Monday, November 29, 2010

A bittersweet Thanksgiving

I drove the family two southern states over, to visit my elderly parents for the holidays. The older we both get, the more I appreciate my father, all he's done for us, & his many brothers and sisters. So I was very glad to take a day and drive him four hours to yet another state, to visit his brother, the last of his many siblings. They grew up on a farm, and had older siblings who were themselves old enough to be their parents. These have all passed on, and now it's only the two of them left.

It's really only Daddy, though. The younger brother has been disappearing into dementia for the past decade. Now he is almost totally gone. Thank God he was able to recognize Daddy, though. He thought I was also Daddy, but I don't care about him recognizing me. We visited him in the hospital, where he had had to go after a bad turn the previous week. He lay in bed looking up at Daddy with a wall-eyed, frozen grimace--possible the result of a mini-stroke. Daddy looked down at him, his weathered old face shifting from sadness to compassion to attempted good cheer. He didn't know what to say to him, but just muttered some pleasantries in his bluff, good-natured manner. My uncle asked for a deceased sister and her deceased husband a couple of times. Daddy tried to explain that they were dead, but the second time just said that they couldn't make it this trip.

We couldn't linger in the hospital, because we had to get back home before Mother's in-home care left for the evening. We said our farewells; "See you next time", I promised. We drove back mostly in silence, didn't want to intrude on Daddy's thoughts. Finally I said that the visit had been too short, and that if he wanted to come back I'd be glad to take him some other time. He said he was grateful for me taking him--I've never heard him thank me so profoundly for something--and trailed off, and I didn't press. Daddy had helped him financially in the past, as well as several other siblings and inlaws. This might well have been the final favor he could do for his brother, just to let him look into his eyes once more. I'm glad I didn't bring a camera, for fear of the temptation to intrude on their moment together.