I love this photo of me and papa that his nurse took a few days ago.
That day was a crazy-busy day. And as I hurriedly kissed papa goodbye, he smiles at me warmly and says, “Let’s go to Saisaki,ok?” And I look calm on the outside but on the inside I am going, “No no no no no..not today please papa.”
But he looks at me with the full trust of a little boy –huge, round eyes and hoarsely says, “I want salmon sashimi. And strawberry ice cream. And what’s that thing that’s like taho?” I tell him it’s chawan mushi and I know I could go buy him all that, takeout, and have him eat it at home but I know this is not what he means.
I know that he wants the full experience—the pasyal. The getting inside the car, the strapping of the seat belt over him, the sights of cars and buses past us, the seeing of Mayi, the manager in Saisaki,who greets him like an old friend.
And he likes, too, the band that plays whatever he asks them to play and it is good he is hard of hearing or else he’ll hear how they make up lyrics to songs he happily nods his head to.
(What difference does it make anyway? Papa makes up his own lyrics as well and they’re even more bizarre.)
And I think, he likes too, some time with me. Pops is now 84. It isn’t as if I have all the time in the world with him still.
And it isn’t as if I have 2 lifetimes where I can choose to be careless with people I love in this lifetime because, anyway, I have another lifetime to love them real well.
Now’s all I get. I know this.
So I say to myself, you know what? Dang it all. And I turn to papa and say, “Yes of course, pops! Let’s lunch in Saisaki today! Yey!” And he rewards me with the happiest, widest, warmest smile and hoarsely cheers. “Yey!”—a Yey that goes straight to my heart and then settles real nicely in my soul.
I ask him to give me a moment to make calls. And he happily gives me his 2 thumbs up, a happy kid who got his way.
And I know too what else he wants.
My father has dementia and it has made his connections to life tenuous and I think this is the way he strives to connect still with it. To participate. To show up. And I love that there is this part of him that wants this still—to show up in whatever state he’s in and dance with us..
Life is a party and papa is ringing the doorbell, asking still to be let in.
And I love this smile on papa’s face in this photo. He seems pleased as punch, right?
And this is what my father gives me—the notion that life is a gift and that it is a privilege to be part of it.
And that everyone must have a place at the table. Not just the whole, not just the strong, not just the young. But even those who live in the shattered, fractured worlds of dementia and sing off key, made-up lyrics.
And that we must make space for them at the table.
Hey, new day! YEY!
GO GET ‘EM, TIGERS!