No slouching; this is your moment to shine.
Come, come, my pretty ballerinas. It’s show time!
No slouching; this is your moment to shine.
It’s a recurring dream that pops up from time to time when life requires reflection; a nightmare for this retired teacher.
My classroom is in chaos. I’m bumbling the lecture, sensing an uncharacteristic lack of preparation as I grapple with my ineptitude and their waning attention. The more I bumble, the more my students rumble, until they abandon all pretense of propriety.
Pockets of chatter pop up like dandelions in the spring marring my once pristine patch of pupils. An exchange between two girls escalates in the back row, prompting a Pavlovian response from those drooling at the prospect of being the first to post the mayhem on social media.
Blessedly, the bell rings and the chaos is carried away on the winds of change.
Lord knows, my life of late has been chaotic.
I thought time would put things right, but still, nothing feels right. Even the weather (sunny and seventy yesterday in Chicago?) has conspired to make February feel like May. I’m confused, as are the crocuses and the daffodils.
My new mantra?
Be still. Trust life and His plan for my life.
And so, like a dandelion (they keep popping up all over today’s literary landscape) I wait; for direction, for inspiration, for that moment when it feels right again to share my joy.
Ah, yes! Weren’t the holidays brutal?
So much for peace on earth.
All those expectations were exhausting; the planning, the spending, the calories, the parties, the family members who make you question your ancestry.
Church services were wonderful, an oasis in a sea of insanity.
I expect the worst is over; at least until the bills and pounds start adding up. Ugh!
Fortunately the New Year is right around the corner, as is a fresh start.
I’ll resolve once more to turn over a new leaf. I'll clean house, join a Fitness Club, and diet in earnest, at least until Valentines’ Day when chocolate and I have a date with destiny.
I figure if all else fails, I can always start planning my next trip.
Travel to central Florida in the middle of June is brutal. Yesterday, the temperature upon entering my sister's vehicle left parked in the sun for less than an hour was 109 degrees Fahrenheit. The only thing more brutal than travel to central Florida in the middle of June is travel to central Florida in July and August.
I’ve had a week to wonder if the brutal heat and humidity are a preview of coming attractions for those poor souls in God’s Waiting Room headed in the wrong direction. It’s a frequent topic of discussion for my father. He’s not yet made peace with his maker. Then again he has a lot of ground to cover with 91 years under his belt.
He’s hard on himself; as hard as he was on me and my siblings decades ago. He did the best he knew how parenting four hellions; of that I'm convinced having raised a few of my own. That we both fell short comes with the territory.
Maybe the years of slow decline are part of God’s grand design. Removing all distractions – ambition, vanity, pride – certainly encourages reflection and humility. Regret has been part of the picture, too.
But the suffering?
I grapple with that part of the equation when the variables represent the frail and the infirmed.
That was my mantra yesterday while watching the shadows from the fading sun tiptoe across the floor towards my father’s hospital bed. The stubborn old man had finally found a moment of peace courtesy of an opioid drip silently and steadily dulling the pain.
Approximately 1.6 million hip fractures occur worldwide each year. My father’s risk of mortality just went up three-fold when he broke his femur Wednesday during a fall. His independence for the rest of his life just went down the tube.
He knows nothing of the statistics, much less what lies ahead. The surgery this morning will be the least of his problems should he survive the ordeal.
Is it horrid of me to pray for an end to all his suffering?
Why would this visit be any different from the last? Lately, every time I travel to Florida to spend time with my father I experience an existential crisis.
Teetering on the edge of his mortality, his health rapidly failing, my 91-year-old father appears a lost soul looking to take flight. I see surrender in his tired eyes and in the stoop of his once-broad shoulders; I hear resignation in his voice and in the shuffle of his feet; I feel withdrawal in his reluctance to engage the world at large and in each awkward hug ensconced in his frail and fragile frame.
His vulnerability is palpable; so too is his lassitude.
‘Hold on a little bit longer!’ I want to shout. Be brave, be wise, be a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel. Be my hero, be my dad!
What do I know of saying goodbye?
I know this is not my swan song; not my life, or my death.
I know, too, with each visit, with each chance to bear witness to my father’s suffering and his letting go, that I grow more determined to be brave, to be wise, to be a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel.
After all, sooner than I ever imagined possible, I’ll be the one barring the door. It’s time I took up the torch.
The extent of my travels last week was twenty-five miles on my bicycle. I am woefully out of shape!
Despite all the huffing and puffing those twenty-five miles (tackled over several days) were amazing, a kaleidoscope of rapidly changing colors and shapes that fueled the imagination and courted whimsy (and a wee bit of worry). Then again, maybe it was simply all the fresh air.
You’ve been forewarned.
“Maybe it’s a message from God.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes before countering with a request.
“Did you bring headphones?”
“Sorry,” I offered with sincerity.
My husband got up from his seat and made his way to the back of the plane for a few minutes of peace and quiet via a bathroom break.
“Just politely ask him to stop,” I whispered from across the aisle when he returned.
I was sitting pretty, as in an aisle seat across from my beloved, who’d snagged his own aisle seat, too, on a recent Southwest flight (for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, it’s open seating on all Southwest flights) to Denver from Chicago. Only the middle seat next to me was empty. Jimmy hadn’t fared as well.
And to add insult to injury, the guy in the middle seat added an entirely new dimension to annoying for the duration of the flight.
The parking lot was filled to capacity, the walkers and wheelchairs lining the hallway adjacent to the dining room sentinels of that precious commodity called independence. Florida is dotted with tens of thousands of “independence villages” just like my father’s senior living community.
Old-old age was on the menu; a bad back, a tired ticker; failing eyesight, choppy conversations from the hard of hearing; fine dining for the lonely, the infirmed and the marginalized. For most, my father included, chronic conditions punctuate every waking moment and many of the nocturnal moments devoted to that elusive elixir, sleep.
“It beats the alternative,” my father quips in defiance on his good days.
The good days are fading like old photographs. Pain and perseverance are constant companions, my father’s only steady companions aside from his cat, Dusty. At 91 defying the odds has become an uphill battle. The World War II and Korean War vet knows a thing or two about battles; he knows, too, with every passing day, that nobody wins this war. Still, surrender seems out of the question.
The troops filling the dining room were weary, too. Battle fatigue was evident in the stoop of their shoulders, in the shuffle of their feet, in the sadness around the eyes. It’s a lonely road to that distant destination, the inevitable losses (loved ones, close friends, health, dignity, purpose) not for the faint of heart.
My heart aches for the frail and vulnerable man who now walks in my father’s shoes. Even my father seems surprised by the old-old man with whom he now shares so much history – the boy from long ago, the father of yesteryear, the marine, the widower, the nonagenarian.
Still, it was fine dining listening to the life stories shared by our dining companions. All represented profiles in courage.
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