Winter and Spring, Endings and Beginnings
Friday morning in Prescott, Arizona and it’s a beautiful day. At 5,500 ft elevation the sky always seems crisper and brighter to me. I see Ponderosa pines from every window and the early sun glints off the pine needles as though the tops of them were glass. My mom feeds a scrub jay unsalted peanuts in the shell and he is currently flitting about wondering what is taking her so long to get outside. This early in the spring he is already familiar enough with her that he will take the peanut from the table even if she is standing in the doorway. By summer he will probably be taking the peanut from the patio table as she sits there.
I haven’t tried to fit in runs this week; I could, mom would not mind, but I don’t want to carve out 1-1/2 or more hours right now. Mom visits dad twice a day, usually staying until he falls asleep in the morning – maybe 10:00, 10:30, 11:00 – then runs any errands she needs, eats lunch, takes a nap and back to the care home until dinner time, so I have been following her routine. The care home is 2 miles from their house, however, and my solution has been to walk there. I’m getting 4-6 miles of fast walking daily and since I’m not training for anything right now that’s working out fine. At 5,500 ft it takes a week or so to acclimate to the lower oxygen level anyway, my run last Thursday was a pain fest of asthmatic gasping for air and I walked every half mile, I think I managed to run about 1/2 minute faster than I’ve been walking … I felt like a newbie! Which is a good thing, I never want to forget what it feels like to be a beginning runner.
So, while I see my father failing, I am also spending part of each day watching the springtime world come alive. In northern Arizona the soil is sandy grey/brown and most of the trees are some shade of evergreen, it’s a rather monochromatic world that I love, the Arizona desert in which I grew up and weekends camping in the Arizona mountains, but spring brings bright pops of color: deep purple, bright yellow, reds.
I leave my parents house in the shade of the pine trees. They live in an older part of town and every house is different. First a two story traditional cabin, next is a clapboard, pale yellow with white and maroon trim and a yard full of wild daffodils and one brilliant red tulip. Next, and one of my favorites, a chocolate brown Swiss-chalet with white gingerbread trim and a natural stone yard with pines guarding the corners. There is a brilliant orange/yellow flower that grows wild, the blossom is twisted tightly shut, shaped like a teardrop, and then unfurling in the sun, the color bright against the grey soil.
This morning there’s a crisp bit of breeze but walking fast in the sun it feels good. My route is becoming familiar, I see the house with the three black dogs, already when I come near the yard they run to the end of the fence to greet me, two wagging tails and one doing a token bark so he feels he earned his keep. They trot along the fence beside me. Then the house with the little barn behind it, a cultivated field to the side where I saw two Pygmy goats one morning. Mom said one day she saw the owner taking the goats for a walk. They don’t bark at me. Next door is where, one sunny afternoon this week, I saw a cat sitting in every single window – except the window owned by what was probably the Head Cat, as he got to lie in the sun splayed out across the back of the couch.
I pass the field with two horses, one a young frisky guy who is usually trotting about tossing his head or rolling in the dirt. Finally I pass the tiny ancient little house with the tiny ancient little lady who apparently spends nearly every waking hour sitting huddled under a blanket on her tiny ancient little porch either talking on her cell phone or smoking. I have not seen her do both at the same time so apparently she is not a multi-tasker. Her dog sees me coming and barks me all the way past the house while wildly wagging his tail; we’re friends, lady, but mom needs to know I’m keeping an eye on things, you understand. And I do.
I arrive at the care home and see Help Me Lady, who spends all day motoring the hallways in her wheelchair doing fine and every evening in her bed shouting “help me…help me…” continuously. Bruce shuffles down the hallway with his walker, thinking he just arrived and which is his room, he doesn’t have his wallet, can he pay for the room tomorrow? I’ve made friends with Joanne, we are in cahoots because I watered the bone dry plants bearing the sign loudly proclaiming not to water them and she saw me and approved.
I did not like coming here at first, it felt sad and mostly dead and depressing. But I’ve come to appreciate and rather cherish these dear people at the end of their days. I’m a person of faith although I do not talk about religion or politics; I’ve done that a couple times and it always ends badly with some sweet person insulted and indignant about what they think I said which is not what I said at all but there’s no telling them that now, now that they know what I said that I didn’t say. I am not at peace seeing my dad struggle and suffer, of course. I’m very grateful he is not in pain but no one likes seeing the once strong man who was their father unable to eat, unable to move half of his body, confused and disoriented.
Mom will get him home today with hospice and some in-home help, and I will fly home Sunday. He will last as long as he will last, and it will be as it will be, neither of these statements easily learned or embraced but they are the tenants I believe and I am fortunate that I have struggled and fought my way to a firm faith and belief that there is something more, something better and I have no fear for my father who is in the winter of his life now, but who I believe is also in the spring of his life.
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