problem, the drug store was right there, so I pulled in and went inside.
As I stood at the counter, simultaneously making pointless conversation with the cashier and talking business on my phone, I felt eyes on me and I glanced over...
And, there he was...
Big eyes glowing, and his mouth in a full grin.
In that split second, realization occurred within me like never before.
There's no mistaking that look.
It's so pure and so raw that you don't have time to hide it and keep it in check like you normally would.
I was genuinely happy to see him.
Months had passed since I had seen him. Our last conversation went through my head at the speed of light at the precise mili-second my lips began to turn upward in recognition.
As I turned from the counter to walk toward him, my words formed with each step as I whispered into the phone, "I'll have to call you back."
"How are you?"
Our arms took one another in and drew us close as he answered.
I remembered the feel of him. The safety I've found there countless times before came flooding back to my senses and I allowed myself to soak it in.
"I am good. How are you? Besides busy?"
I made some silly gesture with my phone. "Ah, this is continuous. I'm better now that I've seen you."
"What's been happening?" I questioned.
"Not alot, really."
Stupid, silly grins still shone on both our faces and we kept one another close.
I wondered if the time we spent together was running through his memory like it was running through mine, then I remembered the look on his face.
Of course it was.
It was undeniable.
The comfort and warmth between us, if only for that moment, was enough to get me through the remainder of my day.
"We should get together soon. I've missed you."
"We could, if you ever had time."
I just grinned at him again. "For you, baby, I've always got time."
My phone began to ring again.
I looked up at him and sighed, "I'm sorry."
As I answered and took care of the business on the other end of the phone, I took him in...
Beautiful, beautiful man.
Sweet, sweet man.
Ever-accepting of me and each and every one of my flaws.
Why had I never recognized this before?
Or, had I and I just refused to admit it?
What is it that always stops me?
I allowed my mind and my heart to wander there with him for a few seconds.
For that moment, I liked what I saw there.
I believed in what I saw.
Ever so comfortable and secure in his presence.
The phone conversation ended and it was if we snapped back into reality.
"Um, well, duty calls. I've got to go."
"Yeah, me, too."
We pulled one another close one more time and just lingered there for a second.
"I'm so glad I got to see you. I've been thinking of you."
"Me, too, Pam."
"I'll call you." As the words formed in my mouth, I automatically wanted to take them back.
It was too late.
So many times before I've made that same promise and never come through.
"Ok." He didn't believe me. The light in his eyes was gone.
I wanted to follow it up with an, 'I really will this time', but I didn't.
I grinned at him. "I'll surprise you."
He grinned back. "I like surprises."
"I know. See ya!"
We walked through the doors together into the parking lot, him getting into his truck and me getting into my car.
He pulled from the lot in one direction, and I turned into the other.
And, so is the story of our lives...
Him in one direction.
Me in the other.
But, just for a moment there, I imagined the possibility.
It's not impossible...
Long as I can see the light.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
An early morning phone call from my sister started my Saturday morning.
"I'm calling a family meeting today at 2," she let me know.
Knowing she was in from Texas and at my parents' had me quizzing her.
"They're fine. Promise. Just be here at 2. Mother will be gone to her Ladies' Tea for and hour or so. We need to talk while she's not here."
"I'll be there."
The reason for the call was obvious. It's a call we've all made to one another over the last few months, with the previous meetings proving to be futile.
You know when that call comes what discussion will be coming next and no one has to even say anything. It's a daily battle we each fight inwardly in silence. To actually articulate the thought aloud means facing the pain of the decision that lays before us.
As I put down the phone, my mind raced back to the very first family meeting called with all of us as adults.
That particular day, it was Mother who had called the family meeting. Since I still lived at home, I was there at the appointment time by default, and I knew the purpose for her bringing us all together.
She loved him.
He loved her.
They wanted to be married.
They wanted the blessing of all the children.
One by one, my brother and each of my sisters exchanged hugs and happy words with them.
That day, I hung back and just went to my room.
As I sat on my bed, hot, stinging tears came from my eyes and spilled onto my cheeks. I could taste their salt as they made their way down to my lips.
I cried quietly so that no one would hear me. I didn't want to be sad. I wanted to be happy for her.
I had no problem with him, personally. I really didn't. I was just scared for my mother. She had already lost one husband and I had seen her hurt through that.
Certainly by his white hair I could tell he was even older than my real dad. He couldn't possibly live much longer.
It just seemed to me such a risk for her to take. Why do this now after she had finally gotten herself back on her feet?
Eventually, I did come to terms with their decision, and when I opened my mind, ever so slowly, my heart begain to open up to him, too.
He gave me away when I married.
He sat in the waiting room, anxiously anticipating the births of both my children.
He was the first person I sought out when I realized my marriage to my children's father was over. I needed his wisdom over that of even my mother.
And he shared it with me...
And, he held me up through it all.
He has been my protector.
He has been my friend.
He has been my mentor.
He is my dad.
In every sense of the word, he is my dad.
He owns my heart.
I own his.
A few years back, we began to notice that his normally sharp wit was dulling a little.
At first it really wasn't noticeable and we could explain it away as normal aging.
He would forget what he was saying mid-sentence, or go off on a completely different subject during a conversation.
When he began to have trouble walking and began to fall, we knew there was a problem, and had to admit that something really other than normal aging was happening.
A few trips to the doctor and a few procedures later, we all became well-acquainted with the cruel reality of Parkinson's Disease.
The diagnosis wasn't hopeful at all.
In fact, the Neurologist's honesty with me in the hallway let us know that this was a downward spiral and there was no recovery.
His motor skills would continue to slow and then, eventually, his organs would follow. He couldn't give me a time frame on it, but did let me know that my dad was progressing pretty quickly.
His advice to me was, "Get with your siblings and make a plan."
That was three years ago.
My siblings and I are still trying to make that plan.
My mother wants no part of our "plan".
She will always hear us as we talk, but she refuses to listen.
"You children are asking me to do something I can't do. You are asking me to abandon my husband. I cannot do that!"
That's usually where the conversation stops.
25 years after our first family meeting and the subject of yesterday's meeting was the same as the first.
She loves him.
She doesn't want to face life without him.
Where she finds home is where ever he is.
The pain in her eyes is more than any of us can bear, so we usually let the conversation drift, trying to steer it back when we think she's ready to deal with it a little more.
"I cannot put him away for someone else to care for him. He would never do that to me!"
This statement is usually followed by one of us reminding her that she is not putting him away. She would simply be putting him in the hands of a staff of people trained to care for him.
None of us want him deposited onto strangers, never to be seen again. We can put him close, where we can be there each and every day.
"I just can't. Right now, I can still manage. When I can't go anymore, someone prays for me and I wake up refreshed. I can still go on for a while longer."
And, we let it dwindle out in open air, as if we all can see it and touch it. The silence is deafening, and the weight of the burden, although suspended in the air, threatens to bowl us over.
Yet again, she is not ready.
This conversation is over.
We will not mention it again until another series of falls, or another series of "bad days".
The pain and mental stress of being a child caring for a parent is brutal.
You never stop worrying.
You call ten times a day just to make sure they answer.
You never go to bed without your phone beside your head, because you never know when it may ring. Your ear is trained to respond to late night phone calls, and when they come, you answer holding your breath until the first words are uttered through the receiver.
You check their medication to make certain their dosages are correct.
You look in refrigerators and cabinets to make sure they have what they need.
You check laundry hampers to make sure they don't need help with the countless towels, underwear and clothes needed to just maintain one day.
And, all these things, you do out of love and devotion, remembering all the years they did it for you...
You live with the guilt that you can't be there 24 hours a day to do it around the clock...
You live with fear that one parent will suffer because of the others weakness...
You live with the helplessness of knowing that the decision really isn't yours...
And, with all we deal with, I cannot imagine what it must be like to be my mother.
To face the reality that life is now different and that keeping up with the health of the person you love more than anything is actually endangering your own health must be heart-wrenching...
When in her mind, she is determined that one day, she will dance with my father again.