I spent last Tuesday in the hospital with my father, admitting my mother, and then waiting for her to come out of surgery. She was having a herniated cervical disc removed. No big whoop.
I used to get defensive when I was expected to attend certain family gatherings or my parents asked if I could meet during the week for lunch. I didn’t think that they respected the fact that, even though I didn’t have a 9-5 or 10-6 or 8-5 (for example) job, it didn’t mean that I was always available.
Maybe being available is why I freelance. So that I can be there for my parents when one of them has to go to the hospital. Maybe this is a part of my calling, my purpose. Maybe I’m the caretaker that horoscopes say us Virgo’s are.
I was thankful that I could spend the entire day with my dad, doing headstands (me, not him) to prevent leg clots that sitting and waiting can cause, eating bad cafeteria food and running out for wine before he started to sweat and tremble.
I had to be there. I wanted to be there.
The familial tides are shifting. I was now asking the hospital staff to bring my mother water. I was listening to the doctor’s post op instructions because my father’s hearing isn’t so good. Although, instead of caretaker, I prefer personal assistant.
I was supposed to be there. I’m supposed to be available to them.
After 53 years, my parents love each other like they did when they first met. They are each other’s best friend, and they both know that, at this point, who else would have them. They care for each other intensely and they would crumble without the other one.
This I witnessed last Tuesday.
It brings me to tears. I told my dad that I wanted someone to feel about me the way he feels about my mother. I want someone to be afraid to lose me. I told him that they set the bar pretty high. He told me that what he and my mother had required work.
I wasn’t afraid of work. In fact, I welcome it because it would mean that I had something, or someone, that I felt was worth working on. Isn’t that something to write home about?
When my dad and I were allowed to see my mom, she was hooked up to all sorts of plugs, chords and machines. She was pale, but for the most part, she looked good, even her hair. She had just come out of anesthesia. I kissed her. My dad followed and then stood at the end of the bed, squeezing her foot (not feet) one foot.
I could see the relief in his face and just how nervous he had been throughout day. It was as if that squeeze steadied him and confirmed that she was still with him.
Then, out of nowhere, my mother pointed to my dad and said to me, “Did you see the shirt he’s wearing?” Earlier in the day, my dad and I were talking about clothes, (I forget in what context), and he told me that, while my mom was being admitted into the hospital, she saw that his collar was frayed, and she made a remark about why he’d leave the house wearing a tattered shirt.
And there it was. Their whole relationship neatly wrapped up in a frayed collar.