It is no surprise that taking care of my father is a lot like taking care of my children when they were young. Someone on NPR said the other day that life is a continuum. I don't really know what that means, but I think her point was that we are all alike, some just further down the road than others. Therefore there is a child in all of us, no matter how old. When they are just starting out, a child's natural inquisitiveness hasn't been altered by society's rules. They live in the moment. Often to the embarrassment of the adult in charge, little kids say the most outrageous things at the most inopportune times. I've found out the hard way, that the same is true of a certain old person I know. Sometimes he says things that I think are better left unsaid.
Dad has been telling stories lately of his youth. The one that makes us all chuckle, no matter how many times we've heard it, is the time his mother, a very prim and proper Southern lady hosted a meeting for the Methodist Missionary Society. (Imagine Aunt Bea from Mayberry fame all dressed up with her flowered print shirtwaist dress, white gloves, hat adorned with tulle netting with a pocketbook on her arm, and all the town ladies having coffee in her small but genteel living room.) Dad, just a little tyke, walked into the room. Paying little attention to the ladies, he proceeded to pee in the fireplace as if that was where he relieved himself all the time. My grandmother must have gasped. I think this might have been a time when women got the vapors! I can only imagine that some of them did. When asked why he did it, he looked at his mom with those baby blue eyes and said, "well, Mother, you do it all the time." Funny, as clear as that recollection is, he cannot remember what happened after that!
At the other end of that continuum is the old man who is not shy about telling anyone who will listen his "pee" problems. I guess after you've lived 90+ years you have earned the right to shed the filters and say what you please. On the other hand I don't think that gives an old person the right to say mean, hateful, hurtful things. Polite is polite no matter what the age.
Geez, I didn't mean to get off on that tangent.
My point is that there is much to be learned by spending time with children and old people.
Whether watching a person's light just begin to blaze or slowly burn itself out, it is a privilege I think we often overlook. I am always running here and there, cooking, cleaning, shopping, blogging. I don't stay still much. When I stop I sleep. Since I am always moving it's hard to see what the one I care for really needs. I'm not talking about food, another cup of coffee, or dry pants. I'm talking about the look-into-his-eyes-and-really-see-him-and-his-world kind of attention we all crave. On a daily basis, my concern is my father. But I never fail to see the look of little ones in tow at Wallmart, being dragged along on a tired and harried mother's journey to get the errands done so she can finally get home and put her feet up before she has to do it all again. I can only imagine how hard it is for parents to make ends meet and still sit in wonder with children who are just learning to explore the world. When was the last time you spent time looking at the universe from 24 inches off the ground. As an aside, examining what I thought was an giant ant hill, I found a hole yesterday down under a tree that might have been big enough for a white rabbit to fall through!
Since my father got himself a new battery-powered wheelchair he has taken to motoring out to the end of the driveway with his evening cocktail and sitting there. I admit, at first I thought it was pretty cool for the person who decries the advantages of fresh air and sunshine to agree to go out for a walk. Then I thought it was a tad bit weird to just go out and sit. Alone. Last night, I quit looking at it from my point of view and tried to put myself if not in his shoes, then at least his line of vision.
The heat of the afternoon had dissipated some. If you were still enough you could feel the tiniest of breezes. With the work of the day finished, the birds and squirrels were beginning to sing evening lullabies to their little ones. A few dog walkers came by, tuned into their Ipods but nodded neighborly hellos. From where he sat Dad could look at the house he's lived in for almost 50 years. I can only guess at some of the memories that went through his head in that quiet half hour. My dad isn't the kind of guy you'd see sitting in a lotus position, hands folded in prayer, saying "OM". But as I watched him I was pretty sure he was in a peaceful state of meditation. Who knew?
Wishing for you eyes wide open to the wonders of your world,
P.S. I saw this video this morning on Patty's blog. She got it from TheDailySpark. Where it originated I don't know. But I think I'd give my right arm, to have been there for the filming.
P.S.S. Bartleby, the baby lamb at Bedlam Farms is growing up fast. You can check him out at Katz's blog.