I must begin first by saying the “source” of my thoughts today, has given me her approval. Just by that alone, you are probably wondering what I could possibly write about that would require such a thing. It is not something bad, or embarrassing, or even illegal ( I don’t think). To many of you it is a normal daily occurrence, one that has happened once, twice, or a dozen different times within your life. For me however, and my family, this is a first! A once in a lifetime first. One that never even crossed my mind An anomaly of sorts, an event so foreign to me, I am not even sure what to call “it”.
I grew up in a loving home. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s not. It was a home really and truly filled with love. There were just four of us, my mom, my dad, my sister and I. And it was great! The love that my parents had for each other was obvious. It was not that sickening sweet unnatural love, but the honest to goodness, “we like each other” kind. They loved spending time together and spending time with us. They would take us on trips, share us with their friends and include us in their life. They were always proud of us no matter how trivial the achievement, and not a day would go by that they did not tell us how much they loved us. They were fun, and delightful and a real treat to be with.
Several years ago my father was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. As there is no treatment for this horrible debilitating illness, this was a diagnosis that shook us to the core. There was no question of the outcome, no glimmer for a cure. He would eventually loose his battle and we would lose this man we so dearly loved.
My dad was a fun-spirited, outgoing, loving, honest man. The wonderful thing about him, was,he was not just this way to those that he knew and loved, he was this way with everyone. Whether he had met you five minutes ago or had known you for years, he was your friend. He asked questions about your life, showed concern for your hardships, and valued your time.
The day of his memorial service, we were overwhelmed by the number of people that came to celebrate his life. There were close friends, and family, neighbors and ex- neighbors, co-workers and employees, little league players’ that had all grown up, parents of kids and friends of friends, and yes those that he met while standing in line or sitting in a restaurant. The stories they told and the memories they shared, each one personal each one sweet and all forever precious.
The illness had been long and difficult. He was unable to walk or get out of bed. He did not have the use of his hands, arms or feet. He could not wipe his own tears, blow his own nose or feed himself a meal. His hugging days were over, his glee had disappeared and he had become a prisoner within his own body.
Not only had this disease taken him prisoner, but it captured my mother as well. While facing the unthinkable fate that lie ahead, she faced each day with overwhelming tasks of feeding, bathing, and moving my dad. Her morning routine, which lasted for hours would require more physical strength than she ever thought she had and more intimate care than one should ever have to give. Her mornings would end and then her afternoons would begin and by nightfall it was all she could do to pull herself into bed. Day in and day out this was her life, not the life she had planned, not her dream of happily ever after, but her life still the same. She loved him and he loved her. There is nowhere else she would have been and nothing else she would have done. He was her best friend, her true love, her protector, and he was fading away and with a part of him, she went too, for there was nowhere else she could ever have imagined going.
It has been almost two years now and we have all had a bit of adjusting to do. My sister and I have watched while the pain and the loss of my fathers absence has taken its toll on my mom. When you have been so happy sharing your life with your”best friend” for so long, it is hard to find that joy again. Or is it?
A short while back my mom starting getting back into the swing of things. She began doing more with old friends, going to events that she may have avoided earlier on, and attending parties and get togethers. It was at one of these events that our lives became a bit more interesting.
It was an innocent call, one to an old friend. She was in the neighborhood “so to speak” and decided to call to see if he would like to join her and her friends for some dinner and and conversation. I am not sure exactly what happened after that, it is probably better that way, you know the “mystery” of it all. What I do know is this…. The sadness, that look of emptiness that revealed her loneliness, the absence of a twinkle in her eye, It’s gone. All gone! As if the grim reaper himself swooped down and recaptured all of his doom, she has been freed. Embraced by a friendship, empowered by its love, invigorated by its mystery, she now walks with a bounce, smiles with some mischief, and has that twinkle back in her eye. My sister and I could not be happier, my father would approve, and her choice could not be better.
No one has been more surprised than they of this relationship that has occurred. no one perhaps but all of us kids! There are four of us, my sister and I and his daughter and son. Each of us married with kids of our own. Who would have thought? Who knew? How did it happen? Those are all questions that I am sure hit a few of us here and there, but my biggest question of all is this. What do we call him? What do you call a man your mom is dating when they are over 60? Is he a boyfriend? It sounds a bit adolescent really. When you say “friend” then it sounds ominous, her man sounds, just wrong. So what do men and woman call each other when they are members of the AARP and get a senior discount at the movies?
Perhaps it is me. Perhaps it is my faze of denial, not wanting to admit that my mom, that woman that was married to my dad for what seemed like forever, that she is someones girlfriend. That she is throwing caution to the wind and letting down her hair and thinking dreamy thoughts she has not had in years. Perhaps it is that child in me that cannot give up the idea of mom and dad to exchange it for mom and her boyfriend. Perhaps…… But I would guess not. For I am certain that I would rather see this, a mom with a boyfriend, his motorcycle, and her hair in the wind. Yes, this is the face I have missed, the excitement that I love and the mother that I desire. I could not be happier seeing her this way well perhaps a bit if I just knew what to call him.