Looking Back Home

Yesterday, driving up unmarked forest service trails, branches gnawed thin gray lines in the paint of our pickups. And they revealed the fissures of age in my father. Even crumpled by MS, to me, he had still appeared undaunted—this summer he clambered about using his walker to get a ladder so that he could fix the roof. He drove his small trailer out to hunting camp and stayed, a week at a time, by himself. He still routinely fills the seat of his walker with arm loads of oak and fir so that he can keep the wood box stocked. His illness hindered but did not stop him.

Yesterday, however, amid paths casually traversed during his fifties and early sixties, I watched him falter. I watched him make mistakes that he never made years ago and, more importantly to me, that I wouldn’t make now. The man I trusted to take care is beginning to need care.

As if blocking out a too bright light with my hand, distance provides perspective. I can glimpse reality through my squinted perception of the past. I know better how I should have behaved after the time for action is long past. Sometimes distance just gives you distance but, seen through the stop shutter action of an activity repeated only once a year, watching my father haltingly drive roads I have seen him travel with ease for thirty winters revealed his fragility.

From the summit of where we hunt Christmas trees, I can see past Bear Buttes to the forests and meadows of my home hills. I can barely find the area where my house fits into the landscape of Humboldt life. And, as we wandered the mountain yesterday, I barely began to see my father as a man not a myth.

I think I will be an old, old woman before I am ready for that to happen. So today I will sit in my house and gaze back up at the rain clouds hiding the mountain we were on and wish I didn’t have to see the change and even more

I wish he didn’t have to see it.

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9 comments

  • Sorry to hear about your Dad, Kym. It sounds like your Father is independent and tenacious. We recently lost my father-in-law to cancer and he had similar qualities. I think these qualities served him well in helping him to fight and get the most out of his last few years. I hope your father will be able to similarly use his personal strengths to get the most out of life going forward.

  • I’m having a hard time watching him lose abilities but I’m having a harder time watching him watching himself.

    He is so proud.

    Oddly he often was angry and difficult when he was healthy but, as if his body failure is compensated for by a growth in spirit, he mostly accepts his failures with grace and humor.

  • I’m having a hard time watching him lose abilities but I’m having a harder time watching him watching himself.

    He is so proud.

    Oddly he often was angry and difficult when he was healthy but, as if his body failure is compensated for by a growth in spirit, he mostly accepts his failures with grace and humor.

  • I admire his attitude (at least his public attitude…your Mom is probably the only one who sees his private attitude, if it is different) and the way he does the very most he is capable of doing. Many people would cave in and give up and curl up, but he doesn’t. It’s very hard to watch the progression of this terrible disease and what it is doing to him. But he does face it with humor, and that is so much better than whining and complaining about it. God allows us trials, but no more than we are strong enough to handle. Your Dad is strong and it is a sad thing to watch him go through this.

  • I admire his attitude (at least his public attitude…your Mom is probably the only one who sees his private attitude, if it is different) and the way he does the very most he is capable of doing. Many people would cave in and give up and curl up, but he doesn’t. It’s very hard to watch the progression of this terrible disease and what it is doing to him. But he does face it with humor, and that is so much better than whining and complaining about it. God allows us trials, but no more than we are strong enough to handle. Your Dad is strong and it is a sad thing to watch him go through this.

  • The few years before my father died very suddenly, he was beginning to lose his mental abilities. My mother believed it was the onset of Alzheimers. But he never saw a complete breakdown. Instead, he went in for a routine shoulder surgery and died.
    My Father In Law has Lupis, so his mobility and health has always been fragile.
    I think the hardest thing is watching those we love see themselves begin to fade. In their minds, they are young, strong, vibrant, but their bodies betray them to age.
    I wish you didn’t have to see it either. But what a gift that you CAN. You’re not oblivious, insensitive. It may be painful, but at least you’re ALIVE to feel it. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

  • The few years before my father died very suddenly, he was beginning to lose his mental abilities. My mother believed it was the onset of Alzheimers. But he never saw a complete breakdown. Instead, he went in for a routine shoulder surgery and died.
    My Father In Law has Lupis, so his mobility and health has always been fragile.
    I think the hardest thing is watching those we love see themselves begin to fade. In their minds, they are young, strong, vibrant, but their bodies betray them to age.
    I wish you didn’t have to see it either. But what a gift that you CAN. You’re not oblivious, insensitive. It may be painful, but at least you’re ALIVE to feel it. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

  • I knew I found his faltering on Saturday hard to bear. Reading your comments I realize–it is impossible to bear. I’m shoving awareness away in very small box and I’m only going to look once in a while when I am very strong.

  • I knew I found his faltering on Saturday hard to bear. Reading your comments I realize–it is impossible to bear. I’m shoving awareness away in very small box and I’m only going to look once in a while when I am very strong.

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