Because of my tender and boundless love for him I love and care for him. He is my dad. In his bathroom there hangs a piece of art, a row of ceramic houses and a poem I wrote to him on the occasion of his 70th birthday. 12 years ago. He and mom were still active. Mom was only using oxygen at night. They still traveled. Great and Abu were still alive - still going strong although Great would leave us less than a year later - slipping away in the dark of night.
The poem outlines the fun bits of childhood - cigars as punks under a sky of fireworks on the shores of Lake Pepin. Orange Ni-hi at the bar in Stockholm, movie nights in the long narrow living room of my childhood. Fun times indeed.
Now he's in a wheel chair most days. Outings - to the store, to the doctor - wear him out. He no longer travels - not even to visit his daughter. He prefers to hold court in the high rise apartment we converted, in the course of a March weekend last year into "home." All of his old familiar things are there - the mantle clock no longer on the mantle, but on the curio cabinet containing my mother's paperweight and royal china collections; the china cabinet that my great grandfather had at his house now contains a castle collection instead of china. On top of it perches my mother's photo and a box containing the ashes of what was once her physical body.
When we moved him he insisted on "helping" although he could no more help than a three year old. He sat, holding court yet again, and directed us to the placement of his things. Half way through the day he was exhausted so we all took a break. As we sipped on lime colas - Green Rivers of his youth - he looked at me and asked "Elizabeth, where is your mother?"
Mom had died '03 - four years before. I began to panic. Does he not remember? Is he so tired that the beginnings of Alzheimer's is showing? I looked at him. He was serious, but the spark that was, and is, my dad still glimmered in his eye. With a flood of relief I realized what he was asking. "Oh, Dad" I said, "She's in one of the boxes we've not unpacked yet. Do you want her on the china cabinet again?" He nodded and said "Let's find her. and we went back to unpacking.