Courage at Twilight: Bittersweet Good-byes

 

“I’m not doing my arm exercises today,” Dad announced with some belligerence. I had heard the CNA coughing and sniffling continuously as she helped him bathe and dress.  How ironic, and alarming, for a health care provider to bring sickness into our home.  Dad was none too pleased, and invited her to leave an hour early.  He asked me for the physical therapy supervisor’s name (we’ll say “PT”) and phone number: “I’m going to call PT and tell him not to come back.”  Dad could not walk, could barely move, the day after PT poked and pushed and stretched him, yet a new depth of debilitation.  He made the call and left a message.  He did not confront either the CNA or PT, instead just removing himself from the threats.  For days now, there has been no question of walking to the bathroom at night: the bedside commode has to do, and it is all he can manage to transfer from the mattress to the commode three fee distant.  Today he could lift neither foot over the four-inch lip of the step-in shower stall.  On a happier note, I installed the old steel banister, removed with the stair lift installation, in the basement stairwell, making trips to the cold storage room and the freezer much easier for Mom: a “piece of cake.”  This morning I brought up frozen chicken breasts to thaw.  Hyrum came over for dinner—his last, for a while, with Mom and Dad—and I transformed the raw bird into tangy Hawaiian chicken on a coconut rice bed.  Hyrum, at age 20, is leaving for Brazil to begin his volunteer missionary service, as I did in Portugal in 1983, and as Dad did in Brazil in 1956, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Two years he will be gone, and I will miss him.  He is my son and my friend.  Dad told him the old stories about eating avocados the size of grapefruits for lunch and being arrested at the behest of local clergy and inviting hard men to lead their families in kneeling prayer and about feeling the love of God for the people.  Hyrum said his farewells, promising to send Mom and Dad his weekly email updates.  “I may not be alive when you get back, Hyrum,” Dad mused, “but I’ll be happy to read your emails while I’m still alive.”  Hyrum and I were both poignantly aware of the real possibility of Dad’s passing before Hyrum’s homecoming, making sweeter and sadder this good-bye from a grandfather to a grandson.

(Pictured above: Hyrum with Dad and Mom.)

The basement stairs, before and after installing the steel banister, left.

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