In a very timely visit, my sister Jan has been touring Yellowstone National Park this week. The park was one of the more spectacular venues my family visited on our 11,000-mile cross-country adventure in 1963. For me, seeing it when I was only six years old, Yellowstone left an indelible impression. I have also revisited the park in the past and hope to go again someday. For now, I will enjoy it through my sister’s recent pictures and this except from A Bridge Between which may help explain why both the park and my father hold a special place in my heart.
Some many years, so many seasons past. It was springtime when my parents met in Washington DC: cherry blossoms bloomed, despite the war, and made for them a time of hope and promise, a time for new beginnings. They married in August and for 71 years, theirs has been a marriage of book sense merged with common sense. They made a life through firmly grounded principles anchored by keen and open minds, rooted in family and community but with a love for new vistas and adventures.
Like a lazy summer afternoon, like a July day with no end, their time together has been long and pleasant. Though they have labored, as it was always with a purpose and, always, in step with one another. And although no summer is free of storms, when thunder broke around them and the power and glory of nature were undeniable, they found shelter with one another. In mid-summer, when the sun hung long in the the sky and passed so slowly toward the horizon, one could barely think of nightfall. But the days grow shorter, if even imperceptibly. Only when the daylight has scattered and dimmed and the first firefly glimmers, only then do we realize night is upon us.
“Physical therapy is hard work,” the nurse assured us.
Still, my mother and I exchanged worries glances when my father dropped off to sleep nearly in mid-sentence.
“Daddy, you look tired. Do you want to go back to your room?”
“I want to visit with you,” he claimed but, within minutes, his chin would nod to his chest, his breathing low and quiet.
After what felt like endless weeks, we brought him home. The discharge papers left us with questions; we followed up as best we could.
He’s coming home.
Did we ever really think we would call the apartment at the assisted living facility “home”? Could home ever be anywhere but at the big house where they had raised their nine children? It that not a word reserved for a place of long-lived memories–a sacred place?
He’s coming home. If all goes as planned, the day will mark precisely four weeks, a total of 28 days apart from his love–his life. The first days were agonizing. Did he know where he was? Why he was there? How does a 97-year-old man with dementia survive a hospital stay and weeks in rehab? I saw him cleaved in half, torn from the arms he has known for seventy years. I felt his pain. If I could be his crutch, I would bear his weight without complaint. I can do little except touch his hand, smooth his hair and love him. And yet, as the days drag by, I watch as this man endures. Eventually, he understands. He complies. He works hard. He wants more than anything to go home. And he shall.
Posted in A Bridge Between, A Glimpse of the 8th Child, Fathers and Daughters, On Aging Parents
Tagged #aBridgeBetween, adult children of aging parents, aging fathers, assisted living, caregiving, children and care of aging parents, elder care, fathers and daughters, quality of life for the elderly