In 1964 when I was a just a sophomore in high school, like most young people, I never really though about time other than the fact that the Rolling Stones had a new song out with the words, “Time is on your side, yes it is, yes it is.” At 16 you think you have all the time in the world, and you pretty-much do. Now in 2016, I am seeing things a bit differently…
What I believe: What we all don’t have is time
Gautama Buddha said, ”The trouble is you think you have time.”
Almost three years ago, my mother passed away from lung cancer, leaving my father alone. She died March 1 and had she lived to April 26, they would have celebrated 68 years as husband and wife.
My Daddy had his own health challenges but was able to live in their home with limited assistance until the end of September last year. He was rushed to the hospital and it took a number of tests before they determined that he had a stroke, pancreatitis, diabetes and sepsis. He stayed in ICU for a few days short of a month and then was transferred to rehab.
I solicited the prayers of my Facebook friends and more than one miracle occurred. My almost 91-year-old Daddy surprised doctors and staff daily with his strong constitution and willingness to do what was required of him with success. There was some hope of him going back to his home again.
Then, one night at the rehab facility, he fell. The fall seemed to undo the great progress he had made and he experienced periods of confusion. Prayers continued on his behalf . He miraculously got out of bed and somehow participated in his rehabilitation.
When release time came, my brother brought him to an apartment close by him for immediate continued care. All the while, I was on “standby” as to the best time for me to see my Daddy and to benefit my siblings as we looked for a permanent, safe and loving place for him to live out the remainder of his days.
Daily phone, text and email reports and Facebook video chats kept me informed, but it is not like being there. When we chatted, I got to see him only for a brief period. There were 23 hours and 50 minutes that I did not see which were paving the road to determining his future care.
A date was agreed upon for me to come. My siblings tried to prepare me for what I would see.
The first day of my visit started out slow — he did seem to know me, but the connection was not the one we always had. He knew his routine and was agreeable to doing what he was told, but signs were everywhere that his stage of life had changed substantially. He had a walker and a wheelchair and his fragile old body was bent over when he walked.
My nephews came in for a visit and he knew they were there, but that was also different. The Daddy I knew was not there. I came back the next day and he seemed to know me. He did not know my sister, always his favorite, and he knew my brother as his daily caregiver and the person in charge, but did not seem to know him as his son.
Throughout the day, we sat on the terrace, ate together, and talked off and on about various things. Then, grabbing a book about Birmingham, Ala., with pictures of things past and present, I sat with him and we turned each page and reminisced about them. I knew, from having read and attended classes on dementia and Alzheimers, that connectivity to things past often opens a portal of the mind to help someone be fully present, even if only for a little while.
Next, I grabbed his new daily calendar which had a different dog on each day and we went through the days of January through December and named them. I held his hand and, at times, that distant stare that old people exhibit would take over, but then his eyes would sparkle for a few minutes and he was back.
Most of the time, however, unlike the days when he was so busy with life, he just sits quietly and his mind seems to go somewhere else. Just sitting now, the days once wished to be longer, now seem to be too long.
My sister was so amazed at our interaction that day and evening – she videoed it and made notes in Cozi Central, a special site to document daily activity, memories and more, available for anyone — and that day’s visit finally came to an end. I
t was a memorable day, a special day, and actually another miracle according to my sister.
The following days were not the same; he did not always know me. When the time came for me to leave, it was bitter-sweet because, like so many of us who no longer live where we grew up, we only get to go back for a visit — a visit that is never quite long enough.
As Budda said ”The trouble is you think you have time.”
As we watch our parents, friends, TV, movie and rock stars we grew up with pass on or suffer health challenges, we are introduced to our own mortality. All of a sudden we realize that the “time” we thought we had is truly limited.
Our parents are supposed to live forever. They were the first people we met and they were always there for us. What we have known subconsciously now comes to the surface and we know “there may not be time.”
I was blessed with a visit and connection with my Daddy for which I am so grateful for, but I was also blessed with the reminder of the gift of time.
“Do it, now,” Nike says … and we know we must if we are to do it, whatever it is. The adage, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” has new meaning.
Though we may have heard it said many times that at the end of one’s life, a person does not say they wish they had worked more, but they say they wish they had spent more time with their loved ones.
Pope Paul VI said, “In youth, the days are short and the years are long. In old age, the years are short and days long.”
I, too, now believe that to be so.