It turns out that I can do this blog in my folks’ apartment at Mount. St. Vincent’s which is run by the Sisters of Providence. And now that I’m still stoked from the Sisters of Earth Conference, I’m much less surprised then when last here at the palpable love that binds together everyone who works here with the endearing people they serve. Really. I had no idea that a large institution could hold this kind of energy in its atmosphere, like a thick, strong, sweet light permeating the walls.
Through all the halls Mom and I walked this morning — slowly, she with her walker, me still gearing down to slow motion — authentic, cheerful “Good morning!’s” greeted us, from caregivers of all kinds, office folks, those who clean the facility, nurses, and the sweet little faces of all the old ones, pushing down the halls with their wheelchairs or haltingly, in various states and kinds of disorientation, treading through space and time with their walkers . . .
I had noticed the loving atmosphere before, but now I’m living in it. My sister Paula, who arrived here from Baton Rouge about two months ago and never left, is the primary parental caregiver. She lives at sister Kristin’s, about a mile away. Paula overheard a conversation in the hallway about a room that’s currently empty, and is available for guests! She jumped on it. Now I don’t have to drive to North Seattle from West Seattle every evening but can climb into my own little nest on the premises.
Paula just blew in, on her way downtown with one of her sons and his family for the day. She had forgotten her cell charger. They’ll be back at 5:15, this evening, to eat with us again. And we will laugh again at her grandchildren’s antics at the dinner table.
Dad had a bad night last night. Up at least six times to cough and use the bathroom. Kris has put a nighttime caregiver in place, so that’s good. Mom seems to be getting weaker. She flops into bed rather than “goes” to bed. The sweet caregiver, her name is “Charity!” says she has to arrange Mom’s limbs for sleep.
At breakfast this morning in the cafe, Mom and I talked about who she’d like to greet her on the other side. Who she’d like to come see her now. Her friend Marge? I asked. Not really. Why? “Because her family discouraged me from visiting her when she was dying.”
Her sisters, or her Mom? . . . silence. “Your Dad?” Ah yes, her Dad, Leo Rosenberger, a sweet gentle soul that, she tells me again, everybody, simply everybody in St. Cloud Minnesota knew when he walked down the street. Leo? Hey Leeeooo!
“Hey! What about Lucy?” I ask.. Ah yes, she replies, “Lucy!” as briefly, very briefly, like a blush on a rose, her eyes light up with joy.
Lucy was a family friend who died decades ago. Her greatest distinction in life, for me, was to have been the only divorcee I had ever known as a child. Very much a troubled, difficult, way-too-intelligent soul for the ’50s era, Lucy lived with a continual air of frustration, dissatisfaction, conflict. Not surprisingly, her kids drifted away as they grew up.
So the story of Lucy’s call, out of the blue, early one morning, when Lucy was on her death bed, and her kids were all there with her, and she woke up Dad and Mom with her stunned announcement, “It’s all love! It’s just all love!” —. This story, now legend, came up once again, for Mom and me, as we made our way slowly down the hallway back to the folks’ apartment with an apple and a banana for Dad.
At breakfast, Mom and I had talked about how she feel stuck between worlds. Not fully in this one, and not transitioned yet either. An interesting, very pregnant, and poignant, liminal time for both of them. For all of us.
Here we are, Mom and the sisters, as usual, sitting in birth order, four years ago at Mom’s 90th. As the first born, I sit next to her.
And today I sit in their apartment, at the dining room table from our childhood with the crocheted cloth made by Dad’s Mom covering it, watching over the folks, planted, as usual, in their overstuffed rockers, dozing on and off. I’m listening with half an ear to an amazingly synchronous TV show that Dad has on about the nuclear arms race and Robert Oppenheimer and Fat Man and MAD.
Amazing, because Dad’s not watching Fox News as usual, he’s watching a program about history of the nuclear bomb, and the nuclear bomb was what woke me up at two-and-a-half, defined my stunned childhood as Chicken Little, and the nuclear bomb was what defined Dad’s youth in the Phillipines as a flight surgeon who got to go home — so says the propaganda — because we bombed Japan with the A-Bomb (not once but twice!).
Now you tell me what the odds are that he would turn on this particular program on the first day that I’m back in town to stay with them.
I wonder what the folks are thinking about this TV program? Not going to ask them. Too hard to talk with Dad, who’s basically deaf. (Plus, right now he’s snoring.)
Mom? Like many ’50s Moms, once her husband came home safe and sound from the war, global concerns never seemed to impact her whose life revolved around husband, family, PTA, and Mass on Sunday.
But wait! She just asked to turn the volume up! But no. Her eyes are closed. So I’m the sole witness to this National Geographic channel version of the ongoing, unfolding nuclear catastrophe that will either wake the human race up in time — or not.
And guess what? I do think there are ETs who are keeping a careful watch on this ungodly Faustian human experiment on our tiny fragile planet Earth, and that they are prepared to continue to intervene, if necessary. Don’t believe me? Check out Robert Hastings: Nukes and UFOs.