I’m in a hospital right now.
Hospitals are places I’m not used to. Door after door with curtains drawn in front of them. Inside each is someone’s son or daughter. Many of them are also someone’s father or mother.
I’m in room 16, colloquially, but the sign on the door actually says H4016.
Last night in the middle of the night I heard an intercom alert for Code Red. This morning I heard an alert for Code Blue. I don’t know what either of them mean but I can’t help but wonder who’s son or daughter, father or mother… I imagine doctors and nurses rushing away from their stations and converging upon the patient’s room. If the family were there they’d be visibly distraught, but the staff arrives calm. Their faces are composed. The normalcy of emergency.
This is all in my imagination though, of course.
What’s real is my father in this room. My grandpa’s son. What’s real is how frail he looked when I first arrived last night. The pain on his face was real and how thin he looks is real. The purple bruise almost the size of my hand on his neck. How he could barely talk.
What’s real is that I’ve never seen my dad this weak before. And that scares the shit out of me.
He’s also fine. None of this was unexpected, the operation went well, and he ought to be healthier soon than he was before. I’m grateful to be able to come and be with him. And it’s still very much a learning process… How to be with him. How to love him and connect with him.
How can I best love my father? For me, right now, it means two things.
The first is to hold him up high. To honor his highest possible self. To acknowledge his best intentions and forgive him where I perceive that he’s fallen short. To know that he was once a boy too, who got some needs met and others not. As a result he made decisions about both himself and the world. He’s still carrying them with him. I’m no different.
The second is to meet him where he’s at and honor who he is in this very moment. In order to do this I need to acknowledge my tendencies to want him to be more open, or happier, or more present. Or whatever it is that I project that he’s not.
When I put the two together it feels like a gentle, loving pressure. Connecting from a place of true curiosity. I’m not trying to get anything specific out of him. I don’t have an unspoken viewpoint that I want him come around to. It’s just “I want to know more about you. Will you tell me more about you here? No? How about here?”
It’s being as conscious of the space I’m creating as of the space I’m taking up.
And as I write, now that he’s out on his third walk of the day, I can let a few tears come out. I can let out some of the fear that’s inside me.
None of us last forever, no exceptions.
That’s kind of scary. Especially when I see that story being written in front of my own eyes, with my own family.
But what I do with this fear is a choice. I can try to go away from it or I can honor the message it’s got for me and hold it close. I can invite it into my life and let myself be guided by it. Not dominated by. Guided by. It’s like a partnership, a dance. There’s an ebb and a flow to it.
And only when I’m dancing with fear, holding him tightly, our cheeks touching, can I hear him whisper in my ear.
He says “love, right now.”
I agree and I obey.