The last several times I’ve visited my dad he has been unable to respond in any way more than a tremor of the mouth or a twitch of an eyebrow. I talk to him anyway, not knowing whether he hears or understands or not.
I’ve never been particularly good at speaking in ways my dad understood. I always had a penchant for questions he couldn’t answer. Too often, this was calculated on my part.
I got my sense of humor from my mom. Thus, when I would hit dad with snappy questions or drop rhetorical bombshells in front of him, I would get a chuckle and a slight shake of his head.
We developed the kind of relationship where, more often than not, less than a minute into our phone conversation, he would say, “Do you want to talk to your mom?”
In these recent years, I decided that he was aware his mind wasn’t what it used to be. That he had trouble keeping things straight or following a conversation.
If I had any of those years to do over again, a little of me now wishes I would have talked to him differently; more on his terms than on mine.
These last couple of visits, I’ve been different. I’ve held his head, massaged his feet, anything I could think of that might bring him some comfort. Like most of my life, I don’t know for sure if it makes much difference to him, but I do it anyway. Now I do these things not because I am comfortable doing them, like the way I used to talk to him, but because I hope that, even a little, they are good for him.
Please understand: I don’t remember ever having any doubt of my father’s love for me. And I am not beating myself up now for not living better in it. More, I think, reflecting on a life I too often took for granted.