Butter Butt power,
and turtle power.
All good therapy.
For fourteen hours of a long weekend, the interstate scenery was captivating - saturated with fog, mist, and pouring rain all the way, baby. A little sunshine appeared below Richmond on the way home yesterday and I hooted.
Interstate roads have shoulders perfectly designed for spontaneous picture-takers who might stop illegally and admire red barns, fields of thoroughbreds, cattle, ponds reflecting Forsythia blooms near the water edge, Lake Gaston, Falls Lake, the grand and mighty Chesapeake Bay, and all wonderful rivers and basins that flow through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. That spontaneous picture-taker would be me, but I didn’t get any this trip.
How many times did I gasp at the beauty of it all? So many times that I could scream at this very moment. My camera sat near my feet for the whole ride, as he wishes to make stops in NASCAR fashion. Stops for fuel and snacks are made with few seconds to spare and left-hand turns or U-turns are prohibited. It’s funny, in a way. Here we are, approaching our Golden Years and still rushing through life for no real good reason other than being in a hurry to get out of an automobile or to get home quickly and kiss our dogs.
Mental images of Dad on Friday and Saturday totally grip me. During the seven hours homebound on Sunday, I wished to erase some images of him. Escape. Just get out of the car, climb over the guardrail, and visit those wild turkeys and vultures near the orchard over there… Disregard the misty rain and immerse myself in a lovely distraction. Replace his images with those Forsythia reflections on the still water, maybe? Those digital images of the pond would have been downright gorgeous but Dad’s images are solidly etched in my mind, despite my odd feelings about it. I did not take photos of him and I regret it. How selfish of me, dammit. He’s my father.
Finding him in a cheery, brightly lit room full of others who had been dropped off and parked in their wheelchairs, he was all dressed up in his new yellow and green loungewear. He has not walked in more than twelve years after a massive stroke paralyzed his left side but his white sneakers had been washed and dried in the sun. His fingernails were trimmed and his beard had been shaved. It was activity time with a live female pianist who was very talented but I can’t remember a note of what she played… There were residents who raised their arms and smiled for the amplified music and singing while others sat hunched over, uninterested. They preferred to rest chin on chest for a while.
And that was my Dad when I found him. Oh, he’s over there! Hunched lower than before. His palsied hands and arms more twisted… Regrettably, I had not seen him in several months and wanted to see him smile like he always does for visitors. I ask for too much. My expectations are too high.
“Dad? Sorry to wake you. You’re missing this great party!”
There was certainly a smile and a twinkle in his eyes when I woke him. He recognized me as someone he knew before, I think, but I’m sure he did not know he was looking at his daughter and son-in-law. And his mood changed abruptly from drowsy delight to confusion and deep concern. Something was very different this visit. He focused on the floor and not on me. Gee, an unexpected twist. Off-day, I guess.
We found a quiet place to talk but Dad cried like an infant, mouth wide open, and vocal. I did not want to hear any of his apologies as he should not be sorry for anything. I told him so! Stop it! But I understood him crying about how it’s too late to have lady friends in the hallway or how it’s too late for playing the piano the way he used to play, so well. Oh, so well.
Where’s your new wristwatch, Dad? More tears spilled. For him, nothing we said was good enough. Then, I looked at my husband the same way I looked at him twenty-six years ago in wonder, what do you suppose is wrong with this crying baby?
Dad was not hungry. His diaper was clean.
I just held him and said everything’s okay. That’s all I could do, I suppose.
While his bottom lip quivered and the tears kept streaming, I used his brand new shirt to clean his face. I couldn’t speak much as the words were stuck in the back of my throat but I promised to see him tomorrow. K, Dad? I told him of a little surprise I would bring.
Today, on the window next to his bed, there hangs a bright and shiny blue star - a sun catcher from Hallmark that will safely catch and hold the sun for him.
He often sang a song by Perry Como, to me, decades ago,
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day…
Gosh, he always adored the gaudy stones with the most sparkle and shine. You know - the ones you can find in the Five & Dime? The most bang for your buck?
He still loves the shine ;-)