My Winking Valentine

My father Roy being held by his father, 1935.

Daddy in the arms of his father Hodge in 1935.

Yesterday I went to see Daddy who was sitting in the chair of his transitional care unit (TCU) room at the hospital. TCU, yes, but not the university located in Ft. Worth, Texas.

With his brand new hip and Mama always at his side, Daddy looks forward to weekdays with his favorite occupational therapist. On the weekend and every day of the week he waits, with varying degrees of patience, for the three meals carried to his room by the overworked and perennially short-staffed hospital crew.

Daddy and his father in the backyard of my mother's home, around 1955.

Daddy and his father in the backyard of my mother’s home, around 1955.

Unlike his breakfast and lunch which Mama said had come early that day, dinner was an hour and 15 minutes late by which time Daddy had given up and demanded that Mama put him in bed. His head had been bowed for quite some time and he had been drowsing while sitting up until he finally announced, “I want to lie down,” with that occasional edge of frustration to his voice that signals possible trouble ahead.

Because he hears with only one ear–and wears an ear plug in that ear to block out noise–Daddy can understand only about half (or less) of what we say. Mama proposed that she feed him in bed when the food came, and he thought she was suggesting he stay in the chair waiting for food, so he frowned and became testy with her as he does with any of us if we don’t hop-to with what he wants at the appropriate–or inappropriate–time.

My podiatrist snapped a photo to let me see inside of my foot where the cartilage is worn away.

My podiatrist snapped a photo to let me see inside of my foot where the cartilage is worn away.

With the help of his walker and Daddy shuffling his feet ever-so-slowly, Mama was able to get him into the bed. I wasn’t any help to her because I had foot surgery a week and a half ago and sat elevating my foot in its protective boot as directed by my podiatrist.

I’d like to say I injured myself doing something rather fabulous and delightful on the slopes of some Alpine ski resort, but I’ve never snowskiied in my life. In fact, like so many other mysteries in life, we have no idea why the cartilage in that particular errant toe wore away while the other nine, of similar age and temperament, looked on with great innocence as the offender caused so much fuss and bother. So that’s what the inside of my foot looks like. Yep, the photo my surgeon took when he opened me up looks like worn-off cartilage. But it took quite a bit of explaining for me understand what my podiatrist mean by “frontier medicine” as it relates to my foot. Oh, the risks of walking while having toe cartilage–and then surprisingly not. I’ll be more help to Mama and Daddy in a few weeks after I completely heal (fingers crossed).

Daddy sitting beside his bed at his senior living facility a few weeks before his hospitalization.

Yes, he does look younger! Daddy models his fresh haircut a few weeks before his recent hospitalization.

I notice that Daddy’s hair has grown out since the last time I cut it. His hair grows so much faster than my husband’s. I could trim Daddy’s hair twice in the amount of time Kurt’s hair needs only one. When I cut Daddy’s hair a few times ago he said, “Do you think it makes me look younger?”

Of course I answered, “Yes, Daddy I think it does make you look younger! I like a man who is well groomed! You look so much younger–and so good looking too.” And I wasn’t just blowing smoke because Daddy has always been a strikingly handsome man. Tall, thin (except for a few years there in his 40s when the gravy and biscuits did not meet up with enough exercise), with a dash of patrician elegance for a man who grew up in great poverty without a mother.

I’ve often thought that Daddy would have made an excellent member of a royal family. He would have been kind, thoughtful, sensitive, and encouraging to his subjects. He would have graciously (and sometimes ungraciously if things were not up to his standard) accepted being waited on hand and foot–as Mama has always done for him, even when he was out of a job and she was the one working.

Mama and Daddy dodging rice as they dash for the getaway car after their 1956 wedding.

Mama and Daddy dodged rice as they dashed for the getaway car after their 1956 wedding. This photo shows that Daddy had lost a tiny patch of hair by the time he married at the age of 21.

Daddy would have cared for each citizen of his country with great ceremony–that is until someone perpetrated a crime, then Daddy’s justice would have been swift and sure. Yes, in some ways he would have made a good king. However, when I was young and under his direct command, I suffered from his rule along with the other citizens (Mama and my sister Lisa) who could have enjoyed a good deal more parliamentary rights. Let’s face it, Daddy was often wrong on a particular fact (New York being not just east of Knoxville, Tennessee, but also north), but apparently the more wrong he was on a subject, the more adamantly he argued he was right–doubling down with his strong will. And yet, and yet, he has also been irresistible as well.

This morning I sat at breakfast and thought of how unaccountably warm, happy, and whole I feel when I just think of Daddy smiling at me. Yesterday at the hospital, he smiled at me; I smiled at him; he smiled and winked at me; I smiled and winked at him. We went on like that for a pretty long time, with the smiling and the winking, and being pretty damn happy to just be in each other’s company with the smiling and the winking.

Daddy being irrepressibly himself at wedding reception, 1996.

Daddy being irrepressibly himself at a wedding reception, 1996.

Mama seemed unaware of the smiling and the winking–or she let it go as one of the many details that are not particularly worth mention. I notice things and comment on them, such as, “Mama, you have been such a wonderful wife to Daddy.” If I think something–and it is positive–I share it, even if it is the not the kind of thing most people say in day-to-day conversation. At least folks where I come from.

Mama talks about people she knows who are in the hospital, have taken a turn for the worse, or died. She talks about her church, our family, and Daddy’s progress, but she doesn’t talk about how she feels about anything. It is not her way.

But talking about how I feel has been my way, more aligned with Daddy who has never lacked the ability to let you know how he feels about everything. So this morning, as I read a book review that mentioned one of my favorite songs, the opening lines put me in the mind of Daddy . . .

My Funny Valentine

My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you’re my favorite work of art

Is your figure less than Greek?
Is your mouth a little weak?
When you open it to speak
Are you smiling?
But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little Valentine, stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day

by Lorenz Hart (lyrics) and Richard Rodgers (music), 1937

The world around us is troubled and scarred with violence and hatred, unrest and bigotry, prejudice and strife. At times my only way forward is through the little things such as light shimmering on the surface with a powerful foundation underneath–such as the way I love Daddy.

//Anna ~ 7/11/2016

About aamontgomery

Seeing new possibilities in everyday things
This entry was posted in Autobiographical, Beauty, Courage, Dementia, Family, Happiness, Love, Music and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My Winking Valentine

  1. This is such a wonderful posting about the little things in life and moments that we share with one another that are so precious and fleeting. Even with dementia, Roy is able to communicate his love for Anna (and vice-versa) with heartfelt winks and smiles. The complexity of each person is a miracle and wonder for each of us to cherish. Well done!

  2. Mary Cruise says:

    It is always interesting to wend my way through your posts to the final destination. I generally arrive at a place I never expected–yet is exactly as it should be–as I began the journey. I enjoy the trip immensely and marvel at your ability to make the everyday quite special and the ride very pleasant indeed. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. ☺️

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