Two hours before the CNA came, Mom met me at the top of the staircase and motioned for me with her finger. She whispered that the urinal was full to the brim, and she worried that if Dad woke and needed the toilet before the CNA came, the bottle might spill. She asked me to empty it. “I was going to do it myself, but then I saw you and thought, ‘He’s the perfect victim—I’ll ask him to do it.’” Her request touched off an internal mental struggle. One voice chided, If she was going to do it, that means she was capable of doing it, and she should do for herself what she can do, and ask me to do what she cannot do. An opposing voice stepped in with, Wait a minute! I am here to help my father and my mother, to ease the burdens of both. I pushed the selfish voice away and answered, “Sure, I’ll take care of that. I’d be happy to.” And in ten seconds I had emptied and rinsed the urinal and flushed the toilet, all while Dad slumbered. The day was Saturday, and on Saturdays the CNA comes at 9, not the weekday 9:30, always surprising Mom by being “early.” I opened the front door when the doorbell rang, and let the CNA in. “Hi, I’m Jared,” he announced cheerfully. I had never seen Jared before. Mom rode down slowly in the stair lift chair, glaring unhappily at the new face that came at 8:50, ten minutes earlier than “early.” But Jared won her over within those ten minutes, and Mom loved the short obese scraggly-bearded tattooed middle-aged man like a long-lost friend, asking him where he was from, if he had a family, where he went to school, how long he’s been a caregiver. Jared cheerfully answered all her questions, then turned his attention to Dad. Jared being new, Mom and Dad had to explain yet again all the little particularities of how things are best done, with using the walker, showering, dressing, transferring between various sitting surfaces, riding the stair lift (Mom insisted he ride it up the stairs to reach Dad, instead of walking up the stairs and bringing up the chair with the remote), eating his breakfast, taking his pills, and doing his upper-body rubber-band Pilates. While Jared was learning the ropes, I was delving into my transient past, moving out of their hastily stacked places my beds, boxes, artwork, decorations, tools, and books, rearranging them more carefully, efficiently, and accessibly, reminding myself of what I own that I have not seen for 20 months, still finding it strange to have much of my life packed up in boxes. In a shoebox I found old family photos Mom saved and gave to me, including one of me ready to baptize Hyrum, age eight, both of us happy and dressed in white. I scanned and emailed the photograph to Hyrum, now 21, a missionary for his Church in Brazil, teaching the Good News of Christ, inviting others to enter the baptismal font, dressed in white, to be baptized, immersed, symbolically cleansed, to make a covenant with God to keep his commandments, to care for the poor, to mourn with those that mourn—the best kind of promises.
(Pictured above: Yours truly and my son Hyrum, age eight, on his baptism day.)
Hyrum today, a two-year volunteer missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Brazil.