Friday, June 3, 2011

For Frank

Why don't they open the blinds in the morning I think, pulling on the string to let the sun in. Such a small mercy, surely it's not too much to ask.

He’s dozing, sitting in the wheelchair on the cold linoleum floor, mouth open, complexion grey. His mop of grey hair looks like it hasn’t been combed in days. My sadness comes in a rush, and that familiar lump in the throat, again. Just as quickly I suppress it. I touch his shoulder, ‘It’s Catherine’. Opening his eyes, he beams me a big toothless grin. To him, I’m another relatively good-looking woman visitor he’s eager to impress.

‘How are you’ I enquire. ‘I’ve got pain here (pointing to his shoulder) and here (upper arm) and here (his back)’. It’s been this way for years, decades even, this chronic and acute arthritic hell. Gently I smooth his hair out with my fingertips.

‘You wrote two books’ I prompt, changing the subject. ‘One about the war, the other …’ I falter, not knowing how to describe it. ‘Did I?’ he responds, incredulous. ‘Perhaps I could bring it in next time and read to you. Would you like that’ I ask. ‘I can read’ he responds angrily. This is true. Sometimes when I remember, I’ll take one of his cards off the shelf. He’ll hold it close to his face and read the sentiments, over and over, for endless minutes. What he is thinking or feeling is impossible to tell.

This year he’s 92. He’s adamant he’s not. He was an absent dad, a man of great passion and intellect, a philanderer, a real charmer and a ruthless bully. I’ve been scared of him most of my adult life. He intimidated the heck out of me. Now, however, I love him with a bursting heart. Is this thing called Alzheimers a gift from the creator that brings forgiveness and acceptance to the table. I am grateful, for I finally see him.

Thanks Dad.

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