Friday, August 18, 2006

From Paul, With Love

Question: What feels like a corpse, looks like a corpse, yet isn’t one?
Answer: A bedridden person of extreme old age.

While I was tucking Bea in last night, she said, “I feel like a corpse.” This morning, I find it almost impossible to awaken her. Lisa’s plan for a bed bath is defeated by Bea’s listless immobility. We stand on either side of the bed, looking down, perplexed and not sure how to proceed. She lies there, mouth open. Her cheeks are way beyond gaunt. Her eyelids flutter as if in a dream. This sleep is profound. All Lisa will do is change her brief.

When I change Bea again at noon, my cold hands startle her. She opens her eyes and says quite clearly, “I once cared for somebody.”

One of the surprises of documenting this period of our life together has been the lack of reference to her husband, so it is with some trepidation that I ask, “And who would that be?"

“Your father.”

“That’s right,” I say with an inward sigh. “And he cared for you, too, deeply.”

“Now let me sleep,” she mumbles, again closing those baby blues.

I wedge the pillow in so my mother is on her side and tuck in the covers.

My father was not one to express emotion. He did, however, believe in celebrating birthdays and always made a special effort to find the right card. Bea saved several.

The Paramount From The Heart is embossed with a bouquet of spring flowers. Scrawled across the top I read “For My Lovely Wife” and a poem: “You brought such joy into my life the day you said you’d be my wife.” Inside, more treacle: “Of all the gifts I could give you on your birthday, none could be as special or as precious as the gift of love you gave me the day you became my wife. Happy Birthday With Love.”

Below these words, my father has signed simply “Paul” and added, “The style is not mine. The sentiments are.”

Bea also kept a short love letter from her foreign-born fiancé, written on a Tuesday:

“Darling, I have been thinking of Saturday when you will be with me. I think of Saturday when I go to work and on my way to the dentist and when I get home again. And behind it all is the happy thought that in only eight weeks we will begin a new life together, every day, with our own home. This summer will be two years since we met, but instead of wanting you less and less, as convention would have it, I find that I want you more and more....”

The letter is signed Love. Then there are four hearts, each on a separate line. Next to the last heart, my father has signed his name.

They would live together 55 years.


Blogger Karyn said...

For some time now, I have sat up with a sniffly child, waiting for him to return to sleep.

From the paper the other day, I remember your blog title and pull it up and I can't stop reading.

It was not that long ago - or maybe it was - depending on the day - that my own father was sent to a nursing home. Even more recent was the time I helped care for my grandparents at the end of their lives. I had a toddler and was again with child at the time.

This has jerked me back to those days with stunning clarity and impressions weighing heavily on my consciousness in the dim of early day.

I wish I had recorded more of that time AT that time. This blog has inspired me to record what I can remember of it now, however late in the game. It is now that I realize how often my thoughts turn to those days, in search of clarity, of courage, of comfort.

It is my suspicion that this will happen more, and not less, over time.

2:10 AM  

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