Hanging On

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” Audrey Hepburn

I speak to him at least five times a day on the phone. His voice might quiver and his memory may be shaky, but overall he’s jovial and I’m usually reassured that all is well. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I convince myself with one excuse after another. I live too far away. I can’t just pop by. I’m too busy. I’ve got this or that to do. I will see him next week or in two weeks. But two turns into three, and then four.

I haven’t seen him since Christmas. It’s only been three months. But that can be an eternity when your dad is 88.

Before we arrived I had called him from Canmore to give him an idea about how much longer we’d be. I told him we had a key to the house and the remote for the garage. He didn’t have to come outside. I called because this is what I’ve always done. It was habit and it had comforted my parents. Their nomadic daughter was almost home.

When I arrived, he was standing in the garage, the door open for us. I don’t know how long he’d been there. It’s an hour and half from Canmore to Calgary.

He said he’d only been outside for a few minutes, but I’m not sure I believed him.

He’d lost weight since Christmas (and he had nothing extra to lose). His limp was a little more pronounced, and his hair much longer. Still there was that welcoming smile, the excited teary-eyes, and the warm hug.

I wondered what could be so important in my life that it took four months to get back to Calgary to see him.

We’ve been out walking and out for lunches since I arrived. We listen to Greek music. We retell stories about my mom, our family life together. Some things he doesn’t remember, but with our conversation and some coaxing, it comes back to him. He seems happy when he has his bearings again, even though it’s only for a little while.

We do have some of the same conversations when we talk on the phone. But I realize how deceiving a phone call can be, or at least how I use it to fool myself.

I know he’s slipping away and I want to hang on. I realize this after every visit. But somehow I forget it, all wrapped up in my seemingly busy life.

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