We argued about hygiene today. To me, this is the hardest part, when the line is drawn between health and dignity. The intimate acts of daily life that define our abilities are a war -zone of emotion.
I arrived to find the house bustling with family and house guests. His wife said he was in his room, resting after breakfast. The bed and his chair were empty and the bathroom door was closed. I knocked and found him standing at the mirror. Our eyes met in the glass and he smiled broadly. “You’re Late!”
“No, I’m exactly on time!” I quipped. There was no sign of his “sticks” or the walker. How had he managed to get up from the chair and make it all the way in here?? I hugged him and when he hugged me back there was with a quivering in his legs. “Stubborn old man!” I said under my breath.
Though the day was windy and overcast, he had planned to go out. I bundled him into his chair at the foot of the doorstep and asked for directions. “I want to see my goats this morning.” he instructed so off we went, grinding through the gravel drive up the hill to the pasture. The four kids were climbing on their mothers and each other, dancing and leaping sideways. On the next ridge, four new lambs sprinted after their four-legged meal-trucks. The chickens scratched and muttered and the new calf hid behind his imposing mother.
I sat on the ground beside his chair and we watched in silence. The hum of life and renewal playing out before us. I wondered what he was thinking, did he miss his days of working in the hot sun? When I stood and said, “A penny for your thoughts!” he replied with a grin, “I was thinking of lunch.”
His wife was at the stove when we returned. He asked for a clear broth for the mid-day meal. She teased him that all menu requests had to be made in writing at least 12 hours earlier. We headed to the toilet to wash up. That was where we had our minor difference of opinion. He was tired, I could sense his exhaustion and the frustration it brought. In the end, I managed health with dignity, I hope.