By CHRISTINE TAILER
I walked down the familiar hallway to his apartment’s front door and knocked. Years past, he would come to the door and open it wide and greet me with a hug. I heard his gentle voice from inside “Come in, Christine. Come on in.”
He sat in his chair by the window. He made some motions as though to get up and I quickly said “Don’t get up dear Dad, I am right here,” as I hurried across the room and bent to hold him in a long hug. I stepped back and knelt down on the floor beside him. I did not want to leave his side.
“Oh no, no, no. Sit across from me so I can take you in.” So I sat across from him in the chair that used to be my mother’s, and we talked easily of children and grandchildren and life on the farm. I told him the familiar stories of his progeny, where they all were and what they were doing, and as our conversation ran along, in time he would ask again if this child had married, and in what state another child was living, and how many great grandchildren he had by now. Soon it was time for lunch.
He rose unsteadily from his chair and picked up his cane.
“That is a nice cane” I exclaimed. “Yes, I have had it for years,” he told me. I did not remember it so constantly by his side on my last visit.
He told me how wonderful it was to be ninety and how he had hopes of reaching one hundred. He told me again of his grandfather, Pa Barney, who had made it to one hundred and three, and how his own mother had been well into her 90s. “You have good genes dear,” he told me as we walked down the hall, side by side.
When we got to the cafeteria he seemed somewhat confused. He could not find the beverages and explained to me that they had just remodeled and had changed everything around. He has been telling me this for the past year. The remodeling had actually been done several years ago.
We took our trays over to a round table and sat down beside a friend of his, and again I told of children and grandchildren and life on the farm. He listened with rapt attention, and whenever our eyes met he smiled. He sat quietly while I talked.
And then lunch was over. We walked back up to his apartment along bright hallways, bathed in sunlight that shone in through the tall windows. He decided to walk up the grand central staircase rather than take the elevator, but at the top of the stairs he turned left, not right, which would have led back to his apartment. I followed along by his side, but his steps grew slower.
“I think that your apartment is back the other way” I said.
“Ah, that is right” he said, as we turned around. “You know, they built this place like a maze on purpose.” He paused, “When folks get lost and can no longer find their way back to their apartments, then it is time for other arrangements.”
I walked quietly beside him. He reached over and took my hand in his and gave a gentle squeeze. His touch felt like a cool, soft flutter. “I am not quite there yet. In time,” he said.
“I know Dad.”
We walked on in silence for a moment. I had made the trip to visit him, of course because I love him, but also to talk with him about the possibility of making the move downstairs to a room in assisted living. My tongue was tied. My father had given up driving on his own years before and had taken to riding the bus. He had also known when it was time to let me handle his financial affairs. And now it seemed that he was already thinking of the next move in his life, the move downstairs to assisted living.
We came to a window that looked out on an outside thermometer. We paused to look at the world outside. The sun shone brightly on the snow covered ground, and felt warm as it shone in through the window, but the gauge read a chilly seventeen degrees.
“It certainly feels good to be here,” he said. I nodded my head and agreed.
It was good to be alive, and it was ever so good to stand at that window beside my father.
I felt amazed and thankful that he had taken the difficult words about assisted living out of my mouth, but mostly, I felt ever so thankful that this very gentle man, is my father.
Christine Tailer is a columnist for The Highland County Press.