Sunday, December 09, 2007

An old lady with a baby doll

I sat by my dad as he tried to eat his lunch.

He has great difficulty swallowing. He has little appetite for any kind of food, especially that served up at the skilled nursing center where he lives right now.

He tries, but it is so hard for him.

Strange, how it breaks my heart to watch him, but at the same time it is so good just to be with him. Sort of like those times when I was much younger and we would occupy ourselves out in the garage for hours doing. . .I can't remember what. . .we were just together. I loved those times. I think he did too.

Now we sit and visit, but with long periods of silence between us.

I'm having to come to grips with the fact that he is dying. But then, aren't we all? At times like this I realize again the importance of just "being with" a person you love.

But, back to the lunch room.

We sat at a table with his roommate, R. V. Thompson.

Dad and R. V. worked together over 50 years ago at the City of Richardson. R. V. was the Mayor. My dad served as City Secretary, a position like City Manager today. At the time, Richardson's population numbered about 1,500 or so. A few stories have been heard between them as they've shared the same room. We feel fortunate that R. V. is dad's roommate.

Also at the table was a lady who cradled a baby doll in her arms as she ate. Sad, but sweet and moving. She found comfort in some far away memory of her own children--the ones she loved the most, no doubt.

The other man who shared the table couldn't talk much, but he too was a long-time Richardson resident known by my dad and R. V. It was just good being with them all.

It was also sad. But, you know, sad is okay.

As I sat with my father, I remembered lots of visits years ago to nursing homes with youth groups. Many, if not most, of the residents we visited enjoyed our visits, but it was clear that after we left most of the residents probably didn't remember that we had been there. It hit me as I sat with my dad that it didn't matter. They knew we were there when we were there. Just like my dad.

So much of what counts most in life is all about just being there. You know?

Just being there. . .that's hard to beat.


Becky said...

I've seen women in nursing homes cradling dolls before. I think it reflects the need in all of us, especially women, to love and nurture something. And to feel needed.
I have not gone frequently, but several times a year I take my kids to visit a friend of mine that lives in a nursing home. It is amazing how when I walk through the front door with my children, almost all the wheelchairs in the room start turning and/or moving toward us. It scares the kids a little bit (they are so young) and I have to admit that sometimes I think of a horror movie because they all turn so slowly and start creeping toward us in slow motion (my overactive imagination running away with me). But it always reminds me of how lonely life can be sometimes and how important it is to treat others lovingly. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This post is a really tough one - for us all. Modern medicine has allowed us to outlive a healthy body and/or mind. This is an issue we will all share in one way or another - for ourselves or for a close loved one. I hope all goes as well as can be hoped for your Dad, Larry.