I know I said in the last letter that I was done with anything and everything that had to do with you and Mom and Alzheimer’s and moving, and that I would be
walking away from the situation. But something ties me to you, and here I am writing, AGAIN. I’m beginning to think that I should start every letter to you in the same way–apologizing for writing. Because I KNOW you’re probably tired of hearing from me. In fact, you might be rolling your eyes right now by the mere mention of the words, Dear Dad. But I don’t think you even read this blog, so actually, you’re probably not rolling your eyes at all. At least not at me. (I know you’ve rolled your eyes at Mom. And I get it, I really do.)
As I sit here in the quiet of my own home, I wonder what you’re doing and what you plan to do today. I can’t imagine being retired and having the entire day stretch out before me like a cat. Maybe you’re standing in the kitchen cutting an early morning nectarine. Perhaps you’re still in bed, pretending that life is the same as it’s always been. Maybe you’re planning an outing with Mom to the doctor or the grocery store, or the pharmacy, or the gas station. Maybe you’re reflecting on life as you know it right now or thinking about the turmoil you’re in. Then again, maybe you’re praying–because I know you’re still holding out for a miracle. The miracle that takes the disease away from Mom and brings back to you the woman you married.
No matter what you are doing or what you plan to do, I’d like for you to know two things before I get to the real reason I’m writing. First, I’m a spiritual person, but I don’t think the miracle you want is going to happen. Mom has a disease. Her brain is deteriorating. Her neurons are dying and her mental faculties are declining. We don’t know how long she has before she needs real help from a trained professional. And second, a friend of ours–just 44 years old with three young girls–died on Sunday from metastatic uveal melanoma.
How do you feel now? Can you see that at almost 80 years old, you’ve lead a charmed life? You have money in the bank and three healthy children. You’ve been blessed with seven grandchildren who you see several times a year. You have clothes, and a house, and food on the table. And by your side you have a wife. She’s stuck by you through thick and thin, but now, she needs your help.
But I refuse to belabor the fact that she needs you and since I’m technically done, well, I’ll just get to my point. All I want you to do is to imagine this scene:
You wake on a beautiful Wednesday morning in October when the sun’s rays manage to peek around the curtains of your bedroom. You stand from the bed, move toward the bathroom, and walk with ease into the shower. After all these years, you finally have a full-sized shower, and you revel in the space that surrounds you. After a warm shower and a quick shave, you get dressed and amble out the bedroom door toward the living area. You see Mom sitting at the breakfast bar, chin in hands as she scans the newspaper, which rests on the granite counter top. She’s managed to make her own waffles, but you don’t feel like waffles. Instead, you’d like a good cup of coffee and a muffin. Oh sure, you’re not supposed to eat too many carbohydrates, but you’ve been walking around the block lately. The twists and turns of the new neighborhood give you plenty of space to roam, and you’re blood sugar has been fine.
You ask Mom a question. “You think she’s up?”
“Who?” she responds.
“Chris. It’s a Wednesday she doesn’t work today.”
“Then call her.”
And so you do. You decide to meet with her at Big Sky once her kids have left for the day. Mom decides to come, and once you’ve warmed up a bit with the fragrant coffee and chatted with the proprietors, you ask if there’s time to go to the grocery store.
Five minutes later, you enter Kroger and see Tom the produce guy. He asks how you are, how Mom is doing, and how the grandkids are. Chris leaves you to speak with Tom while she distracts Mom with having to buy milk. It’s been so long since you’ve had conversation–real adult conversation–that you linger in the store, talking with many of the people you now know. You manage to get everything you need and then some in a much shorter time frame since Mom was being taken care of.
Later that day, you find Chris on your doorstep. “I’m on my way to my dentist appointment. I made dinner already, so I packed some up for the two of you. There’s enough here for at least two meals.”
You blink back tears as you accept the offering, thankful that you don’t have to do the cooking tonight, considering you’ve been so busy all day with laundry, filing, and keeping Mom occupied. As you warm your dinner that night and bring it out to the patio, you wave at your neighbor and make plans to have a beer with him the next evening.
You sit back against the Adirondack chair and look over at Mom, who huddles with her arms around her and a content smile on her face. You talk about nothing of consequence. You don’t understand everything she’s saying, but you feel the arms of support around you. You know that the next morning you can head to the library or walk at the duck pond or make plans to see the grandkids in the afternoon. You glance up at the fall sky, thankful for everything you have. The decision might have been hard to make, you think, but the outcome was worth it.
Imagine, Dad. Just imagine.