When I grow old…

Flower bed in the middle of spring

I hit a wall last Sunday in the early afternoon, when I’d led a class, a church service, 2 meetings and still had to go home, prepare some notes and head up the road to a town north of Montgomery, where I’d accepted an invitation to be Lenten speaker that evening. I thought, “that’s it, I’m taking tomorrow off because I am exhausted.

I did household work that following morning, planted some lilies of the valley, washed and ironed and folded and put away, moved winter clothes upstairs and summer clothes downstairs. Monday was also when I got my girl her Easter Basket and was the day I took my dad to get his monthly pedicure. He got out of the car a little more slowly, walked a little more carefully, seemed a little more stooped over than usual. I chuckled a bit, watching him walk into the nail salon, thinking he’d been home a week and still wasn’t fully recovered.

A week earlier, Sherod, my husband, got up at 3:20 in the morning, threw on some clothes, and went over to gather up my dad and his roll-on bag. I imagine they rode into Montgomery in silence, and Sherod pulled up his truck right to the door of the Greyhound station in one of the very seediest parts of town. He watched and made sure my dad got inside safe and sound before heading back home.

At 4:45 a.m., my dad was on a bus, settled in for a 10-hour ride to Gainesville, FL where he would meet the special lady friend he left behind in Panama when he moved to Lowndesboro in 2015. They still email and Skype regularly.

When Dad got to Gainesville, he arranged for an Uber ride that dropped him off at the Airbnb he’d rented for the long weekend he and F were going to spend together. When he told me his plan, I teased him a bit, told him about all the news about Airbnb hosts secretly videotaping guests and posting videos on social media. I ended with the admonishment that I didn’t want to see a video of the weekend on Facebook and my dad blushed the deep red of a freshly picked, ripe tomato.

I picked him up at the Greyhound Station at the backend of his trip; he looked very happy and very tired. We haven’t talked a lot about the weekend; it feels important to respect his privacy and he hasn’t been very forthcoming. He’s still happy and has still been catching up with himself, now two weeks later. But that makes sense. After all, this is my 92-year-old dad. He astounds me. More than 30 years younger than he, I would feel hip and cool to be able to tell the above story about my own self. And he navigated the technology and distances with no help from my husband or me, except for the rides to and from the bus station.

His friend needed to come up for some medical tests so this happened on her timetable. However, I want to believe that with so much life bursting out all around us, with spring in full bloom, my dad was inspired and strengthened to go be true to love. I know for my own self, this is the time of the year I get to thinking of trips I might take and places I might see. But even more–it is he who inspires me and reminds me that even when we grow old, life has a way of being full and rich and overflowing with unexpected opportunities that we can say yes to or not. I hope I will still find the way to say yes if I live to be 92….

Easter Basket

We have had very little contact with María since January. Sherod was down and actually had a couple of pretty good days with her at the beginning of March, was there on her “Gotcha Day” on March 4th. I will go see her for her birthday in the middle of May. In the meantime, there have only been a handful of calls, a couple frantic, with her wanting us to reassure her that we are still alive. There has been one single one that felt like we were actually connected like we used to be, so much history carrying us through all kinds of conversations and laughter in spite of so much separation. I ask myself: if I sing to her in Spanish will she remember? Is there a right word, a right tone, a right response that makes it better? How about an Easter Baske? I can buy her an Easter Basket—put all the things in there that remind me, and maybe remind her, of the way it used to be.

Today I bought what I needed to put together the basket.  

I had taken today off after hitting a wall yesterday at about 1:30 PM: I finished the third meeting of the day and knew I had sm notes I needed to make for myself before heading to Wetumpka, a town north of Montgomery, to be the last speaker for the Lenten Program of the Episcopal church up there.  I realized I had to stop. Just stop. So this morning, I did. I told my mind to quit jumping around so much, I made a list of the simple household tasks I could get done.

I was already moving quickly by 8 this morning and it was glorious. I planted some lilies of the valley. I washed sheets and made up beds. I ironed and went out to pick one of the last cabbages of our winter planting and then came in to cook.

After lunch, my dad and I headed into Montgomery. He needed a pedicure, and his sweet old dog that continues to hang on, Pía, need a refill for the pain meds for her arthritis.  I had time to kill, and that’s when it hit me actually; my gosh, I’ve been working on my Palm Sunday sermon and it’s not quite 2 weeks until Easter, and I have to get something in the mail to María. With World Market close to where my dad gets his pedicures, I dropped him off and headed on a scout and scavenge journey for my girl.

The basket is ready. Tomorrow, Sherod will see to it that it is properly packaged and will coordinate with María’s behavioral specialist so he can ship it and make sure our girl gets it her goodies in time for Easter. I can’t stop and wonder if It will have any meaning for her. I know better than to hope that it will draw her closer, out of the place she has withdrawn to that keeps her so far away from us now.

I have to be truthful, mainly with myself. I could reach back to another time, remembering how much Easter baskets delighted my brothers and me when we were little.  I could giggle when I found a silly little lamb, there was a tiny snow globe with a little chick inside; I stood and shook it for as long as I dared and then added it to my cart. For those 20 or so minutes I spent shopping, and then the other 10 I spent here at home putting it together, all that mattered was I could do this one small thing for my girl.  

And then, for an instant, the black hole opened up and for the first time ever, I wondered what it would have been like to have a 23 year old daughter who could engage with me or roll her eyes and tell me she was busy, if I tried to talk about my Holy Week sermons.  I fled as fast as I could from that thought.  Magical thinking is not the way forward.But neither is that horrible, insidious game of ‘what if.’ What there is that can’t break, can’t be erased or forgotten or denied, what there is is so much love and if the only way I can love her today is by putting this silly gift together, I am thankful for what I have.