HOW TO DANCE IN THE RAIN
It was a busy morning, about 8:30 and an elderly man arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.
On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's Disease. As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now. I was surprised, and asked him, 'And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?'
He smiled as he patted my hand and said, 'She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is.'
I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, That is the kind of love I want in my life. True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be. The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.
'Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but about how to dance in the rain.'
Some time ago, my sister's friend sent me this story in an email. I really didn't have to read it because I see a love and dedication greater than this lived out every day. As I write, my soon to be 85 year old Dad is at my soon to be 85 year old Mom’s bedside, in the memory care unit of her assisted living center. Mom is here not because it is easier on Dad but because he was finally convinced that they could take better care of her than he could. Now, he is here 8 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Born on the same day in the same town small Indiana town, my Dad, an hour Mom's senior is always faithful, always vigilant, is ever her protector and guardian. He feeds her when she’ll eat, is always handy with a straw to give her a drink, wipes her chin, comb her hair and paint her nails. In the end, with most of her memories erased, she knows of no other person or thing but him. With all other senses failing, when he gets near her face, she still smiles and she still puckers up for a kiss. He glowingly speaks of a woman no one else sees and often reaches into his shirt pocket and produces a photo of a 20 year old, dark-haired beauty.
“This is still who I see when I look at her,” he says.
Now at the end, the horrible disease that first steals your mind and then your body has run its predictable course. So weak and frail yet still she fights to stay with him. For the first time in more than 64 years, he has asked her to leave his side and go on ahead without him . Through his tears, he told her he would join her soon enough. This day, patiently as always, he waits for her to go.
As for my siblings and me, having been around for many of their 64 years of marriage, we never heard them argue or call each other anything other than “Honey” and above all, more than just love, we always saw respect. The four of us have had varying degrees of success in modeling their lives and relationship but now and forever, they are our heroes.
Two days after their 85th birthday, with Dad at her side, Mom stopped breathing. Her heart continued to beat for several more minutes. As always, those beats were for Dad.