"This will," Friend told me, "be the easiest and hardest thing you've ever done." And - as she is so much of the time - she's right.
The love flows - clean and smooth and constant - and there's this acknowledgement of the goodness in the world. When I link my fingers - stubby fingers on wide palms - with Dad's and note the similarities. Mom and Brian have more elegant appendages - longer fingers and less pudgy palms - but mine are like Dad's. And - unlike my younger brother and mother, I don't hurt him when I lift or nudge. And though I'd always wished for prettier hands, I'm somehow proud of these that I have now - so like my dad's.
"You know that phone commercial?" I asked Dad's sister when she came to see him yesterday. "It gets terrible signal but is a dog whistle and tells you if your family members are birds? I get miserable call quality on my phone so Dad's started asking me if he's a bird when I can hear him again." And a ghost of a smile touched Dad's lips though his eyes remained closed while he sat next to my aunt.
The girls came yesterday, talking to Brother and his ex-wife on the back porch before moving into the living room on small, quiet feet. The photos I'd ordered of them with a horse they'd visited on their last trip to me (a post I drafted but didn't publish) had arrived so they each took their envelope and flipped through images.
Brother had coaxed Dad awake before they entered but he'd fallen asleep again so Mom approached, rubbing arms bruised from his recent hospital stay and asking if the girls could give hugs. Little One went first, bending at the waist and resting her head on Dad's chest while he wrapped one arm around her. "I love you," she said when her mother prompted it and Dad immediately murmured he loved her too.
Smallest One paused in her examination of the new items in the room to scamper over and embrace her grandpa. Strands of her blonde hair touched his chin as she cuddled for a moment, happy little voice reminding him she loved him as he returned the sentiment. I watched alone, Brother needing to walk outside and Mom down the hall to gather their composure.
"Grandma's crying," Smallest told me when I scooped her up and gulped back my own grief.
"That's OK," I replied. "She's a little sad right now." She nodded and considered it for a moment before smiling and lifting her hand from my shoulder to point at the oxygen in the corner and inquiring over its purpose.
"That's in case Grandpa has trouble breathing," I explained and glanced around at the wheelchair and commode, walker and bags of supplies for wounds and the spots on his leg that have opened to leak fluid and wipes and blankets and pillows and cushions.
I walked in my parents' bedroom - the one I used while growing up - and thought it smelled like death. But the weather cooled and we opened the windows, blessedly fresh air and sounds of birds and bugs and life streaming inside.
We sleep and cry and laugh and struggle. And there are moments where it's almost impossible - clinging to Brother and saying that I absolutely cannot do this after we've taken Dad to the bathroom and he was too weak to stand, sagging in my arms and resting his head on my shoulder.
But then there's peace - sitting next to him as he perched on the side of the bed, lifting his head to speak to someone and reaching my hand to him, palm cupped to take whatever imaginary items he's offering me. I brought my hand to my chest afterward, feeling the echo of his fingertips brushing my palm and fought to release him - to allow him to move on from the discomfort and sadness that's here.
But then we giggle - awaken in the morning and gather in the living room - the four of us - and tease Brother about his inability to kill the fly we'd assigned him.
"I'm like a ninja - lying in wait," he reports then I scoff when the fly lands on his chest and taunts him. He did eventually get it, not long after I told my mother than Obama is not the anti-Christ. Dad opened his eyes to frown at Brother and me for not being impressed with Romney and his new VP partner.
"I won't vote," Brother assured him and he closed his eyes again.
Thank you for the prayers - in whatever form they take - or thoughts if prayers aren't possible. This is both startlingly easy and impossibly hard for me and I do deeply appreciate your responses to what I'd written here.