He’s a giant! Always a great believer in the power of a positive attitude! Ornery, and full of spunk! I remember – in years past – whenever he was asked how he was doing, his standard response was “if I was any better, I’d be twins!” Full of spunk, and equally full of bull!
Quick to interject a joke into any conversation. Quicker yet to enter any conversation – he never met a stranger! And the stories he could tell, oh my goodness! Those who’ve lived life with him have heard certain stories retold and embellished upon over and over again. You’ll recognize us – we’re the ones with rolling eyes and shaking heads, saying “here we go again” under our breath! But that wouldn’t stop him – he’d retell it with just as much gusto as the first time!
But, now, his story-telling days are gone! No doubt the stories are still “in there” and he’d LOVE to be able to retell those good ones again, but the ability to do so has slipped away. His life, once so full of spunk, is now spent in a small room in a nursing home. He sits – immobile – positioned in a chair which holds his head atop his body, and which transports him from his room to the cafeteria, and back again. He sleeps, he wakes, he eats. Another day – repeat! Sleep, wake, eat! Bonanza is often on his TV or reruns of I Love Lucy! He stares into the TV – sometimes, through it!
But on a rare day, his life shines, once again – just like time hasn’t passed at all. Just like Sunday! He was present! He knew us when we entered, and it was priceless! We treasure those moments. There have been times we spoke to him, and hugged him, and really felt he didn’t have a clue! But, not Sunday. He answered questions, slowly, but appropriately! He enjoyed hearing about his grandkids and his great grandkids. He laughed. He cried. He remembered things. He interacted appropriately, and amazed us. A welcome glimpse into the one we know and love – the one who is seemingly trapped inside the shell that simply exists.
We talked about his son’s phone call days ago – he remembered that day, though he hadn’t seemed to even absorb it at the time. I teased him about his hair – it’s getting long, but he’s rockin’ it! We talked about his birthday, coming up and he enjoyed a Hershey’s kiss in early celebration – even wanted a couple more before we left! That glimpse of the life within – it was refreshing!
But the day to day ‘grind’ is overwhelming – especially for the #1 caregiver, his wife of nearly 50 years. It’s hard! The days when he just sits and stares are hard. The days when he has pain, and she can see it but others can’t – those are hard days, too. She’s been at his side, as his body has failed him. She sees him slipping away. There are more days of blank stares than of that glimpse of life within. But she loves him equally, all his days. I call it a “long goodbye.”
Today’s his birthday! And, today, we celebrate that glimpse of the life within. Happy Birthday, Irman Lee May! You are loved – today and always!