My sister, who has been here helping look after our 97-year-old father, left this morning, and shortly after she took off for places unkown, I went to dance class, leaving him alone. When I checked on him upon my return, he didn’t seem to have been affected by either of our absences, just went about his life as usual.
I’ve lost track of how many times he’s seemed to be at the end of his life, prompting me to plan my immediate future. The first time, I planned a cross-country trip to promote my books. I started gathering the promotional materials, even went so far as to write all the independent bookstores in the country. He returned to his normal self, scotching my plans, which was just as well — I got such an abysmal response to my USPS mail campaign, that I lost all interest in visiting the bookstores in person. (I didn’t send just a Hi-I’m-an-author-buy-my-books promo. I sent gift certificates for ebooks and offered to interview each of the storeowners for my interview blog to help promote their stores. Not one responded.)
The second time, I planned to walk to Seattle, either via the Pacific Crest Trail or the various coastal trails. (California, Oregon, and Washington all have a coastal trail in the process of completion.) I spent weeks trying to figure out the logistics of such a trip, taking into consideration my age, the state of my fitness, and the prodigious amounts of water and other supplies I would have to haul. Just about the time I realized how improbable (if not impossible) such a trip would be for me, my father got better.
There were a few other quickly aborted plans during some of his short down times, such as my getting a teardrop trailer, perhaps, or renting a room in a house to make it easier to continue taking dance classes. During this last near-death turn of events, I didn’t even bother to plan (though I did have a few nights of panic when I realized I have no idea how or why or where I will live after I leave here). I finally understood the futility of expecting or fearing anything when it comes to such a tenacious old man. And sure enough, he’s dragged himself back to life.
One of my siblings suggested putting him in a nursing home, but there is no reason for such an action. He’s on hospice, so I have help when/if I need it, though he has refused to wear a medical alert bracelet that would connect him to hospice in an emergency and he has refused to have someone come stay with him when I’m gone. Still, I’m only out of the house about twenty-four hours a week (you know where I am a lot of that time — dance class!). I keep my phone with me when I’m away, and I’m in the house all night every night. (And if he gets worse, my sister has promised to come back.)
Now that both my dysfunctional brother and helpful sister are gone, I’m back to living a quiet life of . . . I don’t know. Waiting, perhaps, though I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. Maybe my own life, whatever that might be, though for now, this is my life. Or more precisely, dancing is my life, and being here for my father allows me to continue taking dance classes.
At least he’s still alive. To be honest, the thought of perhaps having to live for a few days with a dead body in the house creeps me out.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.