“Even children get older. And I’m getting older too.” – Stevie Nicks
As I sat in hospital room 625 next to my dad’s bed the other night, he looked straight ahead and said “Sometimes I wonder why God still has me alive?” It’s probably the most real, lucid, and raw thing he’s said in months. Even though it was a rhetorical question I felt compelled to answer with a cliche that nonetheless was the best I had to offer: “Well, God still has you here for a reason and we don’t always understand what those reasons are. You just keep doing the best that you can one day at a time.” My 81 year old father just nodded misty-eyed in silence while I sat there misty-eyed thinking the same question.
Time has a way of wearing on you like an old beat up coat that you can’t get rid of even though it just soaks up water instead of repelling it. That coat has gotten heavy for my dad. Broken hip, two fractured shoulders (one of which has me sitting bedside this time), a broken clavicle, and memory issues have left a former All-American athlete with communication issues and on the verge of immobility the past few years. He can ask questions, but he can’t answer the simplest of ones now: What month is it? “March?” What year is it? “Nineteen… 88, no 98… no…” What town are you in? I can see him trying to will his brain to produce the right answer like he used to will his teams to victory as a basketball player and coach. I want him to answer every question correctly so badly. It’s hard to watch. Add all of these physical and mental ailments to a man who’s had to watch his wife of 50+ years succumb to the slow decline of Alzheimer’s the past 10 years, and it’s no wonder he’s asking these kinds of questions.
He was transferred to a skilled nursing rehab facility earlier this evening and now he’s laying in a single bed all alone in a barren, drab brown room with random nurses checking on him and the glare of a television to keep him company. I find a little relief in knowing that my dad is a good patient. He still jokes with the nurses and tries to laugh about things. He could be mad and bitter, and I would not fault him for it. There are times when he is mad at the world, but I’m thankful it’s not his default attitude.
Time drags you down slowly sometimes, and then other times it comes at you swiftly, cruelly, seemingly out of nowhere, and cuts a life abruptly and unfairly short. My co-worker and friend Dave passed away unexpectedly Sunday morning at the age of 39. I had just been hitting golf balls with him and a few of my other co-workers at Top Golf on Thursday afternoon. We hit balls and laughed at our lack of golfing skills. We swapped golf stories and work stories, and family happenings. Per usual, Dave was all smiles and laughs and bragging on his daughter and her upcoming performance at TheatreSquared. There was nothing out of the ordinary that told me or anyone else that something was amiss. Dave left behind a 10 year old daughter, a wife, tons of friends, and a future full of memories never to be made. My co-workers are mad and angry and gutted. So am I.
I want to write something funny or nostalgic. I want to be witty and clever and, I want to laugh. But it hurts right now and I simply can’t. I find temporary distractions in work, and sports, and movies, until something snaps me back, and the familiar feeling of water welling up within my eyes rushes at me again. Time can be a ruthless, selfish bastard, and now it feels like I’m wearing the coat.
“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills ’til the landslide brought me down”
Neither of these versions fits the 80’s theme of this blog because Fleetwood Mac’s original came out in 1975 and The Smashing Pumpkins’ version was released in 1994, but they fit my mood. I suppose if you take an average of these two releases though, you do end up in the 80’s. Regardless, I like both versions for different reasons. Pensive, melancholic, and beautifully sung, pick your favorite or have a go at both of them.
Time to go hug someone. It’s a season. There are better days ahead.