Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sundays With Dad

Today was my Sunday to spend with my dad. It's a ritual I've observed for a while now. Robin and I are in the season of elder care, and Sundays with Dad are important. He's 91, and since Mom died, his days get long and lonely sometimes.

Until I was 10 or so, my grandparents lived about an hour away. We went to see them every third Sunday, leaving Sunday School early and arriving in time for an old-fashioned and delicious Sunday dinner. Back then I got carsick easily, especially since, being the youngest and smallest, I had to sit in the middle in the back seat. Our route took us across two mountains and I got sick on the same turn every time. Mom would say, "Bill, you better slow down! She's turning green...she's going to be sick!" And sure enough, we'd be parked beside the road while I got my stomach in order and inhaled the fresh air with my feet on solid ground. By the time we got to Grandmother and Granddaddy's, I was ready to put something good into my very empty tummy. Once the dishes were done, the afternoon hours were spent mostly listening to the grownups talk. By 3:00 or 4:00 we were on our way home. Sometimes we stopped at the Dairy Queen for ice cream, which was a special treat. Hmmm...I don't ever remember getting sick on the way home. Go figure.

Now it's my dad who's the old one, and I'm the grownup visiting every third Sunday. It's a two-hour drive to his house, so I leave in time to meet him at church. After the service is over we have lunch at the Kalico Kitchen, where all the locals who don't want to cook go after church. On rare occasions I take lunch, but I didn't get the covered dish gene. I enjoy cooking and I'm not bad, but coming up with good food that travels well just isn't in my bag of tricks. Sometimes my sister feeds all of us (she got the Sunday dinner gene) with wonderful meals. She likes to try new recipes. I always thought she had some secret for picking out really good ones until I said so one day. Her son immediately responded with, "You're not here for all the yucky ones!"

After lunch, the afternoon hours are still spent in conversation, only now I'm one of the grownups doing the talking. When it's just Dad and me, we catch up on the news since my last visit and most always come around to some family history. When 4:00 rolls around, it's time for me to head home. Then comes the hardest part of the day: leaving. As much as I need to get home to my own life, leaving him there, old and by himself, is a heart-wrenching experience. Thankfully though, he's not alone all the time. My sister and her husband are the best and do so very much for him. He has a lot of good friends and neighbors who look out for him, too. It's just that moment of driving away, with Dad waving at the window. It gets me every time. I'm glad I don't get carsick anymore, but being heartsick is just as miserable.

Living a hundred miles away was good when my parents were younger. The distance was far enough away, but not too far, for all of us to live our lives and still visit easily. Now, though, a hundred miles seems like a thousand. This season of elder care is tough and tender all at the same time. I hope I'm being the daughter I should be. I just know I sleep a little sweeter after my Sundays with Dad.

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