Friday, June 16, 2017

somewhere in the mix




















I'm remembering being inside the memory care unit where my Dad, Sunny, spent his last two years. He'd always been a walker, a hiker of trails and mountains and then, as an old man his wanderlust proved unsafe for him.

Settling him into this new place broke me open to crushing sadness and grief. Dad didn't seem crushed. There was confusion, yes. But most of the time sitting together, talking quietly, my hand on his was enough. Thank you, hon. I'm so grateful for your help. 

He'd notice a jar of daisies I'd brought from my garden and his joy was near rapturous.

Some visits I'd psyche myself into such dread, my whole body contracting around my fear of "these people" and what was my father doing in a place like this and the ultimate self-focused reaction - Dear God, what if I end up in a place like this?

There was my internal fear cluster and then I'd enter the community room and Dad's face would light up at the sight of me (and Claire, who was my partner through those years). He'd forgotten many things but somehow held onto his children which was somehow crucial to my feelings of not having lost him completely. Next thing, I'd be sitting in a circle of chairs batting a green balloon over to Joe, WW II fighter pilot, or Carol, who always greeted me like we were long-lost friends, Gosh it's been a while, Betsy. 

Even very quiet Helen would play, gently tapping the balloon off her lap.


Somewhere in the mix, I got into the game wholeheartedly laughing and cajoling, rushes of joy when the balloon was saved from hitting the floor. For some brief precious time I was relieved of my frightened projecting head. And though I never completely relaxed into my father living there, or his growing old and frail, or some of the more serious cases who lived there with him, I came to love these people and balloon volleyball, and my father ever more deeply.







Instead of my usual no no, I can't do this I cannot do this, it shifted.

I can 
I have

I'm here playing balloon volleyball with
Joe
Carol
Helen
and my sweet father, Sunny.

We're here.
We're laughing.
The sun is streaming through the window.


xo b











illustration by Michael Collins

12 comments:

  1. Betsy,

    I'm sure you and Claire lit up their world with your visits.

    And I believe "the ultimate self-focused reaction" is an off shoot of your empathetic nature.


    xoxo,
    kath

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by to read and then take the time to comment. It means the world. Peace and love to you. xo

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  2. Oh this touches me so deeply this San Antonio morning. My beautiful daughter is in home hospice care, her time here with us now measured in weeks, no longer years. How tenderly I hold her hands, how small and frail she seems when I hug her. Reading of your last times with Sunny my heart hurts with yours.He was one of a kind.

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    1. Dearest Phyllis,
      So grateful you showed up here, knowing the crucial, tender time you are in. It's unimaginable what you are being asked to be present for, yet so many mothers have done what you are doing. Your beautiful daughter is one of a kind, as are you, as was/is Sunny...I write to remember and remind myself (and hopefully my readers) to stay close, stay present - even when my heart is breaking open, which is daily. Sending so much love to San Antonio.

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  3. Oh this touches me so deeply this San Antonio morning. My beautiful daughter is in home hospice care, her time here with us now measured in weeks, no longer years. How tenderly I hold her hands, how small and frail she seems when I hug her. Reading of your last times with Sunny my heart hurts with yours.He was one of a kind.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and leave a note. xo

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  4. Beautiful. I'm missing him at Holy Acres right now.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by. Sunny was a bright presence who is deeply missed! xo

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  5. hi bets,

    sorry it has taken me so long to read your blog! in my new life, moving back east, i want to be more in touch...of course you, i think, are moving west and so we are trading places.

    reading about your balloon volleyball experiences with ellsworth brought back childhood memories of playing that game. also made me glad to be moving back nearer to my parents.

    lots of love, becs

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    1. So wonderful to hear from you! I heard you are moving east - very happy for you, especially closer to family. Life's a dance, for sure.
      love love. b 🌀

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