Friday, July 4: This year I didn’t get to celebrate our country’s independence, or much of anything else. No fireworks, no barbecue, no parties. Things started falling apart on Monday of this week. While I was at work, Mike texted me that his mother had been admitted to the hospital with a bad cough. She is very frail already, and on oxygen. In the hospital, she weighed in at a wispy 83 pounds. She’s also very confused, talking non-stop about things that simply don’t make any sense.
On Tuesday, I got the sad news that Christine, fellow blogger of DADIRRIDREAMING, had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. Christine was a lovely and spiritual woman. When I was stressed out after returning home to Virginia from Oman, she sent me an hour-long guided meditation, in her voice, which I listen to when I need to relax. I’m happy to have a bit of her voice to keep with me forever.
On Wednesday, my daughter Sarah got a ride up from Richmond and we went to visit her Nana in the hospital. We were afraid she didn’t have long to live. The doctors decided on Thursday to release her to go home, under the care of hospice. They say there’s nothing else they can do for her.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, my sister called to tell me that my dad had been admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery. It turns out the surgery fixed the problem and he was sent home on Thursday. I called to ask if he’d like a visitor. He sounded like he’d appreciate it.
On Thursday, after Nana was settled in at her home in a bed set up by hospice in her family room, with a view of her beloved garden, Sarah shared this video with her grandmother, hoping to cheer her up. It’s a rendition of the Pharrell Williams “Happy” song, filmed in Richmond.
All Thursday afternoon, and over the next couple of days, Nana replayed the video repeatedly. I was happy that it seemed to make her happy. Later, I found out the reason. She told one of the around-the-clock caregivers that her granddaughter was in the video. I said, “Nana, no, Sarah’s not in the video, she just likes it.” But Nana insisted that her granddaughter was in the video, and continued to watch it non-stop. Later, I heard she told another caregiver that all three of her grandchildren were in the video.
At another time, I heard her tell a friend who phoned, in an agitated voice: “I need to go now so I can get the cushions so I can get to Richmond.” Somehow, Richmond and her grandchildren and the urgency of her getting to them are all tied up together in her mind. Sweet, but sad.
Sarah had to go back to Richmond for work, so we got on the road at 5 a.m. on the 4th and drove 2 hours to Richmond, where I went for a walk and she for a run. I then showered and headed another hour south to visit my father. He seems to be okay; he’s just having a little trouble getting around because of the incision. I visited for a couple of hours, then got in the car and drove 3 hours back to northern Virginia, where I was too exhausted from the stressful week to do any kind of celebrating.
We spent a lot of time with family over the last week: my kids, Mike, his mom and sister, my dad and his wife. It was a week of connecting, with the sad awareness that ties could be cut at any moment.
I had a lovely walk around Richmond on the most beautiful Fourth of July, weather-wise, that I’ve ever experienced in Virginia. Usually, it’s unbearably hot and humid, and generally miserable in July. I realized that Richmond holds a lot of memories for our family. I used to live here, and Mike’s first wife, who died of breast cancer, lived here. I met Mike in Richmond. Sarah lives here now, working and going to school at VCU. It’s truly my favorite Virginia city.
When I drove home from my dad’s on Route 17, a mostly deserted highway that runs nearly parallel to the dreaded I-95, the setting sun cast a glowing light over dancing cornfields, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and changing nature of our world.