Today we debated whether to keep Dad’s appointment with the eye doctor. Normally he’s unsteady but today the caregiver could barely transfer him to a wheelchair for the ride. We weren’t sure we could get him into the exam chair. The doctor was an hour behind schedule, so we chatted in the waiting room—Dad, the caregiver and me.
I leaned over to tell the caregiver, “I finally sold their buffet on Craigslist!” It displayed their china and crystal, a few tokens left of all the stuff accumulated over 67 years of marriage. It’s too big for their tiny apartment. A few weeks ago Mom fell into it, and hurt herself badly. It had to go.
The waiting room conversation went on to something else and my mind had moved on, when Dad said, “You didn’t sell my chest, did you?” “What chest?” I said, thinking of the cedar chest they’d given to a granddaughter. It took him a while to find the words—“the one with the glasses in it.” I said, yes, I had sold the buffet, but the buyer couldn’t pick it up for a couple of weeks. My dad looked at me, clearly anguished. “I think I’m going to cry.”
My heart sank. I wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be okay. That I would let him make as many decisions as possible for himself. That I would never, ever make him move to a nursing home. That I’d always talk to him with respect. That he really is still the same guy who could build anything, cook for a crowd, study on his own to get his engineering credentials. Just stuck in a body that doesn’t work so well and a mind that won’t process information on demand.
So many losses. So little control of anything in his life.
It wasn’t the buffet, of course. It was the contents. I promised I’d come up with a way to display his beloved Belgian crystal, bought when he was a GI in WWII.
It’s not the body either, is it? It’s the man living inside. It’s the accumulation of 91 years of living—of memories and accomplishments, of woundedness and strength of character and of love and relationships forged over a lifetime.