Sunday, September 7, 2014

You, With Your Foot in Two Worlds

 "So are you ready to let me go yet?" he asks, grinning with a soft cheekiness as he sits on the cement steps of his home.
Photo: Justin Spencer, Creative Commons, cc license
"No! I'm proposing surgery and insurance, and things like that," I reply, throwing back a glance at him, and rounding to my side of the car. "I love you, Dad," I say, slipping a silver key into my golden Saturn. Looking back for one last wave, I freeze the image of him in my mind, and pull away from the curb, racing home to put my six year old to bed.

I drive numbly, mechanically, replaying the sentence in my mind and counting the days until his next appointment.

A giant chalk white moon stands sentinel over the twilight sky. Full, ample, perfectly round, it hangs heavy in a blue-grey city evening. Tall apartment highrises, depression-era flour mills, and green-shuttered glass factories crouch on a Minneapolis city skyline. Trees chase the moon and, behind me, explosions of violet and tangerine encompass the sinking sun. Fiery orange and reds glare against green highway signs, obliterating mile markers and exits on the highway.

My dad has just returned from helping his uncle out of the hospital and back into a memory care unit. He helped Uncle Al settle back into the room, slide out of the wheelchair, and eat sliced peaches and a pumpkin pie cobbler. Together they maneuvered the remote control buttons of Al's new reclining chair before my dad left for home. Half an hour later, my uncle calls my dad, having forgotten about the day.

"Can I come see you tonight?" I had asked my dad, three hours ago. He agreed, and I hurried to throw a supper together for my family before racing out the door.

"Kah, kah," I knock in African fashion at their house. At the door, I see my mom's sandals and smile. "It makes me miss her to see her shoes," I yell out to my dad. She's gone temporarily, and we miss her already.

I slide a plastic carton of cherry tomatoes across the kitchen table, and slice up a crimson purple plum for us to share. He's already laid two plates, and set out tea cups. We drink green tea with roasted brown rice, and catch up from the week. All too soon, the hour is past and I need to race home to put my son to bed.

He says it then, the sentence that has lodged in my throat, in my mind, since. The sentence I have already been whispering to myself and to my husband in the dark of night. "Am I ready to lose my dad already?" NO.

And I know that you face this situation too, many of you. With a foot in both worlds, you care for older relatives and younger ones. You care for ailing grandparents, or older parents, and children of all ages. I hear you talk of it over coffee, at conferences, online, or through prayer chain emails.

I have watched my parents stand with feet planted in two worlds too, helping older and younger relatives and friends around them. And tonight I feel my own feet sliding tentatively wider, tip-toeing uncertainly into that larger world, and words fall short.

I followed that moon on the drive home, that impossibly large milk-white moon. Clarity and closeness etched its surface in stark relief, with edges and craters, and dark holes falling into a moon dry sea. In front of me was the moon, my car trailing an evening highway, curving into quiet darkness. Behind me orange, crimson, violet, and gray exploded across the night sky, curling crispy cirrus clouds up.

One lone trail of black smoke carved a jet stream through gold light, tracing an airplane's flight straight down. An erratic route for an airplane, it seemed, and I swerved slightly in my lane, craning my head backwards, pondering its downward trajectory. A police car shot by, sirens blaring, and the car in front of me forced my eyes to the road before me.

The mysterious black plume of smoke flamed white and gold in the sunset, and my road curved away.


TC Avey said...

Thanks for sharing. It brought back memories of caring for my dad and my father-in-law.
My mom worries I'll have to care for her some day. That she will be a "burden".
It's not burden. It's a blessing to care for the ones who have cared for me. While it's painful, we can walk through any trial with God's grace. Our hope is in Him. This world is not our home. My feet are already in two worlds- heaven and here.

Lisa notes... said...

Both my parents died of different things 4 years ago. It was way too soon. :( It's not easy to lose our parents regardless of how old we or they are. But there's so much to be learned when we are able to take care of them before they go. Hard but worthy lessons I learned!

Jennifer Dougan said...


I'm sorry for the loss of your dad and father-in-law. I can't imagine.

Yes, (nodding head), I agree. Caring for loved ones is not a burden, but a chance gift to love and serve them.

Your line "my feet are already in two worlds: heaven and here" -- truth.

Nice to have you here,
Jennifer Dougan

Jennifer Dougan said...

Lisa Notes,

Wow, both parents within four years of each other? I'm sorry.

Thank you for tiptoeing in with words and advice here.

Jennifer Dougan

cabinart said...

Jennifer, is there a reason your Dad asked you that question? Or just general facing the reality of life?

On my Dad's 67th b'day I did some mental calculations and thought confidently that we had at least another 20 years. We had one. He died 3 days before his 68th of a brain tumor.

I didn't think I could live without him, but it has been 14 years. Hard hard hard. He is with the Lord, but he isn't with us.

Losing a parent is probably a bit like having a child: there is no denying that life goes on and that one is truly an adult.

Jennifer Dougan said...


My dad said that because he was dealing with surprise symptoms that concerned us. Since then he has been hospitalized and diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It has taken us all by surprise, and we are processing it, spending days in the hospital and figuring it out. Nonetheless, we are seeing God's kind hand throughout in little ways of kindness and caring for us all. He is a sweet God, and is holding us through this scary time.

Wow, I am so sorry about your dad's sudden departure and death. I can't imagine what you must have gone through and are still going through with his loss.

Grieving with you tonight, my friend,
Jennifer Dougan