His wife was on the phone when I arrived. I pantomimed sleeping and pointed to his door. She broke off the conversation to welcome me and said no, he was awake. After two weeks of missed visits I wanted to burst into his room in excitement, but that would have been rude and uncharacteristic of our meetings. I knocked softly and peered around the door. He was sitting up, and beamed when he saw me. More hale and hearty than he had been in months, he told me how wonderful his visit to Martha’s Vineyard had been – perfect weather – not too hot, expansive yet comfortable home and great restaurants. I sat on the floor by his lounge chair enthralled not only with his stories but with his sparkling eye and enthusiasm.
We agreed a walk was in order. We detoured with a trip to the bathroom that involved cold water and a rough cloth as he did his facial toilet and combed his hair. When all was proper, we headed down the hall to the front door. He is slow, walking is not something that comes easily anymore, but that allowed me to plan the details of getting him to a safe standing point so I could run around to the other door, get the wheel chair out front, set its wheels and have it in the perfect position, then get back inside to make sure he was safely standing still. I think watching my antics out the window kept him entertained enough so he remained upright.
Once down the wide, stone steps we reviewed the names of all the pots of flowers his wife had set out for planting. Her garden is an ever-changing Monet painting of color and texture. We circled the front of the property collecting his favorite specimens; Rugosa Rose, Lilly of the Valley and heirloom Lilacs. Each sprig was inhaled and held like a cherished child. I festooned them in his button-holes as we walked on. It was a warm but overcast day, the light seemed to give each color a special glow.
His wife joined us and we listened to her careful plans and redirection of the blooms in the beds; more yellow here, too much blue there, set that one back so it isn’t shading others out.
He wanted me to take a short-cut across the lawn when his wife went in to make lunch. I gave it my best but his is not an all-terrain chair and the bumps and jarring ride finally proved too much. We circled back around and I apologized for the repeat of the view. “No, it is completely different! Everything is now on the other side.” he corrected me.
Lunch was a simple, homemade delight; Cream of Butternut Squash Soup and Peas & Carrots with Pilaf. I could see he was wilting fast. We rinsed the dishes as he finished his meal. No scrap is left for the compost, food is enjoyed and consumed regardless of the effort. His wife and I got him into bed and he began to relax. She walked me to the door then returned for their private time before he slept. I quietly closed the front door and remembered his comment, life is determined by how you view it.