I try to visit my Dad at his adult family home every day that I'm not at work. Depending on the week it could be as few as two days a week or as many as four. This past week it was three; Sunday, Monday and Saturday. The round trip from my house to his is 18 miles. Traffic can be a real pain on weekends with everyone hitting the stores at Northgate Mall, the hot spot a mile from Dad's place.
Dad knows the days I'm scheduled to work and the days I'm off. He keeps a calendar in his walker and periodically asks me to write in my work schedule so he'll know when I'll return. Sometimes when we go four or five days without a visit, he gets very teary on the phone and asks, "When can I expect to see you again?" Talking on the phone is a poor substitute for a visit. When we do connect by telephone, the brevity of the conversation strikes me as sad. Whereas Mom and I would prattle on for ten or fifteen minutes, I'm on the line with Dad for less than two. His hearing is so marginal that I end up shouting into the line and half the time I know he hasn't understood a word. He hears better in person; maybe he's reading lips too!
I try to bring him something, anything, when I arrive. There was a time when candy, cashews, and cookies were welcome treats. He can no longer enjoy these snacks, sticking to his chocolate Ensure shakes which he has stashed in his closet by the case. I bring fresh flowers, old photo albums, and recent pictures of the family instead. He expects nothing; he only wants to see me, to sit with me in his bedroom, and to share the news of our lives, however mundane. Many times there are awkward silences when neither of us has anything to say. I'll stand up, straighten the bank of photographs on his wall above the bed or grab his 5 pound weights and do a mini-workout which always amuses him.
Dad so appreciates the company even though our visits are brief. The smile on his face, the brightness in his eyes when he looks up to recognize me walking through the doorway feels priceless. I'm reminded of the utter joy on the faces of my young children when I'd walk through the front door after my long day at work and their long day with the nanny or at school. The big difference is that life is all ahead for children and almost finished for my Dad. I think about that every time I see him and especially when I kiss him goodbye.
He's a very, very good man and I'm proud to be his daughter.