“I hope they cover me up when I go!”

IMG_0963 When I moseyed over to my parents’ house tonight, I found my dad in turmoil. “Mam lost her partials,” he said. “She had all her teeth in at breakfast. We’ve looked for them all day, in all the obvious places: her pockets, underneath everything. . . I brought the trash barrels back from the end of the driveway. In the morning I’m going through both cans.”

I got on my hands and knees and looked all around my mom’s easy chair. I remembered how other elders I used to care for would lose their teeth, glasses, and hearing aids, and how they would turn up in the bottom of an old bathrobe pocket, their purse, or wrapped in a Kleenex and tucked somewhere hidden from view.

My mom thought all the fuss was very funny. She joked that she could eat just fine with half her teeth missing, and that she couldn’t understand why my dad was so agitated. While I was looking behind photographs and other odd places, I suddenly heard her shout from her bedroom, “I found them!” I went to the bedroom, where she was holding a first aid kit. And, sure enough, there were the partials, wrapped in a napkin and tucked away amidst the bandaids. She promptly put them in her mouth and went back to the living room to show my dad.

Well, you never saw my dad so happy. All evening long he praised me, saying over and over, “Something you said triggered her memory.” He was so relieved not to have to go through the trash first thing in the morning.

We had one of the best evenings ever, talking about everything under the sun, including plans for their 65th wedding anniversary in August. My dad has been living with prostate cancer for five years now; he feels the side effects of the various drugs he’s taking, such as the rash on his upper body. We talked about some of the younger men we both know who’ve died from the same disease, including his neighbor. So he’s extra grateful to enjoy his walks, his naps in the sun. . . and he speculates that perhaps taking care of “Mam” is what keeps him going.

During most of the visit, I’m also doing my yoga practice. First seated poses, so I could give my mom my full attention. But then I couldn’t resist lying backwards over one of their cushy chairs. At first my mom threatened to kick me out if I didn’t get back up. So I said, “You better call 911! I can’t get back up!” “It serves you right,” she responded with a laugh. The padded chair felt fantastic and allowed me to stretch and relax and listen to my mom’s Sunday night guitar concert till the very end of the program. She really likes it when I hang out and listen to music with her. After awhile she resigned herself to my strange positions.

When I finally got out of the chair backbend, I did a couple of chair twists. Then I warned her that I was going to do something dangerous, which she found very humorous. I walked up the side of the door frame and kicked up into a handstand. “Make her stop!” She begged my dad, half joking and half serious.

While this was going on, my dad was talking about heaven and how he’s looking forward to seeing his mother. He reminded me that he never got to see her after the Americans freed him from the Japanese prison camp. “We bypassed Indonesia. From Japan we went to Australia and then to Holland. My mother died in 1957—the same year that we came to Ojai and were living on Thacher Road.”

“Yes, Suzan,” he reminded me,”life goes by so fast. Even if I live to be a hundred, it’s just the twinkling of an eye. . . and maybe it’s a good thing you are not burdened by material things . . . Naked we come, and naked we go.”

To which my mom added, with a laugh, “I hope they cover me up when I go!”

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