Just a few minutes after 4 p.m. Pacific is 6 p.m. Central, the time my father, who turned 95 last October, returns to his apartment in the seniors’ residence where he now lives. After leaving a bunch of messages on his answering machine on his birthday, and then not being to get a hold of him for several weeks after that, I pinned him down to a time and a day that I would be most likely to reach him. So, Sunday it is, a little after 4 o’clock my time to give him a chance to get back upstairs.
There is an art to telephoning an aging parent. I am slowly beginning to experience first-hand the special issues facing seniors. I dial and wait until dad answers; I out-wait a lengthy, tense silence until I hear his wavering voice fill the long distance vacuum; after I say hello how are you, I wait until he settles in his recliner; then I wait while he locates the remote to mute the TV. Finally we begin to travel back through what he can remember of his week. Sometimes I déjà vu past old territory by pretending I haven’t heard it one, two, even three conversations ago.
Chatting About Nothing…and Everything
Today is a good conversational day. I make a joke about an accent table I wanted to buy him – he was a projectionist in another life and the top and base were constructed of 35 mm reels – and he immediately knows what I’m talking about. He usually asks me to look up something for him on the internet. I look up a popular British entertainer who appeared at the London Palladium in the early 50s. He asks about my week – I keep it precise but light.
Life is Like That
I want to return to those father daughter relationship conversations of the past where he would talk at great length about movies, politics or world events. Now he tires easily and is not comfortable sitting in one position for long. But I don’t care how short the conversation…I’m just grateful I still get to hear his voice.