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He was at the breakfast table when I arrived. His wife was sitting with him, reviewing their plans for the day. Friends were coming for lunch. She had a few errands to do before  cooking the mid-day meal. I sat down and commented on the fine, mild weather. He was intent on his soft-boiled egg and though he acknowledged me with a nod and slight smile, I knew it was going to be a very quiet day. I’ve visited him for almost two years. Our days always take me to a calm place inside my head though I am aware he is slipping away.

He chose to sit in the living room when the egg and toast were gone. He wanted to walk the journey of roughly 20 feet but midway the effort was just too much. I positioned his wheelchair and locked the brakes. Easing him down I gave him a hug and saw the strain those steps had caused. Once settled before the window, he dosed as I perused the leather-bound tomes lining the shelves. So many books, so many words and thoughts.

His wife breezed in from shopping and suggested we go outside. “It’s December but the sun is strong and there is no wind, imagine!” It took both of us to get him dressed in a scarf, coat, hat, and mittens, while seated in his chair. We opened the doors and positioned the ramps over the wide stone steps. It is a steep descent to the yard but we have a system of getting him safely to a level spot under a massive tree. From there he can survey the farm; the animals and the workers going about their day.

I had brought him a treat of Chex Mix. The cereal, nuts and pretzels are easy for him to eat by hand and I love watching him pick through it for preferred morsels. As I set the bowl on a table next to him, the farm dog appeared with her tennis ball.

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She placed the ball gently in his lap and stood back expectantly. He tossed it, she caught it and replaced it between his legs. This went on until his attention drifted. She sat patiently at his feet. After a short nap, he roused and reached for some of the Chex Mix. The dog nudged at the ball and stood back. He placed a few pieces of Chex on the edge of the table. She looked at him for approval then gently took the offering. I watched their interactions in silence,

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A car parked in the driveway and the luncheon guests arrived. They walked slowly to where we sat, greeting him. I noted the shock on their faces, they had not seen him in many months. He seemed baffled by their presence. “Well Hello there!” the gentleman called. The woman leaned in to greet him. He stared straight ahead. I rearranged the chairs so they could sit near him. “We are having a lovely quiet day.” I offered as explanation for his lack or recognition.

The gentleman sat down and started chattering away. “So how are you doing? What are your thoughts?” No answer from my friend. The dog turned her attention to the newcomer, hoping for more games of toss and retrieve.

“What are you thinking today? Are you remembering the past? What are you feeling?” the man pressed on.

“I have given up thoughts.” came the gruff response. He tossed the ball again to his patient partner who caught it in the air and carefully placed it back in his hand.

I knew this was far from the truth. His thoughts are deep, only shared when he is moved to do so…

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9 comments on “Thoughtfulness…

  1. Touring NH says:

    Hard to believe it has been two years. He has endured the decline with grace.

    1. Grace and wisdom, Laura. Thank you.

  2. julieallyn says:

    This was lovely and poignant, Martha.

    1. Thank you Julie. I was reading some of my posts this past year about him and we have had a really good time together. I am very lucky.

  3. His wife must think you’re a Godsend. Your being there gives her freedom she wouldn’t otherwise have. Being a caregiver 24 / 7 is no picnic and if I were her I’d welcome you with open arms!

    1. Thank you Allen. He and his wife are fortunate to have lots of help by wonderful caregivers but that doesn’t diminish the strain his illness has on them both. I feel very loved and appreciated for what little I truly do.

  4. Marie Keates says:

    Long lingering illness is very hard on loved ones. Our beautiful Canadian cousin, Katie, was told her cancer had come back in March. She moved back in with her parents, Maggie and Alan and slowly sold off her houses and possessions. When we saw her in October, she hadn’t been able to eat for six months and was surviving on a special compound fed by a tube into her stomach. She bore this and the constant vomiting with amazing grace and surrounded herself with beautiful things to make her smile. Her lovely parents coped better than I think I would have. While we were there nurses arrived and left, deliveries of medication appeared regularly and the house was given over to her care. We lost her last week. Maggie and Alan are, of course, devastated, but I can’t help feeling the peace of death is far better than the life she had in those last months.

    1. Beautifully said Marie. I am sorry for your loss. I don’t think any of us can predict what we are capable of when it comes to coping with illness and death of a loved one. My heart goes out to Maggie and Alan as they must now recreate life after giving over so much of their daily routine to Katie’s care.

      1. Marie Keates says:

        Maggie will be fine, I’m not so sure about Alan. He was still talking about her recovery when we left. Maggie will look after him though I’m sure. She’s one tough cookie.

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