I can hear it in his voice every time I call and say we can't come. We have hockey practice, homework, skating skills, dryland training... I think all he hears is "too busy." My Dad tells us its fine. He understands. But I know he doesn't really. Today I went to visit Dad alone, the boys at a baseball clinic for the afternoon. I so badly want the sight of me to be enough.
But the disappointment registers instantly on his face when I tell him I am by myself. I used to bring the boys to him and they would play catch in the front yard. But the boys are stronger, bigger now. Dad is weaker, and not able to move very far without his oxygen levels dropping. The boys were so excited to go to their baseball clinic. I try to explain, but it just sounds so empty. He sits quietly, nodding his head. The whoosh of his oxygen tank the only sound in his room.
Finally he looks at the calendar and asks if I'll take him to his next doctor's appointment on Wednesday at 2:45. "We could go for lunch at Village Inn, and then you could take me to my appointment afterwards" he says. I cringe, knowing he has forgotten the kids will be out of school at 3. He reads my face and says, oh... well don't worry I have 4 more appointments coming up, maybe one of those will work? I know I will take him to one or more of those times, trying to make it up to him.
How did this get to be so difficult? When did I start having to choose? My family, or my family. I want to do both. I need to do both.
I realize as I am driving back home today, it HAS been a long time. I take the side streets I avoid in the winter that are usually clogged with snow and ice. The houses look weathered. The trees are brown and bare, the grass dormant and bent over from the load of snow its hidden under for months. I recognize the culprit, the same one responsible for the look on my father's face. Winter-weary.
Its sunny today and I can feel the warmth of the sun, as I squint, feeling more intensity in the rays streaming in through the window. I wind my way down by the river and am surprised to see how much it has retreated. I pull over to look. I sit there for a bit, with the words "I want to do both" playing in a loop in my mind. Slowly, I begin to chain my thoughts together, using the beams of the sun to glue and bind them into a solid path.
I reach for my phone. "Dad," I say. I know its free pie day at Village Inn on Wednesday. If mom takes you to your doctor's appointment, I'll bring the boys over and meet you at Village Inn after school gets out.
I know convincing the boys to go for pie will not be a hard sell. Dad will get the cherished time he wants with them, without having to wear himself out. After a pause, "That'll be fine," he says. The absence of the disappointment in his voice is enough for now.
I continue home. I can do this. I am doing this.
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