The measure of a man can not be taken from his head to his toe; for it is the capacity of his heart, the channels that run through his soul.
I watch him as he watches her. His eyebrows are furrowed and his smile is forced. He hugs her gently and makes small talk. When those we love are hurting, we each do what we need to do to cope and to lessen the pain of our loved one.
Her feet are cold due to poor circulation. He gingerly removes her gripper socks and lifts her leg to massage her foot. He carefully travels from mid calf to sole. I notice the smiley face on the sock and wish we could be as sunny. He slowly and methodically rubs each toe and repeats until her foot warms. He then does this to the other foot. He asks her if it’s better, and she says it is. While he’s doing this I remember last year when our youngest son massaged his grandmother’s feet for her. It brought tears to my eyes and comfort to my heart, just as this does. Yes, both this woman and I have raised compassionate and loving sons. I pray mine will be as good to me in my older age and delicate health as hers is to her.
He asks if she has eaten. She says she hasn’t felt up to it. Shortly after they bring her lunch. He names all of the items to her and asks if she’d like to eat. She again says she’s not really hungry. He peels the banana anyway and lifts a bit onto the fork. He offers it to her and she swallows. He asks if she’d like another bite, and she nods yes. He moves on to the pudding, and then back to the banana. I know his heart is wrenching, yet he does what he needs to do.
They place her in the wheelchair to transport her from the hospital to the nursing home. I watch him finger the back of her head to fluff up her hair to the way she’d want it to look. He sucks in his lip as he scrutinizes what he’s done. I turn my head…maybe to keep the moment private, maybe to hold back the mist of my own eyes. He explains to her that we will be right behind her all the way and will see her when we get there. He kisses her cheek.
We arrive right behind the van. His sister is following us. We all carry in her bags as the driver wheels her into the facility. They lead us to her room. She looks down at the suitcase I am rolling. “What are you doing with my bag?” It is as if a veil is dropped…the color of her face drains and the softness hardens to a look of confusion and pain.
He explains that she only has to stay a short while, just long enough to get her strength back so that she can go back home. “I don’t want to stay here. I want to go home.”
“I know you don’t want to stay here. They will work with you to regain your strength so you can come home soon.” No one wants to say those words to a parent. Anyone in that position wishes it could be different.
Every time she winces in pain, I see him wince as well. Her body hurts. His heart hurts. Mine hurts for them both.
When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer,
and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked…
and wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.
Sprite’s Keeper: Nature vs. Nurture