Still Ruminating: Dads, Daughters, Disease, & Distance
“Patrick, do you need some help walking?”
A CNA wraps a belt around my dad’s waist, tightens it, and holds it behind him to prevent him from falling. We’ve been making our way down his nursing home hallway for several minutes. His feet don’t travel more than a couple inches with each step. His 6’ 6” frame hunched over a walker says he might not make it to his room.
We finally arrive and situate him in front of an arm chair. Together the CNA and I lower him into it, adjusting his weight so he can rest.
“Where are you from?” I ask her.
“Ethiopia,” she says. She goes on to tell me that she won the lottery ten years ago, allowing her to immigrate here. She left behind her mom and dad and five siblings.
“It’s really hard,” she says, “I miss them all so much.” I learn that she met her husband here in Colorado. He’s Ethiopian too. She has a four year old son. “It’s very hard to have a child without my parents.” She looks out the window.
“Yes,” I say, “I know the feeling. I lived overseas for 15 years. It’s very hard to be away, especially when you have kids.”
She smiles slightly, looks down. We both look at my dad.
“He’s tired,” she says.
“Yeah. He is. He’s not well today,” I answer.
“My dad is not well either. I am waiting for good news today. I hope I get it. He’s in the hospital. I really hope I get good news today.” She starts to tear up. “I haven’t told anyone that. You’re the first person I have said that to. I’m sorry. I just want good news.”
I tear up. “I will pray for you,” I say, “I’m so sorry. I hope you get good news too.”
Now my dad has a tear escaping from his left eye. Is he crying? He’s not one to cry. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s his ill health today. Maybe he sees two women hurting for their fathers in front of him and it makes him sad too.
“Can you tell me about your necklace?” I ask.
“Oh, this is a sort of cross from my country.”
“Are you a Christian?”
“Yes, a Christian.”
“I thought it might be a cross. I thought you might be a Christian. I am too.”
“Really.” We smile big smiles at one another. We almost hug but it feels like we’re not supposed to do that for some reason, standing there in the nursing home room. We look again at my dad.
“My husband is a pastor,” I say, “that’s why we lived overseas.”
“My dad is a pastor!” she almost giggles.
“Wow. I love that. Thank you for telling me about him. I will be praying for your whole family.”
“Thank you. It’s very hard. I am the only one who is very far away.”
“I’m sorry,” I look down, then at my dad, and then back to her. “Thank you for taking care of my dad. I thank God for you.” She shakes her head, but I continue. “No really, I’m so thankful for you. Thank you for caring for him.”
“It’s no problem,” she says.
We agree that my dad needs a nap. He wants to rest. She says, “Patrick, I’m gonna change your clothes and get you in bed.” I kiss my dad’s head and say goodbye.
I go to my car and, like most visits, I cry.