My sister has been inserting this quotation in her email signature lately. Since our brother died at 40 years old.
As I feed my couple of old folks their breakfast on Wednesdays and Fridays, I feel as though we are, in fact, walking each other to the end of life. They’re closer than I am, but we’re there for each other.
Ted is confined to a wheelchair. One of those high backed ones with the head rest, that makes it impossible for him to tilt his head back to drink his juice all the way to the last drop. He’s hard of hearing and has lost his sight. He forgets things in an instant.
“Where am I?”
“A nursing home??”
“How do I get out of here?”
“I can’t see.”
At first these questions and comments from him made me uncomfortable. When he said he couldn’t see I’d joke, “You’re not missing much.” Now I say, “I know. You haven’t been able to see for a while. It must be very difficult.”
This week he floored me.
“When will I be back to normal?”
“This is normal Ted. You’re a very old man now.”
“Oh no.” Wow. The despair and, I think, shock in his voice.
Roslin is as sharp as a tack. She can see. She can hear. She laughs at my witty banter. But she can’t move her body or her limbs, and she can’t speak.
As I make conversation with Ted while her cream of wheat grows cold (I nuke it later), she chuckles at what we say to one another. When it’s her turn for my attention, her brow and her clucking sounds in response to my kidding around tell me there is a woman inside who is 100% “With It”. When I finish feeding her toast and jam, in 1/2″ pieces, by hand, and help her wash down her coffee through a straw, she cries that it’s time for me to leave. I tell her, “I know. It’s my favourite time of day too.”
I wish I could know that they know how much our time together means to me. But we can’t know some things, can we?
Ted and Roslin and I – we’re all walking home together.