While my mom and I tried to fill time and stave off worry with chatter, Dad looked off into space, at nothing in particular. He looked off for a fairly long time. He was away but not gone. Not gone but not here.

Dad’s in the hospital again.  He is being treated for a urinary tract infection. He is responding to treatment and having good moments of presence with his family. But he is also really sad and being present with that.

After months of physical therapy, he went from being able to walk as long as 300 feet in his walker to not being able to turn over in bed without assistance. As he said, after gall bladder removal last week, he’s “gone down the tubes.”

I’m not sure why gall bladder removal is still considered an outpatient procedure on an 85-year-old man with Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and countless other maladies. He ended up being admitted for a night after the surgery and discharged the next day, to our surprise. As it turned out, he was discharged too soon. I’m not blaming the surgeon. Sometimes you give the ball your best swing and miss. And he didn’t have the infection yet.

I am trying to a be an understanding soundboard for Dad. Someone he does not have to worry so much about burdening with his sadness. I can validate his pain and his experience of decline. After listening and empathizing I said, “Dad, I think you can get better than you are right now but I know that it’s hard knowing that you will never get completely better.”

We have conversations like this at least once a week. They are short and followed by a silence that is still sad but also filled with love and connection. At those times he is here and we are together, joined in time and space.