Dad’s Back

January 16th, 2015

Whenever I put lotion on my back, I dream of the days when someone else will do that for me or, better still, when can I do that again? I used to fling my arms up and down my back without a care in the world. Now I know better.

Surgery on one side of my body not far from my left shoulder keeps that arm from moving with the freedom it once had. My other arm, no matter how hard I try, just hurts too much any more.

Oh how I hate getting older. Than I look at my dad. He’s ninety-five. He can’t walk. Lately, he hasn’t been able to do much of anything. Although now, he is getting out of the house more which is great. He needs that. A wheelchair van helps with that.

One day, a couple of years ago, Frannie, one of the workers to help my dad and step-mom, was in fact helping out my step-mom Lynne. Dad sat helplessly on the edge of his bed calling out for Frannie. I came rushing in to see what the emergency was. He was all showered, cleaned, robed, and needing to get dressed. At the time, he could still sit up. The ability to stand or walk was ebbing quickly.

He asked me, well, told me really, to help him get dressed. So bossy. But what I see now is that he was swallowing his pride in having a child of his see him naked, vulnerable.

You see, I never saw him naked growing, by accident or design, it just wasn’t happening. Once I caught him in his underwear. Banner day. Otherwise, that thing that kids go through in being curious about older people while growing up remained only a curiosity for me. My parents were giving up nothing…bathing suits aside. They were really inhibited about that kind of thing.

I, on the other hand, had no such inclinations as I ran through the house naked as frquently as I could…which often got me in to trouble. Such is the life of a ten year old. It just didn’t seem to be a big deal to me, clothed or not, so why was it such a big deal to my parents?

Now, as I go into Dad’s room, he makes it clear that he has to get dressed but the impatience in his voice dictates that it needed to happen last week. Sheesh.

There is a neat little pile of folded clothes right next to him. The underwear sits right on top. I stop for a moment and ask him about it. “Yes everything,” he replies. He’s looking right at me and I see it. It wasn’t impatience, entirely anyway. More like, helplessness.

Without another word I dove into action. In pulling the underwear up, I had to position his arms around my neck to help him stand, then, reposition him safely back onto the bed so that he couldn’t slip off; very tricky stuff.

In that brief (no pun intended) moment, I saw it. My back, my spine, his. As the elastic waste band is tugged and pulled into place on his hips (really hard to do from a sitting position) I let me hand go along his the flesh of his spine. The familiarity of it was not lost on me and I told him so. He chuckled.

Trousers, shirt, belt…real hard to do, and finally, he is dressed. Wobbly, he stands, grips his walker, and pulls, no wills his feet to move him, or at the very least, shuffle him across the room and into the next room. Eventually towards the door where he will then go outside and get into the car and be driven to a doctor’s appointment.

The spine that is his is mine. The high waist I used to complain about (dresses are the worst) is now something I revere. It was uncanny to see that, to know just how close the fruit has fallen off the tree. Epiphany.

So what can be said of this? Without my knowing it, he always had my back. I just couldn’t see it at the time and why would I? In the background Dad was always doing his thing; tying flies, being the ham-radio king, going to ball games of some kind, and forging a business.

At five I was very sick. His face told me just how bad things were. He held me as I bawled about shots and medicine. He had my back. And now, doing what I can for him, I have his.

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