Sitting together in a spare room, the space between his chair and mine is the same each day. We're alone, except for one tiny ant, awkward and disoriented, climbing the leg of his chair. The sun slips through the venetian blinds, printing odd bars of light on the polished tile floor. The old man reaches out, wistfully fingering the empty space before him.
He scans the room, searching. I talk about this and that in my day, looking for those bits of my father still remaining in his bony frame and ill- fitting clothing. His body is transformed. From a large imposing man to a skinny adolescent boy with a tentative smile and hair that is wiry and completely disheveled.
Each morning he stands in the shower stall. As if he waits for the cleansing waters to wash away the fog gathering in his head, and Parkinson's crippling pain which has found a new home in his legs. He struggles with a thought, it evaporates. Followed by another, fluttering in and out of the shell that once held his brain. Words disband.
Quickly, like birds dispersing at the first sign of a summer storm. He speaks the language of the lost. His words tumble out like blocks one on top of the next, without order or design. Now and then he gazes at the stranger in my chair. I read from his diaries. He rocks gently. As if his body recalls the soothing voice of his mother. I read aloud of times past, of family.
Of picnics on the rocks in Maine, of long hours spent as a family, hiking and telling stories. Of his car with the top that folded down. Long drives, getting lost, finding our way back home, talking, recalling family gatherings, laughing and bickering over which road to take. And, of cherished moments, digging in the garden with my mother.
A touching review:
"I found that there is a huge disparity between textbook case readings and real, live, breathing people - people still tremendously loved and cared for. It is writings like this that can shake a person from their reverie of professionalism, of decorum...and bring them to the present. This moving story, brief in its summation, was a clear call to bringing a human face to a devastating disease."
Thank you, drjim