Head to the Light, Dad

Day One

Eighteen … nineteen … twenty.

Phew! There! What great a workout for an old geezer like me. Feels good. It's my "ski lift" workout. I lay on my back on the carpet and lift myself to a standing position using only a pair of ski poles, then lay myself back down and repeat. It gives me some confidence that I can stand back up if I catch an edge while skiing and wipe out like I did last weekend.  I used to be able to do more than twenty, but that will have to do for now.

Besides, it's time for my longevity medicine, maybe a nice Pinot Noir, and a little lunch.

My son is in my kitchen, clanking and clinking, making noises and hopefully something to eat. He has been hanging around here for a few days because he thinks I have been not quite myself lately. I can still run up and down the stairs ten times, can't I? I just went skiing last weekend, didn't I? Sheesh! I'm only 96! I plan on being around for at least another ten years. Who knows? Maybe twenty.

My daughter was here all last week. She thought I might be having mini-strokes or something. She left to fly back to the Arizona desert and my son agreed to stay here for another week to make sure I am OK.

Worry warts.

I put the ski poles back against the wall and turn to walk back to the kitchen, but can't focus right. Darn it! My leg is giving out and I am stumbling across the room reaching for the TV to steady myself. In one moment, I am inside my body not able to control it, and in the next I am outside of it watching myself leaning on my left arm because my other one won't move where I want it to. Crap! What's going on?

I hear my son asking if I am OK. At least I think that's what he said. I tell him I'm fine. It's just a cramp or something. But as I listen to what I speak, it sounds like the gibberish that slobbers out of my mouth after a trip to the dentist. One side of my face is not moving.

Dammit. There really IS something wrong. I think I'm having a stroke. Nothing on the right side of my body is working.

My son rushes in from the kitchen, grabs my arm to keep me from falling and guides me into a chair. Then he kneels down beside me and holds my hand.

“Dad, I'm concerned you might be having a stroke. Let's do a couple quick tests to find out, OK? First, let's see if your face muscles are working. Give me one of your patented big smiles!”

I give him my broadest smile, but it doesn't feel quite right. I instinctively try to raise my right hand to my face to check it out, but my arm refuses to budge. I'm confused.

“OK, Dad. Can you raise both hands in the air?”

Only my left arm works. I shake my head. Nope.

“Dad. I am calling 9-1-1. I am not going to bother with the third test. You're having a stroke. We're going to the hospital.”

Day Two

“Dad? I know you can't talk but you can probably hear me. If you can hear me, squeeze my hand.”

I squeeze.

“Squeeze my hand once for yes, and twice for no. OK?”

I squeeze once.

“Good. This next one is just a test. Are you at home right now?”

No. I squeeze twice.

“Are you in the hospital?”

Yes. I squeeze, once.

“Great! You passed the test! Now for the real questions. Are you in pain?”

I take some time to inventory the parts of my body, many of which seem distant. Far away. No headache. Check. No muscle aches. Check. My joints are fine. I feel pretty good, really. Just a little hungry is all. I squeeze twice.

“Great! Are you comfortable?”

I squeeze once. I am actually quite comfy here.

“Are you thirsty?”

I guess I am a little thirsty, but I know I can't swallow. All I can do is drool. I don't want to bother him with trying to figure out how to get water down my throat and I sure as hell don't want a nurse sticking a tube up my nose to get something into my stomach. Yes or no? I hesitate for a bit, then squeeze twice. I can do without water. At least for now.

“I see that your lips are starting to dry out a little. Is it OK if I put a wet towel on your mouth?”

That would actually feel pretty good. I squeeze once.

I feel the refreshing dampness on my lips and drift off to sleep. And somehow in that sleep, I hear him telling me stories, filling me with memories, and making me laugh. Consciousness has blended with sleep and time seems to have lost its sense of urgency. The stories continue for hours or maybe days. I can't tell ... and I feel like it doesn't matter anymore.

I really want to laugh at his jokes, but can only manage to hint at a smile.

Day Three

I feel my son take up my hand again.

“Good morning, Dad. Are you awake?”

I want to squeeze but my hand isn't working. He takes my other hand.

“Are you awake?”

I can't squeeze that one either. Crap. I want to look at him. My eyelids won't work. My mouth doesn't want to cooperate. The engineer in me is fiddling with all the controls and switches inside my brain trying to find one that still works. Everything is shut off and I can't find the on-switch for anything.There must be some bypass circuits or a backup generator in here somewhere. I just can't find them!

I can hear him answering his phone. It's my daughter. I can tell from his conversation that she is having a hard time. He encourages her to leave the house, hike out into the Tucson desert and enjoy the sunshine. He assures her that I'll still be around when she gets back.

After hanging up the phone, I can feel my son giving me a hug. He is whispering in my ear, “Head to the light, Dad. This body is of no use to you anymore. It's OK. You can leave it behind now. We love you.”

But I AM looking at the light. It's right in front of me. It is emanating from my son. He is shining light into my soul and I can see it clearly. My soul-vision is working fine, but I know my body is busted. Broken. Probably beyond repair. I wish I could open my eyes. 

He continues to urge me to head toward the light. His hug lingers with a warmth like the embers in a living-room fireplace. I gaze at the light from the fire in his heart, watching the flames gently lick at what is left of the logs that have fueled our love for a lifetime.

I wish I could hug him back.

I feel him refreshing the dampness of the towel on my lips. He leans over and embraces me again. He whispers, “Dad. It's a beautiful day in Tucson. Nice and warm without being too hot. Sis went for a hike into the desert to hang out with the saguaros and cactus wrens for a bit.”

Then after a short silence, he jokingly whispers into my ear, “Why don't you see if you can run to catch up to her!”

I laugh a little inside, thinking "My body is shot. My legs don't work. I am not going to "run" anywhere. Then I think, "Why not?" And as I turn around to run out into the sunshine, I see the light he was talking about.

Oh, THAT light! Not the little one over there where my son has pressed his body against mine. This really big one over here.

Like a snake shedding its skin, I leave my body behind. I have a new body now, much more expansive than the last one, but still confined somehow. As my last breath leaves, I feel myself expanding with a new breath filling up and out into the brightness.

And on my way out, I reach down and surround my daughter with the Light I now realize is Pure Love and kiss her good-bye. She pauses her hike. I can tell from the tears forming in the corners of her eyes that she has sensed my presence. She has felt my love. She sits down on a rock and pulls out her phone to call her brother.

I know she is going to ask if I am gone.

Then I head out across the desert toward the mountains in the distance where I can already hear the music, the singing, and the cheers of those awaiting my arrival.