I walk into my father’s room and his eyes usually light up with recognition. I am not sure he knows it’s me, exactly, but he knows it is someone who loves and cares about him. “Hi, Dad, It’s Cheri” is the easiest way to start each visit. Dad has trouble coming up with words, and we often sit in silence, holding hands while watching the Cardinals, or tennis, or old Mickey Rooney movies. If there is conversation, it’s me, talking about our family, his grandchildren, everyday events. I don’t talk about Mom, as he doesn’t seem to remember, and that seems the kindest option.
I feel her presence in the room, sometimes comforting and sometimes overwhelmingly sad. This room is where she died, embraced by family and holding the hand of her husband of 62 years.
Dad has very few moments of happiness. He is mostly lost, confused, weak and sometimes angry. He occasionally enjoys music, and has been known to dance a bit. He still has his sweet tooth, and I always bring him a treat. I leave homemade cookies in his room for him, but he forgets they are there.
The only sentence he consistently puts together is “How did you find me?” I tell him I will always know where to find him.
This week we are finally closing on the sale of Mom and Dad’s house. It was my childhood home, my children’s cherished refuge, a place that witnessed so many happy holidays, celebrations and wonderful everyday family life. It has been a painful journey, but I wish the new family all the joy, love and happiness that old house held for us.
We left our extra keys and garage door opener on the kitchen counter for the new occupants. Almost all the keys. I have my now only barely blue house key, given to me early middle school, that has travelled with me on various key chains for over forty years. I will have that key with me forever.
Last visit I brought Dad one of his favorite flavors of ice cream, butter pecan. He eagerly dipped his spoon. Next visit I will bring his very favorite flavor, spumoni. He doesn’t remember, but I do.