Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Family Time Used to Feel

In January 1995, I had both of my parents hospitalized. My mother, 81, had fallen in the living room of their house, breaking her hip. My father, 84, had suffered a second minor heart attack after a first attack the month before. For about a week my two parents were on the same floor of the hospital in New Orleans, their rooms only a few doors apart, but neither my mother nor my father was able or permitted to visit the other.

As long as my parents were in the hospital, my presence in New Orleans would not have been that much of a help to my brother who lives there. In February, however, I took a week off work to spend with my parents in their home. They were both doing pretty well, my mother gripping her walker as she slowly walked from her bedroom to the kitchen, my father taking his afternoon naps after getting up in the middle of the night to help my mother to the bathroom. I spent one evening in the emergency room with my father, waiting for a doctor to examine the swelling in my father’s right foot that was making it hard for him to wear his shoe.

Sitting by myself in my parents’ living room one morning, I was praying, and the challenge came, could I presume to say that God could not be in all of this for me?

Actually the challenge was more – could I dare to say that I could not be in all of this?

I had felt for a while that I was disappearing in the midst of it all; that there was no room for both me and this sadness. But, God seemed to assure me, I could, and God could.

In early March I became my father’s main family contact while he was in the hospital anew, recovering from an angioplasty. Four hours after my second arrival at the New Orleans airport in a month’s time, I was at my father’s bedside in the coronary care unit for the eight o’clock visiting session. The television set in his cubicle was carrying a PBS program on Cajun cooking while my father and I talked about the medical equipment beeping around him.

One of my father’s earliest concerns was about recovering his Timex watch, which he had confided to my brother before the surgery. Upon his transfer to a private room the next day, my father asked me for my watch. I slipped the timepiece, a gift from two Christmases earlier, around the patches of white surgical tape on my father’s left hand and secured the band around his wrist. My father seemed happy.

The next day I brought my father’s watch to him. My father took my watch off and handed it to me. I removed his watch from my own wrist, and we made the exchange. The band that I snapped on in the next minute was still warm from my father’s wrist.

Image from Spanish Meadows


Memories Among Other Things said...

The memory of some moment is sometimes stronger than the moment itself. The band is no longer warm, but the memory of its warmth is still well felt.

Ur-spo said...

that last line was lovely poetry; it was the best of a lovely essay. thank you.

Kimberly said...

Beautiful... how to make room, how to carry ways that make present but do not overwhelm. I love the subtlety and the personal closeness of the watchband.