My dad liked root beer—a big treat was going to the A&W to buy a jug of root beer, take it home and drop in some vanilla ice cream. July ecstasy. He and I would share and devour a whole head of raw cauliflower which was soaking in salt water. We did that on hot July evenings…I still remember those nights.
Well, it’s not July, it’s not hot and it isn’t a cauliflower-A&W night. It’s February, cold, overcast and the whole thing is anathema.
Today is when I move my father, Adolfo Gómez Jr. into the his last memory care unit to live out the twilight of his memories. I can’t tell him that I’ve spent all his money taking care of him in his previous facility. I can’t tell him that his carefully amassed empire has dwindled down to months and then to weeks before we find him in the caring hands of something called Medicaid.
What I can tell him is that I’ve moved him to a different place so that I can visit him more often (true) but those eyes, good lord, those eyes…
I was a stay at home dad for four children and I’ve seen young eyes looking at me just like that, beseechingly, trusting, confused…terror and confusion rimming his now moist eyes, his unspoken sentences want comfort, sanity and predictability as his memories close like fog around him.
My right hand reaches out and my fingers feel his soft hairs just above the nape of his neck. This is something I did for my babies when they were distraught at life’s cruelties. I could swoop in and hold them, hug them fiercely and feel their fears leaching out of them, a calm flooding back in…
I lifted my Dad’s arm, looped it around my neck, “I need a hug,” I said as I pull his smaller body toward me, my strong arms and broad shoulders holding him unto me as I mentally push his fears away. My heart tries desperately to infuse his soul and heart with my strength, my calmness, my certainty.