I don’t know what I expected when you first arrived. A catatonic version of your old self? A distant stranger?
Would that sweet twinkle now be missing from your eyes?
After one long month of uncertainties, you and Chris were finally coming home. Chris: wearied, burdened, but calmly resolute. You: lost, confused, with the dreaded “A” word newly branded across your brain. Everything within me screamed from the depth of my gut: “Warning! Danger! Alzheimer’s Patient: Proceed at your own risk.”
… all I knew was fear.
Chris’ voice had sounded tired. Stressed. “We’re just arrived. We’ll be at the curb.” I had driven one hundred miles to take you home. Your new home. Your into-forever home. A new beginning for us all.
Would you even know what was happening? Would you even know who I was?
I could see you in the distance, as I waited in traffic to pull up to the curb. You steadied yourself against the post, staring at the ground just beyond your feet. Chris hovered nearby, furrowed brow; I could see his already weighted shoulders.
Oh sweet Jesus, can we do this?
Slowly traffic inched ahead.
Can we be who he needs us to be?
Stop. Go. Clutch out, clutch in. Wait. Breathe.
Is there a way not to lose ourselves when witnessing so much loss?
Closer now, inch by inch. The traffic so mercifully slow.
How can we still live, Lord, while his mind slowly dies?
How can we still love, Lord, while we watch all loveliness Fly. Away. Gone.
Jesus?… Can we really do this?
And through my own gridlocked brain, I sensed his answer:
Inch by inch, Jane.
Stop. Go. Wait, Jane.
Such simple words, but I felt their gentle Truth.
Drawing a slow, deep breath, I pulled up to the curb, and caught Chris’ eye.
It’s really not a whole lot different than taking your first child home.
A smile smacked across my face. I wasn’t expecting that. I chuckled.
I remembered taking Trevor home. I remember Chris and I wondering why he hadn’t come with instructions. And I smiled remembering, now, that first wonderful, daunting, holding-our-breath night
… a first night like this one.
Okay, Jesus, thanks. I needed that … but the first poopy diaper, I’m outta here.
We were going to be just fine.
(Postscript, eight years later…)
And we were.
And he was.
And even in the grips of a horrific disease there still rained down a sweet, sweet mercy:
He would never know his journey back to infancy.
Back to the One who loved him first.
You’re free now, Dad. Fly away home.
Carroll Lloyd Williams ~ July 20, 1926 – June 28, 2016