When I worked in Psych. one of my responsibilities was to observe behavior of our patients. Not only to watch in minute detail, but to painstakingly document behaviors, conversations, and demeanor each day. If a patient said they were sad, and talked about sad subjects, and cried... there wasn't much more to interpret. Often times however, not all of their words, thoughts, and behaviors matched up so neatly. Sometimes the smiling face in front of you that claimed "I feel fine," had so much unspeakable trauma, that you knew that face was a brave exterior to a crumbling inside.
The pictures from part of our weekend, don't truly match my words. Oh I suppose they do for the boys. They truly relished their time with Grandpa and Grandma at the lake. They had campfires and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. They relaxed in the hot tub. Colton took pictures with his new camera. Nolan went fishing out in the boat numerous times and caught several fish. They came back to town tired and happy. But Rick and I only briefly visited the lake.
On the way to the lake on Saturday, my phone rang. It was a panic-stricken voice on the other end. Mom called an ambulance for dad. She had tried to take him out to lunch and he collapsed on the way home.
When I told mom we'd return to town just as soon as we'd dropped off the boys, she didn't refuse our offer. She sounded so alone, and her words were riddled with guilt.
Rick drove us, quickly back to town. By the time I arrived at the hospital, dad was awake and talking. While more stable, he was still on 14 liters of oxygen... his normal requirement is 5.
My mother and I have taken turns staying with him at the hospital. His spirit remains strong, despite his failing body. He talks of getting in the boat with the boys to go fishing. He wants help in the garage from Nolan, in sorting his tools. He talks of traveling. But his words don't match what his body is clearly no longer capable of doing.
So we smile and nod. "Sure, anything you want Dad," we say. We make light of the fact he is tied to his chair with a monitor that sounds an alarm whenever he moves beyond its confines. And then the nurses run in and scold him gently, reminding him he has to stay still. In the meantime, dad gets a sly look on his face and he chuckles as they walk away.
Its true, outwardly we are coping. We simply don't know where we are at. So we smile and make small talk, and go on. And I know I don't match. At all. My exterior may be brave, but its on the inside that I am crumbling.