My husband’s father is in a convalescent hospital. He believes he is at home. Believing this puts his heart at rest.
I just got back from spending a week visiting Bob. John’s mom was on a much needed respite and well, it’s a long story but for part of the time, to put her own heart at ease, she needed me to come. Visit Bob. Play cards. Water her plants. Bring in her paper. Make sure he was okay.
I was so happy to be able to do a little something for her but honestly, a bit apprehensive about my time with Bob; aka Robert, Papa, Mr. Eldredge. Would he know who I was? This man who has greeted me for the last thirty years with “Hello Gorgeous!” regardless of my appearance? Probably not.
My time was hard, good, painful, exhausting, poignant and holy. We did play cards. We did puzzles. One day I fed him lunch and on another day he knew who I was. There were some tricky moments involving the toilet. There were times when he asked, “What do I do now?” and times when he winked at me mischievously over a good poker hand.
My heart broke. I don’t think you can visit a convalescent hospital and not have your heart break. I was in awe of the care givers…of the friends and relatives of other patients that were there when I came and still there when I left. I was grieved by the loss…of vitality, communication, health, memory.
And I was keenly aware of what was not lost. Dignity. In Bob’s most vulnerable moments, he possessed his dignity. The same dignity I saw and felt in every single person there – patient and health worker and visitor alike. Regardless of their state. There is something precious about being in need. Something intangibly good about serving one who is in need.
My father in law lives for now in a little hospital in a quiet neighborhood filled with sparsely decorated rooms furnished with hospital beds and wheelchairs, where most of the “tenants” will never leave. It is a home turned hospital where confusion resides next to suffering and soft food is served with mercy.
I am so thankful to have had the time with him. I am utterly spent from it. And I was only there 8 days. Now I know a bit better how to pray.