Sunday, July 19, 2009

Seatbelts on Wheelchairs and Words that I've Written

Dear Dad,

Welcome home.

I can honestly say that the neighborhood has not been the same without you for these past three weeks.

For there has been no 85-year-old sun worshiper perched on his front lawn. . . no noisy early riser rifling through the recycling bin next-door. . . . and no well-read copies of Business Week carefully maneuvered into our overstuffed mailbox.

Oh yeah - and even though Mom told everyone she was doing fine without you, I think she was scared to admit that she missed you too.

We've all known that you've had early stage Alzheimer's now for quite a few years, but I guess we've been crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. I - for one - could not imagine that anything could get the better of your giant-sized intellect. The disease may bring down others - I thought - but clearly it had never encountered an individual with your brain power.

And yet somehow these past few years have ushered in more than a few unwelcome and unforeseen changes. And you - my father - have faced each one of these challenges with untold grace and dignity.

For suddenly the man who taught his seven children how to drive, could no longer sit behind the steering wheel himself.

The permanent deacon who - at each Sunday dinner - asked us to discuss the homily, could no longer preach . . . or baptize. . . or assist in liturgies.

The father who used to pay his children a quarter to search for his missing glasses had grown poor in spirit - losing his wallet. . . keys. . . Yankees cap. . . and beloved Magnificat on a daily basis.

The Wall Street banker who misplaced his ATM card one-too-many times, could no longer carry it with him.

And - perhaps the most unsettling of all - a few short weeks ago, the first mortal born with an inboard GPS system, misdirected me while riding shotgun.

And now we have this.

The aftermath of The Fall.

And we silently watched as the forward thinking consumer who demanded seat belts be installed in our 1966 Chrysler station wagon, was alarmed and belted into his wheelchair at the rehab center. . . and the fitness enthusiast who used to rise at 5:00 a.m. to do his calisthenics and run laps (quite literally) around our dining room table each morning, came home with a walker.

Tough. . . all of it.

So excuse us if we hover.

Pardon us if we don't give you the independence which you so rightly deserve.

And be patient with us if we choose cheery conversational topics instead of asking you how you really feel about this new normal in your life.

For we know that one thing remains unchanged - your capacity to see the best in all of us.

Love always,

Oh. . . and one more thing. . . if you know what's good for you. . . . never - and I mean NEVER- call Mom Nursie again. . . for she doesn't always share your sense of humor about such things. . .