The road leading from his apartment building is Bittersweet Lane. Those words capture the mood of this holiday season as we move my father-in-law to hospice care at an assisted living apartment. It all feels a bit surreal. Can this journey with him be our last trip together before his transition onward?
Like most people in this situation, I take time to look through photo albums and to dwell on details of memory, attempting to understand the comings and goings of life. I am particularly drawn to a picture of Grandpa cradling my second son (and his namesake, David Robert) minutes after the birth. I am struck with how completely his arms encircle the infant. How wise, secure, dependable, and reassuring those arms look to me now--as they did then, 21 years ago!
Moments of watching this grandparent interact with my children have been unexpectedly rich and satisfying. Grandpa's early games with his grandson: "How big are you?" or "How strong is David?" made us all chuckle, as Grandpa captured the attention of a one-year-old. Tommy Taxi's chugging around the carport with our older son, Jonathan, was delightful as Jonathan shouted, "I'll take a Coke," to Grandpa who played the role of drve-through staff. "I hate Banks," David announced about his best and beloved three-year-old friend in an effort to spend a morning with Grandpa instead of one at pre-school. A five-year-old Jonathan traveled atop a handmade wooden "booster seat" in Grandpa's truck with ample time for conversation about soccer, Dr. Suess, and God. How many dozen times did David and Jonathan run for an Oreo cookie from Grandpa, who regularly "bribed" his grandsons into lunch on the playground at the school where he volunteered as "Mr. Fix-it"?
Caring for babies, as I do, often causes me to marvel at the mystery of beginnings. That sense of beginning seems very connected, now, to this feeling of ending I have, as Grandpa prepares to move on. A Buddhist friend reminds me of the circle of life and the comfort and reassurance of sensing ourselves on and in that cycle. Tonight the "sweet" holds more power than the "bitter," as I look again at the picture of Grandpa and his grandson. The promises and hopes of those young family days are fulfilled in me tonight, and for this, I am grateful.