Counting My Blessings as the Seasons Change
I recently zigzagged across the country, preparing to make my new home on the Eastern Seaboard for the winter. While my dad, Jim, observed my journey from afar, he sent me a message saying, “Maybe while you’re wandering around the country, you should wander home.”
After my laughter came to an end, I started plotting my return to Michigan. It’d be good to be home for a while, I thought.
The morning after I arrived, I wiped the sleepy dust from my eyes. I stumbled into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee when I observed my mom, Diane, cooking for my dad. She was getting ready for work, buzzing around the house like she usually does. But she also slid eggs across the frying pan to make sure my dad would be cared for.
I’d heard him say, “I’ll take two eggs, sunny side up, and a piece of toast.” I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me laugh.
This was new. Historically, my dad has a stubborn attitude that causes him to push helpers away. He wants to maintain independence for as long as possible. It’s a quality of his that I’ve always admired — even when it makes helping him difficult.
But on this early morning, I saw his doubts flare. He admitted that it’s easier for someone else to navigate the kitchen than it is for him to do it. Eating is hard enough as it is. My heart dropped to see how he has changed.
Our family often uses humor to dance around pain. On this particular morning, I joked that “Diane’s Diner” was the most happening business in town. Mom filled his coffee cup every time he requested a refill. The responsibility didn’t seem to weigh on her. It was just another part of the morning. But it weighed on me. I didn’t ever remember seeing him this way.
He flashed me a smile, shooting love beams across the room. But my heart was heavy. Who wants to see their parents get older? And if a parent has Parkinson’s disease, the visual changes are ever more real. It’s as if you can measure the decline in inches or pints. The last time I saw him, he had 50 inches of happiness. This morning, only 40 remained.
Observations about change
The tremors seem to have worsened since I saw my dad a month ago. His spirits were fizzling compared with how I saw them last. I wondered if it is a coincidence that his spirits were low while his tremors were heightened. When he was happy, his body thrived, supporting him throughout the day. But with fall temperatures dipping into the 50s, perhaps he was sadder than usual.
Change, as I’ve repeatedly learned, is the only constant in life. Everything else is impermanent. Not all changes are difficult. Dad seems to have softened in his old age. He recently asked me to make him a “Squirrel Crossing” sign to protect the little guy who thinks he can bury his nuts in the concrete.
“Come here, look at him,” Dad told me. “See him in the middle of the street, there?”
“I think he wants to bury his nuts right there.” I laughed, seeing myself in that squirrel. Sometimes I try to bury things in concrete, too.
Off in the distance, I watched the fall leaves swirl in the wind around my dad’s little friend. They were beautiful in a Michigan fall way. Letting go of our leaves, it seemed, could be a beautiful thing. I turned to gaze at my loving dad and couldn’t help but count my blessings. How fortunate I was to have someone like him to love.
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