Photo Sarah Martin
Time. It erodes what it touches. Vitality, will. Memory, skin. Bones.
My father had a birthday yesterday. In the hospital. Always, it seems, he is in the hospital; but then somehow manages to rally just enough to go home. To a wife who can't care for him, but struggles under the obligation of her time to do so. Who is slowly killing herself whilst she performs her Herculean duty.
Where did he go? The strong, dominating personage that was my father. He is replaced by a shriveled, angry countenance of humanity which is recognizable only in a whisper. A faint echo of a life gone by.
A cousin met for the first time in forty years. She loves Uncle Bob. I don't know who she is. She recognized me. How? Time has worked its way on me as well. She recognized me, called me by name. And I don't remember her.
This time there is cancer. He doesn't know, he can't know. The mother expects to bring him home, she expects he will live forever. I have lost tenderness, so I tell her he won't. But I don't actually believe it. He has defied his inevitable destiny too many times. He is old. He is shrunken. But he is.
I want him in a care facility. He wants to go home. She does what he wants. The stranger who is my cousin says there is such a sweet devotion between them. Why don't I see this? Why do I see the flash of the lash and the bending of the body to obey.
The people talk. Where is the daughter, why doesn't she do something about this. Why are they in this home they can't care for and why is the wife left to struggle so hard to manage the invalid old man. They have their faculties, if not their reason, and can't be convinced. Refuse to hear. They have not changed, they just got old.
They want something from me. Now. In the winter of their life, they want my affection. I can give them my logic. I can give them compassion. Parents who were emotionally absent during a child's life, busy fighting their demons and each other now want tender mercies. I have information, which they don't want. I have my presence, which they finally do want. Or perhaps simply need.
He will go home. She will wear herself into the dirt. People will talk. I will give information and solutions. He will be home. She will wear herself into the dirt. People will talk.