Sunday, March 22, 2020

SOL20 Slice #22: Here's to you, Dad

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOL20).  
All participants are sharing stories about moments in their lives, writing 
 every day for the month of March 2020.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

I visit my 90 year old father regularly, and had a trip planned for the end of this week, along with two of my brothers - we were all excited to get together, and see him. Obviously, the trip is cancelled. Here I am, isolated in my home in Maryland, and Dad is isolated in his nursing home in Maine. He's very much on my mind. My oldest brother lives just a mile from the home, but that proximity isn't an advantage these days - the nursing home is closed to all visitors, as the staff tries its very best to keep out coronavirus. It is very hard, but we are just letting Dad be, trusting the nursing staff that he is doing well and that he enjoys the daily routine. He's hard of hearing, with limited vision, and the beginnings of try to do a phone call or set up a Skype visit is incomprehensible to him; it leaves him confused and agitated. At their suggestion, we're trying to be content with simply reaching out to the nursing staff regularly, and hearing about how he is doing.

I have no doubt that Dad is doing better with this time apart than we are. He has the advantage of time being very whimsical.

On the last day of my most recent visit, I found him sitting quietly in his room in his wheelchair. I sensed he was brooding, and I bent down to give him a light kiss on his forehead, with a gentle, "Hi, Dad." He said, "What do you think Mom will do? She has to meet with the psychiatrist before she gets out, and she is refusing to do so."
Ah, time traveling.
I played right along, although Mom died a year and a half ago - "She doesn't much like to talk to psychiatrists, right?"
Him, "Oh no."
I fished for memories. "How many different hospitals has she been in? There was northern Virginia, and Charleston. Was she ever in the hospital in New Hampshire?"
Him, "I don't remember."
Me, again, softly, desiring so much more - "Did she ever talk to you about her mental issues?"
Him, "Oh, no way,  no way!" and then he just slipped into a quiet fog.

We sat quietly together in the silence.

After a few minutes, he announced - "Let's see what everybody's up to, " and wheeled himself over to the dining area and right up in the center of everyone. His new pals. I join in the fun. To sit alongside these folks in the nursing home is to travel in myriad directions, not unlike a preschool classroom, where some are present, others have wandered in their minds to someplace altogether different, and others seem to have one foot in both places. Everyone feels what they feel very strongly, right then and there, and there's an insistent undercurrent of 'hey! why don't you take care of this!! Yes, just like preschool. My biggest takeaway, the one that warms my heart during this time of isolation: Dad's happy these days. He is accepting of his lot in life, and seems to be more or less at peace with the nursing home.

Amusingly, he is very attracted to this sharp-tongued, acerbic, crusty gal who seems to not take any nonsense from him or anyone on staff. She spews sarcasm and random complaints and wonderings. When I said goodbye to him, he was seated right next to her, wheelchair to wheelchair, holding her hand. Is her edgy way, her cold, distant manner, reminiscent of Mom? Or does he like that she is feisty, with some life in her, that jumps out and sparkles, just like him? I hope she is making him chuckle.

An invaluable gift of this time of isolation is the recognition, once again, that I am not in control. I am passing through, doing the best I can, with what I've been given, with hopes for more, and goals of my own. The reality is: us. We are so interconnected, dependent on one another. We need each other. We move forward together. We trust. Dad's figured this out in these last few years. I'm seeing it now, too. This, with some deep cleansing breaths, leads to a sense of floating, a softening, and acceptance.


  1. In a sense we’re all a bit like your father these days in our isolation and lack of control over time and circumstances. Your father has learned to roll w/ these changes, and in his learning that he has passed the lesson of to you, which you now share w/ us. I think it’s a lovely circle that binds us together and helps us cope. I’m going to take this time and think about how it may one day serve me if I must live my final days in a nursing home.

    1. Loved your insightful, "I think it’s a lovely circle that binds us together and helps us cope." Thank you, Glenda!