I saw an elderly gentleman with a walker who looked so fragile right now. I was just returning from the gym in an attempt to keep age from creeping up on me. This elderly man was being helped by a woman probably 20 years older than me. As I turned the corner toward my home, I was placed into a tunnel of memories from my dad’s last days.
I saw him sitting out on his front porch mid-morning in a wheelchair, looking down on me upset, maybe even angry; I was on my knees looking up. He asked me, “Do you think this is funny?” You see, we had just returned from a small walk up to the corner and back and I had made the comment that he would be “up and running in no time.” No, I didn’t mean it. We both knew he would not be recovering from his illness; but in all my time growing up, I feel like he taught us to look at life with a sense of humor, to be humble about ourselves and to try to keep a sense of hope in general. In making that comment I was merely coping. “No Dad, I don’t.” I saw the frustration in his eyes. How unfair that life would take such a turn and that he knew he would have to leave his family this way; that he would suffer the same fate his brother did just two years earlier. That was the first time, and only time through Dad’s illness that I saw a moment of weakness in him. During the last two months of his life, he was nothing but positive. He pushed through doing what was necessary to live through the effects of pancreatic cancer and the meds provided for palliative care. Now I cannot say this is true of EVERY moment. I’m sure he shared his burdens with Mom.
I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to go there, yet here I am tears streaming down my face. Sometimes I regret that moment of frustration he felt. Sometimes I am angered by it. Sometimes I feel that it was what it is was–weakness, brought on by the simple fact that we are human and humans ARE frail. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always know how to cope. Every moment in life is not perfect, in fact, they are rarely perfect. But it was a moment between father and daughter. A moment that will hopefully make ME a more compassionate caring being. A moment I have kept tucked away in my mind and my heart until now, almost seven years later.
I came in the back door of my home and stopped in the kitchen to look out the front window. I watched the elderly man and woman head up the street. Waiting, just watching. I wondered if he fell would she have the strength SHE would need to pick him up and help him? I waited because I am strong. I could run out there if needed. With bated breath I stood to see if he would make the turn because his legs are no longer strong. He almost looked as though he would fall over. Gently, he managed to turn and head up what is to me a small bump, to him a steep hill, and disappeared around the corner house. My tears fell.
To age is to become humble. To know that you still don’t have all the answers. To need others in a way that you have never needed them before. To be comforted and consoled. To let go. To be ready.
Are we ever truly ready?