I recently spent some time visiting my elderly grandmother in the nursing home. It was so hard to see her there, that way. To me, she was always a fun grandmother and as I got older she seemed to never age. Not so much anymore. Although she looks alot older, she is doing well. Talking to her though is completely different. She seems to be in a different time. She has gone back to a memory and it seems as if that is where she is. The people she remembers or is looking for, have long been gone from this earth. But not to her. I sat there for most of the visits, bringing myself back to those times with her. For me, it was memories stored away, for her, it's where she is, it is what's left.
This seems to be the norm. My mom's mom is much the same way. The last visit I had with her she was a high school senior going to a dance at City Hall. By the time our conversation was over, I wanted to go too. It sounded wonderful. She was happy. What was left in her mind, made her happy.
While visiting my grandmother, I was drawn to the older men. As they sat there, hunched over in their wheelchairs, sitting by themselves, or just staring at the space in front of them, I imagined those same men, only 30 years earlier. Tall, lean, strong, confident; somebodies. Presidents of companies, doctors, Marines, lawyers, construction workers, Daddies, husbands. My eyes still fill with tears at my picture of them on that day. There was one in particular that I was drawn to most. Even hunched over with a walker, I could tell he was tall. He steps were slow but purposeful and he stopped at every doorway and peeked in. There were two halls connected by a nurses station and in my hour visit with my Maw-Maw, he made it down one side and only a few doors up the other. Every door, peeking. Every step slow. He had a very determined look to him and I wanted to go and help him. Do what? I wasn't sure but he had a purpose in his day. Right before I left there was a shift change and lots of busy-ness with the nurses and caregivers. One nurse walked past me to take her place with a handful of charts and asked the nurse leaving, "Is he looking for her again?" "Everyday. I wish he would stop. It makes me sad." As she was leaving, the nurse caught my eye and I couldn't help myself. "Who is he looking for? Is he ok?" "No, he's fine, just looking for his dead wife." Her harshness startled me, but her statement broke my heart. She went on, "Evidently she was some kind of woman because he is always looking for her, always." She picked up her things and left. My eyes drifted back to his husband searching for his wife. Never to be found but in his mind, she was there. He didn't look sad, or worried, just purposeful. There really isn't any other way to describe him.
As I walked my Maw-Maw down the hall, we passed his room. I saw his biography on the doorway and read what I could. What stuck out most was, "Husband, father of 4, retired military." It could be any man, but it could very easily be mine. As we passed him, his hands were shaky, his steps were too, but he smiled a sweet smile at me and melted my heart. He shuffled and pushed his walker. Stopped at the door. Shuffle, push, stop. Shuffle, push, stop. I couldn't help but picture the man 40 or 50 years earlier. Working to provide for his family, coming home for dinner every night, fighting bravely for his country, kissing his children goodnight, cooking eggs on Saturday mornings so his wife could sleep in, giving piggyback rides, throwing the football with his boys, his giant man hands dressing tiny dolls for his girls, holding his wife's hand on a date, drinking coffee in the mornings, playfully slapping his wife's rear passing through the kitchen, laughing through family dinners, taking his kids to the beach, pushing his girls on the circle swing. Where he was at that moment, gave him peace and he was looking for her. All the memories he could be living through~ his work, his early days~ but he was looking for her. All that made him that man, what was left was his wife. And he was looking for her. To him, she would complete him. He could stop looking. That was his purpose.
My thoughts drifted to my man. With him gone, I have so much time to reflect about me, as his wife. When Patrick is that age, will he be looking for me? Will his time with me be that happy place he goes back to? Will he think that I completed him on this earth? Will he know I loved him? Will I have showed him that enough? Did I take care of him? Did I listen to him? Did he feel respected? Did he know I adored him everyday I knew him? Will he remember us laughing? Will he want to hold my hand again? Will he miss my cooking? Will he want to tell me a private joke? Will he be looking for me? Will he be looking for me to rub his feet? Will he be looking for me to give him a hug? Can he picture my face? Will he want me? Will he need me for something? Did he have a question? A comment? A laugh? A quote from a goofy movie? What will be left? For this man, he was looking for her. He wanted her. He needed her. That was what was left. That was the place his mind brought him back to. She was his comfort and he wanted her. Will Patrick?
It's easy to see changes that I want to make when I step back. When he is gone. And for such a long time. I want him home. I want to love him. I want to listen to him. I want to show him how very much I respect the man I fell in love with. I want to hold his hand and make our home a soft place for him to come home to. I want to be his retreat. I want to listen to him, to laugh with him, and share our goofy quotes. I want to cook for him, sit beside him at night and kiss his cheek. I want to talk to him, rub his back and watch him kiss the kids goodnight. I want to go camping, share a secret, and have a movie night. I want to hold him and tell him how very much I still love him. I want to give him memories to hold on to...so that when that's all that's left, he's looking for me.