Bookends of Laughter

Don and Charlotte Chrysdale have been in our lives for as long as I can remember and way before that. Don and Dad have known each other since they were three. They were Boy Scouts together. Their parents met at church and played Sheepshead together. We grew up alongside their seven children—Peter, Pam, David, John, Mathew, Elizabeth and Patricia.

We were connected again recently when David and I ran into each other on a Friday night at the bar at Hollander, waiting for our tables. We wrote down each other’s numbers and I promised to stop by with Dad to visit Don at the Catholic Home. We never made it so he brought his mom and dad to us for a visit yesterday.

Don and Dad just beamed at each other. “We’re still here!” Dad said. “It’s great to see you Don.”

“It’s great to be seen!”

After sharing some stories, Joanie said to Charlotte, “Do you remember all that good food you brought over when Mom died? Remember that yellow squash casserole?” (Yes, and the sliced turkey breast, stuffing and cake.) “A lot of people had stopped by and we didn’t know what we’d serve and then you walked in with a feast!”

“I don’t remember that but that’s what your mom always did for me. I do remember one time in particular she and your dad came walking up our driveway bringing food to our house. I don’t remember what it was, like you do,” she giggled. “But I remember she had her scarf wrapped around her head because of the chemo. Even then she brought food.”

(I can’t even remember the last time I took food to someone’s house.)

Don brought up Dad’s fellowship to study architecture and our travels camping through Europe. “Remember how you drove along and you’d have the kids pee in a pot?” Don’s whole face lit up. “Then you’d throw it out the window!”

(Really?)

Charlotte had told me recently that though Don’s memory isn’t what it used to be, it all comes back to him when he talks to Dad. The wonders of friendship, I thought as I sat and took in the conversation—the beauty of being understood by someone, of being loved. Isn’t that all any of us really wants?

“Have you heard about the new movie that’s out?’ Dad asked Don.

“What movie?”

“Constipation,” Dad said.

“No…” Don looked quizzical.

“It hasn’t come out yet.”

–June 23, 2016FullSizeRender (78)

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Shoes at the Door

Todd and I have had continual banters about leaving my shoes at the top of the stairs at home so I don’t track dirt across the carpeting. He’s put a nice big swatch of extra carpeting there to remind me. I use it to wipe my feet like a bull getting ready for a stampede but he says dirt travels. He can support his position, he says, by the trail I’ve created from the steps to my closet. I don’t see it. It’s amazing we stay married. I have come to believe he’s part saint.

I think he’ll be pleased to hear that while I’ve been staying at Dad’s I’ve gotten into the habit of kicking my shoes off at the door. Things change.

Things change when you step inside a door closer to life because you’re nearer death. Time becomes timeless. Space loses boundaries—morning becomes night, and night, morning. Dad and I were up in the night and he was talking about going to the Island today. It’s 10:48 a.m. now so I know we won’t be getting an early start.

“How do we do this?” my sister and I ask each other. “How do we do this?” What do we say?—call me when you think you’re dying again, Dad. I gotta go now.” We miss our husbands—but I can see mine every day. She’s 2200 miles away from home and work—I’m within walking distance to both. The world goes on around us, where days are measured in minutes not breaths, where shoes are carelessly worn across carpeting, where death is seen as the end and life as finite

Don’t talk about death in front of Dad—not death where it’s the end. Don’t bring up the end because to him, this is a new journey, a new beginning—a new life. Don’t mention grief. “We are celebrating here,” he tells the nurse.

“It’s so beautiful here in your condo, Bill,” she responds as her eyes search the photos that stand in layers on the shelf beside her—it’s as if she’s searching for an explanation. She won’t find it in the flat, two dimensional reflections of our images. It’s a Living Presence she senses which brings a timeless beauty, that dwells within and fills the room where my shoes are sitting at the door. “I can feel the family’s love,” she says. “You all seem to be doing just fine.”

I think we are. This is a time to be treasured not measured.

When heaven begins to open, you find yourself standing on holy ground and you just know inside—you know the time has come to leave your shoes at the door.

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Sunday with Dad

I was following behind Dad as he took charge of the walker that has lived for two years in the basement storeroom. Anytime we made the slightest suggestion to get it out for him, the answer was, “No”.

He’s good at getting around with it now though and with the wheels, I call him Billy Speedster. As he makes his way around the tight corner between the bed and the dresser I hear him muttering, “It says in the Bible, when you get old, you’ll need help.” These days are blending together and like Dad, I lose track which day is which. But there is some freedom in that, even joy.

I want to have the scriptures Dad treasures engraved in my heart and I spent yesterday morning reading through his favorites–the Book of John, Chapters 14-17. It begins with Jesus comforting his disciples and I love how, all these years later, the words sound as though they could be spoken directly to us. The first verse is one of Mom’s favorites, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for them and will come back for them. When Thomas says that he doesn’t know the way, Jesus tells him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These are the words Dad has lived his life by. Ask a cashier at his grocery store, a neighbor, my son or my husband, or even one of my best friends who might just happen to run into him at CVS, Dad will want to know how your faith is and isn’t afraid to ask if you know Jesus. Dad’s touched hearts and ticked others off.

“Love each other as I have loved you,” Jesus says in Chapter 15:12. I counted seven times that he says, “Remain in Me.” And three more times, “Remain in my love.”

I have the privilege of spending these holy days with Dad and I can’t help but want to share them. Dad is sleeping now so I can’t ask him but I would guess that if he wanted to share anything from his heart to yours today, it would be just that–remain in God’s Love.

“Debbie?” I hear Dad’s voice calling from his bedroom.

“I’m here, Dad,” I yell back as I run down the hall. He’s sitting up and turns his head. Out of the corner of his eye I catch the twinkle.

“I thought this was a Bed and Breakfast ”

“You ready for breakfast, Dad?”

“Yes!”

June 19, 2016image

Morning Light

imageThe storm passed through in the night and I didn’t even notice. I woke up this morning and the light in Dad’s room was on. He was sitting up reading his devotions as he used to do. He hasn’t been able to sit up on his own for a while.

“Dad?” I walked over and he looked up at me.

“I’m not dying! This is exactly what I was afraid of.”

“Well, you have a little energy. This is a good thing.”

“I swung my legs around and sat up.”

I smiled.

“But I told Dr. Tschopp I was dying.”

“Well Dad, it’s true, we all are.”

“But I told her I need hospice.”

“That’s good. I think we do.”

“Joanie’s coming home. I’m supposed to be dying.”

“You’re hardly eating. You don’t have much strength. I think we do need Hospice and it’s great Joanie is coming. She wants to see you. I guess God’s giving you a little extra time to get your heart right. If that takes ten years…well, what can I say?”

The doctor called then and we talked through a few things. By the time I hung up the phone he was back asleep. Do you think he’d notice if I make a single serving of Cream of Wheat…?

The New Bed

 

It’s Saturday morning and the phone rings as I’m making coffee. “Debbie, I can’t find the mattress protector.” Dad bought a new bed this week.

“Didn’t you buy one?”

“I thought so.”

“I’m pretty sure John (my brother) said you did.”

“Louis (his friend) put the bed together for me so I’m not sure what he did and I don’t see it. I want to go over to the store and have them show me what it looks like.”

Pause. “Do you want me to go with you?”

Pause. “Well, that would be ideal. I’m just ready to eat my breakfast. I’ll call you back.”

Todd said to tell Dad to look around for it because It’s probably right there but I called Steinhafel’s instead to check out his order. I didn’t have any success and got totally frustrated with the salesperson. (I found out later he bought it at Mattress Firm.)

After a while, just as I was walking out the door to go to Dad’s, he called back to say he had talked to the store. It was on the bed and things were all straightened out. What he thought was the fitted sheet is also the protector.

“Oh, I was just on my way over,” I said.

“Well, I hate to ever tell you not to come over.”

“Okay, I’ll come over anyway.”

When I got there I had to check it out. All I found was a fitted sheet. “Dad, you were right the first time. It’s not here.” I hear the squeak of his boot as he makes his way down the hall.

“They said it looks like a fitted sheet. It’s there.”

“That is the fitted sheet. You have a mattress pad and a fitted sheet but no protector.” As he walks into the room I notice a small box sitting on his dresser. “What’s this?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t open it.”

I read the type across the front, “Mattress Protector”. We look at each other.

“I guess I should have opened the box.”

I love my dad.

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Smart Phone

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This past weekend, Dad and I commented on how grateful we were that we made it through the winter without either of us getting sick.  We’re both vulnerable to catching pneumonia, him more than me.

 

This past Thursday, the nonprofit that I work at was holding its first ever gala fundraiser.  It’s a long story but several months back the board had suggested we cancel it after a couple challenges came up at the office. But, undaunted, my new development director supported me and together, with the board, we forged on.

 

Well, Dad came down with pneumonia on Wednesday afternoon and I had to take him from urgent care then to ER on Wednesdsy night.

 

It all worked out. He came home from the hospital yesterday and the event was great.

 

I made his dinner tray tonight and knowing the bacon wrapped around the ham loaf may not be  the easiest to eat, I unwrapped it and set it on the side of the plate as a sort of garnish…well, more to fill out the plate because his servings are so small. He has no appetite. I told him he could eat the soft part. (More calories.)

 

“I hate bacon”, he said as I set the tray down on the foot rest in front of his favorite chair. Bacon removed from plate. I know someone who will like it. (My dog Sam)

 

Dad sits messing with his phone.
“Dad, your food is getting cold.”
He looks at me, “I can’t get the mute off.”
“Give it here, you’re too hard on the phone, gentle swipe, see there?”
He nods and smiles. “You’re so patient with me, Debbie.”

 

“I know…and that’s why there’s wine…”
“I still can’t get the mute off.” He continues fiddling with it and says, “It’s still there.”
“Where?”
“In the lower left.”
“I don’t see it.”
“There.”
“Where?”
“In the lower left.”
“I don’t see it, Dad.”
“Look on the TV.”
“The TV?” I close my book. “Oh, I see it there.

 

Dad…your phone is smart but not that smart. You need your remote.”
He picks up remote and turns off mute. Takes bite of ham loaf.
“Is it cold, Dad?”
“Uh-huh, it needs a minute or two.”
I carry my glass of wine with me to the kitchen, refill and heat meat.

 

Saturday night with Dad!