“We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.”
— May Lamberton Becker
All day long I’ve gone about housework or errands trying to solve yesterday’s puzzle.
What’s different about Daddy? I can’t put my finger on it. Is it resignation? Acceptance? Indifference? Peace? One thing’s for sure — no peace here — just an itch of unanswerable questions to scratch with no hands to do it.
If Daddy were able to talk or write, I could ask — and with luck, Dad might answer. But playing questions and answers with Daddy is a game whose time has come and gone. No question there.
Each week I visit Daddy with my brother Jon. Yet, to say we visit may stretch the boundaries of truth. We watch a little television together — that’s all. Bonanza mostly — sometimes Andy Griffith or Gunsmoke — perhaps a little Jeopardy! We stay a couple of hours, though it seems that time has less meaning to Dad than it once had — I’m not sure a 45 minute visit these days is much different from one twice that long.
Daddy tells time by listening to his body. Is it time for the bathroom? Time to sleep? Daddy relies on others to tell him when it’s time to shower or time to eat. And like a babe in the womb — which his recliner has surely become — Dad draws nourishment from a lifeline that connects near his navel.
When Daddy’s being mischievous, he twirls his feeding tube around like the end of a jump rope. When he tires of that, Dad plays his body alarm like it’s a video game controller. He puts the plug in, then out. In then out. When staff show up, they find Dad playing with a impish grin that says, “Gotcha!”
It’s no wonder the nurses are always stopping us in the hallway when we visit. A cute little story here and there; words that describe how much they love our Daddy. More than once, we’ve heard, “Though I”m not suppose to play favorites….
As I observe Dad put on his best face for the nurses, it appears their love is not unrequited. Yet, sometimes I wonder how Daddy can be so animated with the nurses yet so ‘not there’ with us? It once was the other way around — Daddy use to be more animated with family and less so with company; guests would come to the house and Daddy would run to his bedroom and close the door.
These days I feel like the company that shows up to find Dad not there. And I guess the reality is — that to Dad — I am less like family than a weekly guest, whereas nursing home staff are more like family than not.
Is my puzzle solved then? Is Daddy still his same old self — but it’s my status that has changed? Has the torch passed?