I meant to write about ice cream; how my favorite flavor has changed over the years, how I come back again and again to good old vanilla (not the yellowy so-called French vanilla, but the kind speckled with vanilla bean). I wanted to write about how ice cream figures into our life celebrations, our rabid devotion to certain flavors, and our dismay when those flavors are discontinued. (Personally, I’ll never forgive Ben & Jerry’s for doing-away with ‘Rainforest Crunch.’ Ed and I courted over that ice cream! How could they do such a thing? Does anyone have the recipe?) I was going to end the blog by asking about your favorite flavors and your best ice cream-related memories.
But life has a way of intruding on such light topics.
I just now received a phone call that my father-in-law fell yesterday and fractured his hip in two places. He’s in the hospital in Phoenix this morning, undergoing surgery. He’s in his late 70s-early 80s (I can’t recall which; I’m lucky if I remember the age of my own parents) and diabetic, with the sort of blood sugar that whing-whangs all over the chart on a daily basis because, although he’s anal about taking his blood test (several times a day, in fact), he eats what he feels like eating when he feels like it no matter what the read-out (or anyone else) says. He’s cold all the time, unable to walk any sort of distance with ease. He visited us just before Christmas and there was such a change in him. No longer robust, he is a shade of himself — bone-white, hunched, slow-moving, often needing a wheelchair to get about. Always emotionally guarded, now he is apt to cry at a moment’s notice or fly into a rage at the memory of old hurts and ancient betrayals. He is frequently sad (that emotion walking hand-in-hand with his anger) and seems lost, not in the way of someone who can’t remember where he is, but in the way of someone who suddenly looks around at their life and says, “How did I get here?” A stubborn man who cherished his independence above all else, now he is a mass of needs. He clings to his wife as to a life-line, afraid of being alone (and, I suspect, other things as well).
Surgery is an iffy prospect as one ages, the risk compounded when (as now) there are other issues. And I find myself wondering about his mental state. Does he want to live? Does he see this as the moment he slips past life’s gate? I know he loves his wife (with an intensity he cannot bring himself to bestow on the rest of his family), but he’s also tired. He knows she will be well-looked after by her family (her children, as well as by us). Will this be the moment when he says, “Enough?” (For I believe, you see, that we have the power to affect such things. Three years as a Hospice volunteer taught me that.)
This is a “wait and see” moment, a pause to let events unfold. If my father-in-law should pass, how do I best support my husband? There are no words to ease the loss of a parent (even one you are not close to) and my husband is a private person who keeps his thoughts to himself. Perhaps just being close is the best anyone can do in that circumstance. I don’t know. When my grandparents died, both my mother and my father erected unscalable walls, barriers impossible to breach and necessary to respect. If they mourned, it was never within my sight. I don’t know how this will play out and maybe that, more than anything, is the hardest part.
Any advice is appreciated.