Her aging eyes, cloudy brown after more than 90 years, smile sweetly. And it rings true: somehow we become the parents of our parents. Caretaking, giving, encouraging, sometimes sitting in a hospital room staring at a sleeping heart attack patient that once raised us, taught us, loved us. And still loves us.
The familiar laugh scratches its way to the surface of our minds, still unchanging after decades of heartache, of living life, of seeing friends and loved ones and husbands and brothers and sisters pass on. Missing each one day after day, beckoning a memory of a conversation to return, but only silence answers. Familiar nicknames whispered to no one now.
Doctors try, with gentleness, sometimes with a blunt statement, to ease those in their care into a reality unsought. A greater unknown speaks louder. The physicians’ wisdom is sought after in the hallway outside the room, their news often shattering instead of uplifting. The low tones and beeps, the blinking lights and the neon graph lines of the expensive equipment dangling near the hospital bed muffle and tweet and track across the screen. Young nurses in purple scrubs float in and out, tucking a sheet here, reminding their patient to follow instructions there, at last disappearing from a cold dim room.
Pills and potions, milliliters and injections, elevated beds and elevated blood pressure readings are all part of the daily routine. A Bible verse is flipped from a daytimer, a morning paper read in its entirety joins a stack from the days before on the side table of an easy chair.
At night the blinds are drawn on that eastern window, and in the morning they’re opened again. Frail fingers leave the walker momentarily to complete the task. Daylight to dusk, daylight to dusk. The passing of days, the passing of years, the passing of life.
Yet beauty is seen in those very hands. And love is felt in that laugh scratching the silence. And dawn gives way to daylight. And hope shines on the roses still sleeping in the morning dew.