Foam Upon the Shore

Perhaps souls speak to each other first. Then the bodies find out. And brain and voice follow with words. 

Maybe it’s timing. Maybe it’s random. Or, I have one of those faces.

Went to see my dad this morning, early. Requested by his doctor to explain different things to him. I speak Dad’s language. Can quell the dark imaginings.

While driving to the nursing facility, someone from there called me. Maybe ten calls in last half day. Needed me to sign more papers. When I arrived the paper array was presented.

On Dad’s behalf I was insulted. He’s not incompetent. Give him a say. I breathed deeply, tried to collect my thoughts. I was pissed. Tired.

Still thinking as two nurses blathered. Still trying to breathe. Finally, I spoke. “I have Power of Attorney in case it’s needed. Please don’t bypass him. He’s competent.” I said other things about batching communication. Did pretty well. Didn’t take anyone’s head off. No EMT required. Authorities. Or straitjacket.

And then as I was about to go into his room one nurse departed. One nurse lingered. The quiet one. Indian. Muted, restrained, dignified manner. Reminds me of Ruby, my son’s friend. Beautiful, expressive dark eyes. Surveying. Searching. Speaks with those eyes but I don’t know what they say.

She asked if my dad had ever been treated at the university. I answered that his tumor was diagnosed there, treatment plan recommended but then he was transferred to our community hospital.

“Oh. My daughter is treated at the university. She is ten. She has a brain tumor. She was diagnosed when she was two. It's a miracle. But I am so scared every day.”

Pinpoint perfect English that Indians are taught in school. Precise diction. Her culture doesn’t share easily. Tend to the quiet. Women speak little. And if, to their own only. She told a stranger. She told me.

I listened. She didn’t cry though I thought she might. Tears edged toward the rim, then she reeled them back. Regained her calm. She spoke of treatment. And sorrow. And fear. And sadness that her daughter knows more about her illness and her medications than anything else.

And I knew something important was happening but not exactly what it was. I knew to relinquish control. Let the moment go where it wanted. Without my interference.

The sea rises. Waves crest and recede in their own time. 

“There is nothing to do but go forward,” she said.

I thought of driving in a storm. When the rain is fierce and one can see only a few feet at a time. There is no looking down the road. Foot by foot into the uncertainty.

Yes, she said, that is what it’s like. “I do not look down the road.

“When the Happy Birthday commercial is on television, I cry. I cry with happiness for birthdays I have had with her that I thought I would not. I cry for birthdays I will not have with her. I understand what that commercial means.”

I have a friend who cries with the cherry blossoms lifted on the breeze. Because they are beautiful and she is there to see them. For one more spring. And her husband who loved them, too, is not.

Hearts also lifted on the breeze. But sometimes razed by recollection.

I could not say anything to ease her pain. But I was off the hook. For she knew so better than I.  

The moment went silent. 

“I know if someone offers a wound like this, it’s a privilege. A gift. I don’t know what I did to earn it. But thank you.” 

In the middle of a hallway, where carts and people passed. We two only.

“I don’t know why,” she said. “I just wanted to tell you.”

A soul made visible. Bathed in daylight. Rather than burrowed in busyness.

And the wave rolls back out to sea. Leaving its foam upon the shore.


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