I am thinking about love and trauma and time and trust. I am thinking about love.
March 27th, 2014.
It is almost four years since Dad’s stroke.
I stumbled across a photo of me and dad from a year ago. A year ago. Mom and Dad and I had adventured to Danielson Provincial Park. It was warm and sunny. Spring. We found mostly clear asphalt. Dad drove through every puddle, sending me traipsing deep into the bush after twigs, to explore unidentifiable shadows, find rose hips, gather pussy willows. It was an afternoon hinting of hope. So visible, I still taste it. Like that second fall when dad was strong and learned to lift his paralyzed leg. “Watch,” he’d say. Watch. And we did. And we’d sit around him in a circle, talk of spring and maybe a walker, we’d sit around him, film him, for the doctors and nurses to see .…
I think about mom and dad.
I think about mom and dad and their beautiful, beautiful love.
I remember after my marriage ended, long years afterwards, what I mostly grieved was the loss of the dream; I think about mom and dad. Goodness, to think about that now; I was so young.
Four years. I was so young.
Four years. I remember the look on dad’s face, still in shock, not yet understanding the certainty of life at a care home, that first November, when mom had been away for two weeks, when we brought her home after having part of her lung removed. No room even for the cancer, mom had just decided.
The look in his eyes upon seeing her, only her. In it together.
And I think that is what I have learned, all of these days. As close as I have been with my dad, I know I’m forever his girl. The one he took fishing, who spoke his gentle kind love language most, patiently, who loved kids similarly, who laughed and hiked alongside him, I am that. In all the pain that I feel. And see and know. In all the love that I understand and can share.
Nothing is as big as what is between mom and dad. And oh, there is something so beautiful in knowing this of my mom and dad.
I used to believe I might understand, or know a bit of that beauty. But honestly, as their child, I am entirely removed from their space between. She brings such calm to him and he brings such calm to her. A love between them.
I am so grateful my heart has heard their love story. I am grateful I heard it in the midst of much sadness. I am so grateful that I have learned their story, learned to hear it, to know it, and oh, to live it forward too.
I remember that third night in hospital. Mom was sleeping upstairs. I was staying the night in the chair beside dad’s bed. I remember the yellow light slipping under the hospital curtain. I had been taking photos every day for a while. But in that moment something shifted.
I remember watching the light for a long time. Watching it. A wall of tin-yellow light. A light that stood. The middle place.
I pulled my phone out of my bag. I focused on the light and took the photograph. Moments later, dad called me over, reached for my hand, and told me in his new and same gentle love-staccato words, to keep on.
Wisdom in the midst of a tin-yellow haze.
I hung tight to that photo. For a long while, I didn’t take any others. Or share. But I hung on tight.
That light. The resonance of that attending-light stayed.
It is hope every day. It is love every day. It’s joy and pain, and time, and ache, and oh my-chest-ribs-might-cave-from-the-wreck-of-it-all, grief every day. Life. Every day. Our light.
The singular way he looks at her, looks for her. “Where’s your mom?” and how he lights when she is nearby, when she asks him to fill in the missing details to one of her stories, their stories, that she has told a dozen times but forgets. And he does, and he smiles. How she runs her cupped hands over his forehead after she tucks him in, and in, and in, and in, and when he wakes, she sits beside him to talk, about their daughters, their granddaughter, the cabin, the cat, cards, muscles, his health, the birds in the back yard, that adventure long-ago, and what they will do next…
Together. Love. Every day.
As she straps the sit-stand harness around his chest, pulls his feet into the lift, “Ok Al, talk me through.”
“Step one…” and they both smile, together.
I might be nearby, but between them, only that specular unrelenting light.