Every year, come hell or highwater (which is exactly what it was this year – thank you Hurricane Matthew) my mother goes to Paris. Paris is her heart place; a piece of her soul lives there. We who love her, know this, embrace this, and send her on her merry way every October.
She’s almost 80 and legally blind and a badass adventurer.
But my 85-year-old father’s health hasn’t been so good lately. Actually, we’ve had some pretty big scares recently.
So Mom was going to cancel her trip but instead, I flew to Florida to hang out with Dad.
Perfect solution for all of us.
And then came the hurricane. Mom was gone, Dad was evacuated, I didn’t know if I was going to even be able to arrive here.
Turns out I was. Dad had just returned to his home which was damage-free, yet still a mess. When I got here, there was a massive amount of debris and the steel “shutters” still covered every window and door except the garage.
It was mighty dark and fortressed in here – like a bunker.
Dad was in pretty good shape and very good spirits. I was super psyched that I was here.
We’ve had a week of cleanup, chores, and lovely talks. We completed some projects that he would never have been able to do on his own.
And I have seen things; I’ve gained insights into my father and into being elderly in general.
I’ve witnessed that a sense of order is important. I’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to do simple things by oneself. I’ve opened the doors to the near empty refrigerator of people who no longer cook for themselves. I’ve met the comrades who take care of each other because none of them can do it completely on their own. I’ve been here for the death of a close friend’s child.
This morning my father is visiting a friend who can no longer leave the house and has become isolated and depressed.
I sat in the cardiologist’s office while he explained that they can’t explain what is happening to my dad’s heart and lungs.
I’ve watched my father wince in pain. I’ve seen that he needs to sit down and catch his breath after taking the dog into the yard to pee.
I made the decision to stay with my dad rather than take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see my best friend from high school – a choice I certainly would never have made when I was 17.
And, I’ve borne witness to his strength and resiliency. He’s still the same guy; kind, witty, intelligent, loving, and totally unwilling to give into old age and sit on his ass.
We’ve had gallons of coffee, bowl after bowl of ice cream; we casually ate our meals at the bar in the kitchen rather than the dining room table. We’ve lingered, we’ve shot the shit, I shared some incredibly personal and painful bits of my life
For the first time EVER, we have watched the news and agreed on politics.
I have been told, repeatedly, by many of the folks in this town, “You are your mother.” I am honored.
My father is amazing, a gem. He is the most decent man I know. After close to 60 years of marriage, he and my mother are still in love.
So today, I depart. He will drop me off at the airport at noon so I can return to the rest of my family who I miss terribly.
But I am sad. I could stay here forever. I would love to be here when my mother arrives (tomorrow) and have more time with both of them.
This trip has brought to my awareness the fragility of life and the desire to share these last years with my mom and dad; they won’t be around forever.
I get that in a way that I’ve never really gotten it before.
I adore my parents. I am so fortunate to have been born into this family.
I am so thankful that I outgrew my stupid teenage rebellion.