My father in law closed his business earlier this year, and on the evening the store was to be cleaned out, he couldn’t pack his last boxes because he was hospitalized. I met his business partner, loaded two cars, and drove south on Western Avenue to a storage facility where we pulled years of page-torn note spellers, stray mic stands, really old looking boxes with large knobs, and other random music stuff out of a small cell into a hall, devised a plan, and re-stuffed the shell which would house their things.
Pianos had been given away. Speakers and guitars sold for much less than usual. Pictures of blues singers and jazz musicians, friends and colleauges from the years, found a new home in a box or a folder or crate.
When we finished, I found a surprisingly good meal at Quench (which I highly recommend you go to), because I hadn’t eaten at all that day, and made way back to Ingalls hospital to deliver the all-clear report to everyone.
My father in law was grateful but a little out of it. He hardly cared about the store and its contents at that moment. Thirty plus years of selling and buying and bartering in Roseland and Beverly. Of course he had better matters to concern himself with, like his heart, his blood sugar, and the look of fear and disappointment in his (then) pregnant daughter’s face. His voice was a whisper and he said little as Dawn and his lady friend jousted him verbally for the next few minutes.
He did the same when a delightful nurse came to care for him. She explained how three of her sisters, an aunt, and her mother had died from diabetes. It wasn’t until she spoke that we thought father in law was paying attention. He listened. He accepted what she said. He wanted to live, he told us. He would do better. He leaned over to my wife and said he had to live for that grandson. He needed to be around so he could play with him.
He is around. But he’s not caring for himself. We’re unsure whether he’s been taking his meds. He’s not exercising, and his voice is weak and evasive when Dawn talks to him most of the time. In fact, he’s hospitalized right now as I mentioned a couple posts back. I think this is the third or fourth stint since we’ve been together.
It’s hard to see another person’s business or view of life–how he or she sees and keeps things–and not judge them. Have you ever looked at someone’s things?
I create stories about things. I ask questions and ponder and imagine. Then I come back to reality, leaving my fiction and wrestling with what’s in front of me. I’m not sure what my father in law has inside his heart, what things keep him fighting. In fact, I can’t be sure that he is fighting.
I wonder. We hope and we fight. But we don’t know. So we pray.
And I imagine God weighing the role of another miracle versus the role of life without the divine’s next intervention. I think about God’s words and try to listen on the long train ride home or down that familiar interstate.
My father in law is pushing me to ask helpful questions about the things I live for, the causes and the people I live for. The other week, when he was responsive to our presence, he couldn’t speak, but he pointed and turned his lips into a smile. He came out of sedation and recognized our voices, listened, and grunted or stretched through a response shut mostly inside his less-able mouth. He pointed to his sons and stared at and squeezed the fingers of his daughters, connecting with us all in his own way.
Who do you live for? Who are the people that you would point to when words failed, the people who would stand around your bed if you were ill, as you listened to music from old school artists you once knew or while you saw your children or loved ones standing and praying and hoping for you? What do you live for? What keeps you going?
Maybe you have a comment. Maybe you don’t. But we all live for something or someone. I cannot know for sure who or what that is for my father in law or for you good folks. I hope you live for something(s) that matters.