Mom was always a little blue on dreary days like this. But rather than fight it, Mom simply followed the sun by going undercover as she put aside her normal productive activities to stay in bed with one of her treasured Harlequin romances. Mom’s books were a lifelong passport to happier places, even if only to the land of sleep and dreams.
What is it about the dark that inspires us to rest, like a bear hibernating for the winter? Last Saturday I walked into my father’s dark nursing home room in the middle of the day to find him curled up in a recliner sound asleep. These days our roles are polar opposites; where Daddy once woke me back to life, it is now me beckoning him to do the same. I reached out my hand to open the blinds to invite in the bright sunny day, then for added insurance, I reached out my hand to turn on Daddy’s bedside lamp to flood the space with soft reading light. Finally, I reached out my hand to softly touch Dad’s shoulder. But the hand that worked so well to bring light and life from the blinds and the lamp fared less well with Daddy.
As peaceful as a young babe, Dad’s face was wiped free from the cares of living, where unable to exercise his own free will, Daddy is shuffled and wheeled and carried about like a fragile piece of antique furniture at the wills and occupation of others. As I remember Daddy trying to wake up, I liken it to the truth of those ancient words–the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak–spoken by someone greater than I who was very much in the know. While Daddy was glad to see me, he could not will his vacant eyes to stay open. And rather than helping Dad fight it, I surrendered my father to the healing powers of a warm blanket and the cover of darkness.
As I watched Daddy sleep, I wondered where his dreams were taking him. I hoped for some happier place, to that mystical font where deepest dreams come true. Lately my dreams have consisted of unhappy places; I find myself stuck in a turnstile at an airport with heavy luggage that–though too large to carry on board–I refuse to relinquish. And while I keep missing flight after flight and feel anxious to reach my unknown destination, I am stuck between that proverbial rock and a hard place. I refuse to give up my precious bags and I refuse to give up my journey. So I struggle for something to jar me loose, like a needle struck in the groove of a scratched LP record I wait for that helping hand to shove me through the turnstile so that I can play the next ring of the tune, until I know how this dreary dream will end.
What seeds of experience or longing breed such dreams within us? And of those of my beloved father, who hopefully sleeps without memory of the clumsy and unsteady feet which hold him back from his own hoped-for destiny of his home on the hill? Here of late, I’ve been left to wonder whether my recurrent dream has anything to do with Daddy. While I am no interpreter of dreams, I suspect that those precious bags I refuse to part with are full of my hopes and dreams for Daddy’s recovery. And that I am in some fruitless tug-of-war for Daddy’s spirit, engaging with the invisible powers who wait for me to graciously turn over my bags to their safe care and handlng.
Even now, I sense those spirits of the invisible world may be calling Dad’s spirit home, far away from the home that I have in mind. Like St. Paul, Daddy has indeed fought the good fight; Dad’s past month’s progress is proof of what sheer willpower can do. And while Daddy may not yet be ready to join Mom in the happily-ever-after, Saturday’s visit was a reminder that the human spirit is both strong and fragile; capable of great hope and susceptible to instant despair. And though I did not suspect it at the time, the spirit I called sadness that day was instead a precursor to yet another medical setback, as today, Daddy is resting alongside IV tubes at another hospital in Seminole.
Whenever Daddy lands on the space called ‘Hospital’, I always fear that the biggest good-bye of them all is waiting just around the corner, a few steps beyond the turnstile. When I’m finally shoved through, will I then gracefully release my precious burden for its journey, and like the not-so-big girl that I am, just cry and wave my hand good-bye. No, probably not. I’ve never been good at saying good-bye in my life. And the mere thought of Daddy being among the ‘dearly departed’ is not something I’m yet ready to grasp. My flesh is weak and my spirit unwilling.