Maybe I lost that propensity through paramedic training, an unspoken lesson in developing professional demeanor. Maybe the cynicism of a career in the news business did this to me. At any rate, it's unusual for me to cry.
But lately, unexpectedly, my eyes will fill with tears. I do not need to be thinking of my Dad for this to happen, though the tears immediately remind me of him and his existence/life at his memory care facility. I miss him so much, though he is not entirely gone. He is slipping away or fading, as I've heard it called. I say he is stuck between the here and the hereafter.
It was October 2008 when I toured the facility where he would move a few weeks later. The administrator was kind enough and spoke knowledgeably about long term care. He showed us around. Silverado's single-floor building was designed to allow for wandering safely. At meal times, residents could exit their rooms and turn left or right and either way, the hallway would eventually feed them into the dining room. Outdoors, the pathway terrain alternated from pavement to gravel, giving residents the perception of traveling further than reality. There were spots for gardening, a cage full of parakeets and canaries, a juke box, and, best of all, dogs who lived there.
The tour began to feel a little like the tours of day care centers I'd taken not too many years before when my children were babies. Directors of day cares similarly touted their centers' features, policies and various activities.
The Silverado administrator let us peek at some rooms, and then he pointed out the memory cases on the walls outside of each resident's room. These were glass-enclosed shelves similar to shadow boxes, but bigger, and they reminded me of the cubby space at daycare that parents are invited to personalize with photographs and mementos.
Before I knew what was happening, I was sobbing, crushed by the thought of the memory case that would be my Dad's. He was 68 years old. How were we supposed to boil his life down to three shelves?
I cried, but I quickly composed myself. Just as I do now whenever my eyes start watering.
"There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.”