As difficult a day as Wednesday was, Thursday I started feeling less flustered and more grounded. And a bit sheepish.
Before I went up to Dad’s I stayed home a while to watch The View to see the interview with President Obama. I came away from it with a restored feeling of hope… I won’t go into politics, but listening to him talk without the pundit filter reassured me that he is still the same man who I came to trust, respect and admire while reading his two books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. I like that he is so even keeled and doesn’t lose sight of the big picture. It set the tone for a much better day!
We had a good visit from Dad’s “baby” sister. Aunt Em is 81. She’s a vivacious widow who lives in Maryland near her children and grandchildren, and still drives by herself on long trips like the eight-hour one from Maryland to Connecticut. Her presence is a tonic to Dad and Auntie. Together, they are the three surviving siblings of a family of eight children.
It was hot and humid, perfect weather for Papa who, like many elderly ones, always seems to be cold. There is a space heater in every room he occupies, and they are used often, even in the summer. So he wasn’t a bit hot in his flannel shirt! We wheeled him out to the landing on the wheelchair ramp and got a chair for Aunt Em, and left them to have some time alone together.
I went for a non-walk with Bernie. It was too humid for him to move around, I suspect, but he decided to soak up some sun on a stone wall. Cats are solar-powered, you know. But he could do without the humidity, being a cat hailing from arid New Mexico! It fascinates me that to the naked eye, Bernie’s blind eyes look a dull solid yellowish-gray. But the camera reveals all sorts of colors, each shot making his eyes look like multicolored marbles.
Since Bernie didn’t seem to be going anywhere, I snuck around the side of the house and surprised Aunt Em and Dad. “Paparazzi!” I announced, while climbing up the outside railing of the ramp, aiming the camera between the bushes. At first Dad didn’t understand the joke but Aunt Em found it hysterical. She stopped laughing long enough to explain the humor to him and then he started laughing, too. Got two snapshots – it’s been such a long time since Dad has laughed out loud!
Aunt Em treated us all to a take-out dinner in the evening after Auntie and Larisa arrived. Spending a few moments catching up and making plans with my daughter was wonderful…
When I made it home, tired after the hour-long drive, I found a tube of natural progesterone cream on the kitchen counter. After work my darling husband had made the trip through heavy summer tourist traffic to the nearest health food store. (The progesterone already seems to be helping!) I am grateful and blessed.
Whenever I make the hour drive north to sit with my father, I use the time to listen to my iPod play list, set on shuffle. It’s kind of like drawing cards, I listen for messages in the string of songs it “selects” for the day. Since I have 1,328 songs on my “car” play list, there is always something “new” to contemplate. Or, if Dave Matthews’ The Best of What’s Around comes on (I have fourteen versions of it, including studio demos and live performances), I might hit the repeat button again and again to energize myself with the sentiments expressed for dealing with an often discouraging situation.
Yesterday I started connecting some dots… Last week I wrote about changing perceptions and mentioned the tetralogy by Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken, a story about the lives of Ingunn and Olav, set in medieval Norway. I mentioned all the waiting the characters had to do. This week I started and finished the second book, The Snake Pit, and started the third, In the Wilderness.
I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I like to read have a theme or a focus, like art, history, nature, photography, places, poetry, quotes, writing, etc. And at times I feel left out because I can’t seem to find a theme for my blog. Others seem to have more time to pursue their interests, careers and dreams. But at this point in time my energy is focused on waiting!
Last month, when writing about the volcano in Iceland I observed that years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.
Well. Isn’t dying a part of nature? Doesn’t it sometimes take a very long time to die? Am I doing my best to live in harmony with this reality? In The Master of Hestviken, when a character became incapacitated or gravely ill, his or her family would take turns “watching with” the one who was bedridden. Sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one was an honor and not considered a waste of time. Surely other pursuits were neglected and other plans put aside, but that was the way it was done. Even if a person lingered near death for years, like Ingunn did at the end of her life.
So I think this will be my focus, what I think about and what I observe around me as I “watch with” my father. Emotionally refreshed, I arrived at the house my parents built themselves when I was a preschooler, and went inside.
After greeting everyone, I went to use the bathroom. I couldn’t help noticing next to the toilet what appeared to be a plunger made out of a silver-toned metal. Huh?? Could not comprehend what I was looking at… So I picked it up to move it out of the way and it started ringing very loudly! It was a huge bell!! It struck me so funny – what on earth was a bell doing next to the toilet? The more I laughed the more it clanged and I heard my sister asking, “What is she doing?” and then my brother-in-law teasingly inquired, “Do you need some help in there?” Haven’t laughed so hard in ages!
Turns out it is Dad’s new bell to ring when he’s alone and needs someone. The little bell he had previously just wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone up and it was getting to be too hard for him to pick up and grasp. Beverly found this “Captain’s Bell” somewhere and now he’s back in business.
Now that I had arrived my brother-in-law took off for parts unknown and the grocery store. As he is the primary care-giver, a trip to do errands and go food shopping is a real break for him that he enjoys. My sister had been up much of the night with Dad, so she went upstairs to take a nap. And I brought Dad’s bell back to him and began “watching with” him. We talked for a little, he’d ask about the book I was reading and I’d tell him a bit about it and then he’d fall asleep. Twenty minutes later he’d wake and ask another question and then he’d fall asleep again.
After a while, the cat, Bernie, started yowling to go outside. Dad suggested I take him for a walk in the woods, so I did, knowing that monstrous bell would wake my sister if he needed anything. Bernie and I had a splendid walk! I had hoped to encounter Harriet, a wild turkey hen who has been hanging around lately. I think we heard her, but I couldn’t see her.
Something else was new in the house. My parents had always used space between the studs in the wall of the stairway going down to the basement for storing canned goods. I did a double take as I walked past the opened basement door. My brother-in-law had dry walled and painted the stairway and added shelf paper under the cans! I thought of Kathy’s ‘playing with your food’ blog and snapped a picture of it. 🙂
In the evening we were all amused by the antics of two adorable baby red squirrels who couldn’t figure out how the adult red squirrels made the jump from the tree to the bird feeder. No good pictures – they’re fast little things!
The joke in our family is that Dad is eternally terminal. (Fear not, he finds this very amusing coming from a family with a delightfully dark sense of humor.) His “little” sister, who is 80, came to visit him from Maryland last week. She says he’s like a potted plant. Every time it seems to be almost dead it revives with a little watering and/or plant food. Maybe he’s a succulent. There’s no way of knowing when the end will come, but I feel a little more settled now about making the best of whatever time there is remaining, the best of what is now. “Watching with” Dad.