The last time I saw my parents was a year ago, in April 2017. I had flown to France with my daughter to empty out their apartment and to spend as much time as possible with them in their nursing home. We all had a fantastic time together, spending most afternoons at their home, sharing stories, enjoying each other's presence. Mom and Dad were incredibly happy to see us and it really warmed my heart to see their entire face light up every day we came to see them. Dad was very lively and lived up to his reputation of a lighthearted, fun loving man. Like everything else, this came to an end, and we had to return home. I was sad, but happy to leave with my heart filled with warm memories.
About a month ago Dad was admitted to hospital for an emergency and was bed ridden for a week. He came out of the hospital a broken man, no longer able to do anything on his own, including getting out of bed. His Alzheimer's had taken a huge leap forward, making it even more difficult for him to communicate with anyone. But the dedicated staff know him well and understand his emotional state by his tone of voice and the way he tilts his head. He has forgotten everybody, except the ones he loves: his children and grandchildren. When I called him upon his return from hospital and asked my mom to put him on the phone, I heard the nurse say in the background "your husband can no longer get to the phone, you need to call us". I realised how bad the situation was. I was on standby for a few days, not knowing whether I should go and visit or not. When my sister told me it made no sense for me to spend that much money and time to come and see someone who may not even recognise me, I decided to go. It was probably my last chance to see him. It didn't matter to me whether he recognised me or not. If I could bring him a little bit of lightness and joy, that would be great, regardless of who he thought I was. But deep inside I was convinced that if his brain didn't know who I was and what I meant to him, other parts of him would.
I landed in Paris on Monday 22 April at 7:00am and was with Dad by 11am. I entered the room, leaving the door wide open. He didn't jump out of his bed to greet me. Because he couldn't. His legs can barely carry him anymore. But I saw the light in his eyes. I saw the same Dad I always knew, but in a broken body that is barely functioning. I sat next to him on his bed and held his hand. We stayed there for a while, and then he asked me how I was doing. The intensity in his eyes told me he din't mean "how are you doing" right now, at this moment. He meant, how is your life going, are you happy? The important stuff. I said I was doing really well. "Sure?" Yes Dad, absolutely". When he was satisfied with the answer, he wrapped his arm around me, kissed me and hugged me. He then leaned his forehead against mine. Time dissolved in thin air. I was once more a little girl in her father's arms, with no care in the world about anything else. The sheer magic of being in my Dad's arm's.
Years ago, Dad would not have let himself be so expressive. I would have had to see the love in his eyes, if I could catch his gaze in time. He and his brothers grew up in a motherless family. They were tough. They were raised to go to war, and never show how, or what they felt. They had to bury any signs of hurt, of sadness quick and deep, so no one could see they were affected. That was the only way to survive on the battlefield. So they did just that, day in and day out, forgetting that the battlefields of World War II were far gone. This layer of protection stuck with all of them their whole life. It was their trademark. Now these layers of self protection are (mostly) gone. One could say ageing removed these layers. Because really, the older you get the less you give a fuck what anyone else thinks. Dad's need to express his love to me resurfaced, also because he knew there is no more time for hiding and playing the tough game. He expressed it in the most beautiful way. You see, love is like honey. You can read about it, study it, see pictures of bees making it... but until you've actually tasted it, you have no idea what it's like. And the love a father gives to his daughter is the most important gift she'll ever receive to build herself, to ease into womanhood, and later on learn to recognise this genuine love in another man. And then you completely forget about the word or even the concept of Love, because you just carry it in you, and it really doesn't matter what it's called.
A friend of mine has said, there is so much love between you two, it's written in your eyes, in the sky, in the stars. For sure the Universe keeps love like this.
I love you Dad, and I know you love me. It's written in the Stars.