You recently had some dental work done. You used to abhor dentists. Apparently you’ve carried some of that with you, because you weren’t that thrilled this time around either, but you consented anyway.
I asked what the doctor had done, and you said, “The bottom ones were good, but the top ones…fare-thee-well.”
I cracked up. I hope I didn’t offend you, because you weren’t trying to be funny, but I couldn’t help it.
After talking about your desire to move (again), you said that you’d gone to church today.
“Went to see the pope. Heard his story. Sounded like a great idea, so that’s good.”
Again I laughed, and again you were confused.
This is how our conversations go. I have to be an active listener, deciphering meanings from the puzzle pieces you give me.
You went to see your priest. You discussed the pope and his policies. They sounded like good ideas.
Sometimes, like tonight, things flow between us so similarly to how they used to that for the briefest of seconds I forget everything that’s transpired since last August.
I wish things could always be like this. Easy and clear. But they aren’t. Sometimes we struggle and the words evade your mind and I can’t put the pieces together and it all falls apart before fifteen minutes have passed. Those are the days that I hang up the phone and feel the weight of the stroke bearing down on me. I know you feel it, too, because you tell me so.
“I’m sorry. God, I’m just…my mind…the words get confuddled. I can’t find…the words are lost. What was that word? God. Plastics…no…plastics…NO!”
I never could figure out what word you were searching for, Dad, the day your mind got stuck on “plastics” and wouldn’t let go. Sometimes there isn’t enough context for me to read between the lines. Even when I do figure things out, I try to give you the time to connect the dots yourself. To let your mind stretch and reach for things without my interference. I read somewhere to do that, and so I try.
It’s hard not to help when you flounder. This must be how parents feel as they watch their children struggle with things like multiplication tables and long division.
“And that’s when I wait.”
This is how you described the end of your day. You wait, the same way we all do. You wait for the adventures that lie ahead. It doesn’t matter what struggles you’ve had, what teeth have been lost, what words you cannot find. You are always hopeful for tomorrow. And because you are hopeful, I am too.