While the rest of the country has been melting from the blazing heat, up here where we live at the northwest border of the continental US, we've finally had weather resembling summer. For real. Just in time, too. Yesterday even felt downright HOT. But by hot, I mean almost 80 degrees so we all just sat in the shade, still outside on our deck. I realize what a luxury it is to live where one doesn't have to have air-conditioning, apart from the air actually cooling itself.
We were warm enough yesterday to think today might be a good day to take Grampie for a walk down at the marina. There's a lovely walking path there--in fact the view at the top of this blog was taken at sunset during one such walk took with our kids after a birthday dinner a few summers ago. But it has to be pretty hot to venture such a thing with a man whose bones are porous and whose brains are little better (or maybe it's the other way around). And we're not rookies, Beve and I. We knew enough to take a blanket, a hat and a fleece jacket for him, even with the down vest he wears almost every day (even yesterday!).
Later Beve said he should have known as soon as he tried getting Grampie into the car...but that's hindsight. It took just a hoist, a couple of Allen wrenches, breaking his legs at the knees, and a few grunts from Grampie to get the job done. AND--at least one of those things is true. Even as we drove down to the water, Grampie had trouble keeping his eyes open.
"Are you having a bad day, Dad?" Beve asked him.
"Are you tired?"
"I guess I am." This, too, should have warned us.
Getting him OUT of the car at the water was even worse. Getting him out is always worse, but the wind was whipping up this morning and the girls dressed in shorts and t-shirts, who'd arrived ahead of us, were covered with goosebumps. When we finally got him settled in his chair with the hat covering his face and the blanket tucked in around him, he looked around and said, "Why the hell are we doing this?"
We were kind of asking the same thing ourselves. But being the intrepid pioneers that we are, we pressed on into the wind. While Beve pushed, on one side of his chair SK held his hat onto his head so the wind wouldn't whip it off and I crouched on the other, holding the quilt over his hands so they'd be kept warm. We must have looked like a very chubby, semi-disabled centipede rolling along. Now and then one of us would find a wind-break--a bush, or just a strange spot on the walkway-- so we'd stop in the warmth of the absent wind. But Grampie was just bewildered by the whole affair. Really bewildered. There's a statue at the marina's park of a fisherman with rope hoisted over his shoulder. Beneath it are the names of those from our area who have been lost in their work on and in the sea. As we stood reading, Grampie said, "What are we looking at?" Even when we explained he couldn't see it. Then he lowered his head again and drifted off.
A few minutes later, when he looked blurrily up at me, I asked Grampie, "Do you think we're pretty silly to be out in this wind?"
"Yep," he said. "Pretty stupid." And that was not only the most lucid thing he said all day, but also exactly what we needed to hear. The kind of thing a dad should say to get his kids doing the right thing.
So we turned our back on the sea and headed for the cars. Left a note for the two who'd gone running, and hurried to the nearest coffee shop to wait with hot beverages in hand. But even the hot coffee failed to rouse Grampie from the near fog he'd been dwelling in all morning.
We took him back to his residence and he went inside with Beve with no complaint.
Yesterday he sat on our deck and practically shook his fist at the world, saying, "I'm a free man!" as he argued about why he shouldn't have to live in that place any longer.
"Can you take care of yourself?" I asked him. He folded his shirt in one careful fold and answered, "I guess I can."
But today is a different day. Today, the lights were dimmer. And the world a more confusing place. Even a park by boats in a harbor--like places he's known since he was a child living in a town on this same body of water, with similar smells and boats and views--was like being on the moon. Alien and frightening.
We left him to his small room with his few momentoes and simple routine. And wonder who we'll meet tomorrow when we go to visit him there. And wonder who he'll know when we come walking through the door.
This visit from our family couldn't have come at a better time. It's hard to even express how important, how valuable, how sweet it is to have this time with him and the larger family who loves him. And to have them here with us, not only so that we aren't facing it alone now, but so that when we do have to face it alone, they will have this context to understand better. Each day when I wake up in a house jam-packed with people I lie in my bed for a moment in complete joy, thankful that I have another morning with them, another day when we will sit in the sun together drinking ubiquitous cups of coffee (those Finns and their coffee, I tell you, even we NWerners have NOTHING on them!). It's a quiet, gentle beginning--and ending, come to think of it--to each day. And it's community. And God has fashioned it for us.
Now that I think about it, the presence of these people in our home this summer has been like a wind-break for Beve and me. A place of protection and warmth from the wind that has been whipping at us this year. A place still enough that we can gather strength to hear God, settle down from the work it takes to simply maintain in such weather, and be. Simply be for a space of time. The only stupidity (in Grampie's vernacular) would be to hurry from this place. To not stop and give Him thanks for the abundance of such grace.