Courage at Twilight: The House Is Oddly Quiet

Imagine being strapped to another’s body and operating it from behind, climbing the stairs, lifting the body’s leg with yours to climb one step, then the other leg and another step, and more steps, the body sinking heavily into yours, a big body, a body too weak to move without help.  That is how my brother managed to convey Dad upstairs to bed.  We consulted, and we realized Dad needed hospital help, and we realized we could not safely convey him down the stairs and into his wheelchair and into the car, and we called for an ambulance.  Such sudden profound weakness: Dad could not move.  “I don’t understand it,” he bemoaned.  “I could do this two days ago.  Now I am so totally and absolutely weak and wasted.”  We had taken Mom and Dad to the Temple Quarry Trail in their wheelchairs.  Dad had not wanted to go—he felt too tired.  But we insisted he come, for his face to soak in some sun, for the fresh air to move around him and fill his lungs, to see the green of wild cherry and mountain maple and gambel oak—Mom brought home a pretty hatted acorn—and boxelder trees, to hear the river spilling noisily over quartz monzonite boulders.  To see Gabe gazelling down the trail with a four-year-old’s ebullient life dance.  But then the stairs, and the ambulance, and the utterly profound weakness.  “Common infections can present with profound weakness and disorientation in older patients,” the doctor explained.  Dad is now too weak to talk, too weak to chew his turkey cream cheese cranberry sandwich which sits drying on a plate, too weak to reach for his diet coke, staring through the 8th floor window at his beloved Wasatch mountains towering over the valley.  A last look before leaving his room for the evening: Dad is sleeping exhaustedly, his face glowing with diffuse light from the lamp above his bed, and he seems to lightly inhabit two worlds at once.  We are keeping up our spirits up at home, Mom and siblings and me.  We have experienced precarious near-collapses and kind ambulance EMTs and the ever-dragging emergency room and tests and scans and the making of plans one hour at a time.  We are weary.  And something feels different in the house.  Dad’s floor lamps do not burn until 3:00 a.m. with his reading.  His New Balance shoes sit empty by his chair.  Mom looks over the railing in the middle of night, like she does every night, to check on her beloved, to see him sleeping or reading and happy, but the chair is empty and dark.  The house seems oddly quiet, with someone missing.  And we pray for him to come home.

The Gambel Oak acorn Mom brought home from the Temple Quarry Trail.

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