Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Out of Retreat

I was in a meditation retreat toward the end of the summer in upstate New York. When I came out of it, I didn't feel like writing very much and then decided to come back home to Miami for a month. Now I'm resting in Miami, doing some research for another project and helping out my parents. Over the past two years I ping-pong between New York and Miami. If I had my way I would spend about 6 months in New York, 4 months in Miami and two months in retreat a year.

Dare I jinx myself and say things are going well? I could use more cash flow, but I have enough to travel a bit and take a month or two off. I'd prefer to have more of my dharma homework done. Still struggling with The Art of Reason. I finished all the quizzes and have taken an extended period of time studying for the final. I don't want to leave this class without really knowing it thoroughly. Maybe I'll take a practice final and see how I do.

My Dad has retreated even further. Strokes, blood clots, and decades of diabetes. It's a war zone. His speech is now reduced to single words and a lot of pointing, but the single words don't make sense most of the time. He's parked in front of the TV for 12 hours, interrupted by a few bathroom trips and three meals. I try to encourage walking, but he's resistant. There is no leaving of the house unless it's for a doctor's appointment.

And still, he smiles. He gives a 'thumbs up' as he struggles to and from bed, to and from the toilet seat, to and from the wheelchair. Every transfer completed is a victory. What counts as a victory is any temporary reprieve from potential injury or harm. I smile back. When I came back home, he was ecstatic. Extremely happy to see me. I've never felt so wanted and appreciated in my life. And at every meal there is still a sparkle of that.

His two most common words are 'thank you.' And it's not obligatory or just a toss-away. These two words are said in a whisper that is part relief and part exhalation. He is thanking me, but also being thankful. Thank you for another day, another bath, another meal. Thank you for another day of watching sitcoms, thank you for the blanket to cover his bare legs. Thank you for toilet seats, thank you for water, pills, thank you for being there. Thank you for coming back home. Thank you for being my son. Yesterday I served him lunch and he looked at me. Before he could say it, I blurted out 'thank-you-for-being-my-father-you-did-so-much-and-I-appreciate-it.' Then I gathered up the dirty cups and turned away. He nodded and began eating.

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