J Walking

From a dear friend:

“All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown. The moon rolls through the nighttime, until the daybreak comes around. All my life’s a circle and I can’t tell you why-the season’s spinning around again, the years keep rolling by.”-Harry Chapin

I’m always fascinated at how cyclical life is. It seems like the same things happen over and over again, only the circumstances change. I had that experience over Christmas when I had the chance to “dance” with my father.

Full disclosure here: my father is disabled. A rare medical condition has stripped him of any mobility, making even the most mundane of tasks a challenge. This is particularly vexing for a man like my father, a true “man’s man” if ever there was one.

Like any father and son, we’ve had our disagreements over the years. Take two strong masculine personalities and put them in the same household and you have conflict waiting to happen. Like most men though, I find that the older I become, the smarter my father was/is.

Over the holidays, the cycle of caring for my parents started for my wife and I. My father has to be moved everywhere he goes, from the wheelchair to the his point of destination. I volunteered to move him in order to give my mother a break from the daily task.

In order to move him, my father and I would do a dance that shocked me in it’s intimacy and trust. As I would bend down, he would drape his arms around my neck and like a rhythm-tighten, clutch, lift, carry, set down. As I felt my father hold onto me, I was struck with the sudden image of me as a sickly, thin infant, kept safe and warm in his father’s arms. I wrapped my hands around his back, feeling his scars, souvenirs of too many explorations by surgeon’s hands. Now lifting him out of his chair, the cycle of holding and carrying now turning to me to protect the vulnerable man that I love, the same way he protected me.

Tighten ab muscles and swivel hips, turn legs…hearing the wearied moan of my father as muscles, twisted and tortured by a failing body tightened and spasmed to accommodate the dead weight of the legs that had betrayed him. Hold breath and drive with quads and hamstrings, toward the wheelchair that still provided freedom to eat Christmas dinner with his family, his body weak, but spirit strong.

Tighten abs and set him in chair, mutually relieved that our dance was finished, each racing toward a joke that would lighten the mood in the room, family saddened by the scene and yet touched by the beauty of one loving another.

Turn to family and smile, a Christmas dinner joined, after a dance with my father.

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