I was hurrying with a long “to do” list in hand the other day and dropped my wrist watch on a cement floor. The numbers 2 and 10 fell off and rolled around inside the glass. The warranty had expired. It wasn’t a cheap watch. Was this a sign I should speed up or slow down?
“What time is it?” Mom asks throughout the day. I can understand that it’s easy to get confused in the winter when it’s still dark in the morning, and already dark by late afternoon. The big digital clock by her bedside doesn’t seem to help. Her fading sight makes it hard to read the big clock on the wall.
I exchange her tiny watch for a Timex with large black numbers. She confuses the hour and minute hands. I change the wrist band to sporty Velcro so she can put it on herself, though usually upside-down. The new strap irritates her frail skin.
Fixing one problem, I continue to discover, creates unexpected new ones.
My fall-back position has become patience. I tell her what time it is however many times she asks.
Every morning, she picks out one of the seven days of the week that we’ve cut out in bright colors and laminated. With coaching, she always succeeds. Then I put it on the wall where she can see it from her favorite chair.
“Was it Monday all day today?” she asks sometimes.
“Only until two o’clock,” I sometimes answer, “and then it was Saturday.” My grin gives the joke away and she laughs.
Curiously, she never wants to know the date or the month or the year. Too much information, I guess.
Now is the time that matters. The events of her past have become ships passing in the fog, heading to forgotten destinations.
When she learns that someone she knows has passed away, she is somber but not particularly sad for long. It’s more like she’s returned from bidding bon voyage to someone on an ocean liner as it left the dock. She’ll miss them, but is cheered to know they’ll have a good time when they get there.
I think she believes the Eternal will be a very nice Presbyterian place where she’ll be with all the people she knows and loves. She wants to make a point of finding her mother and forgiving her. Dad too. I never ask if she’ll forgive Dad’s second wife.
When we’re on the subject of heaven, I ask her to find some way to tell me what it’s like once she gets there. She laughs and says she’ll try. I presume she’ll forget, but I’ll be on the lookout for signs.
When her time has finally run its course, she often says, she wants us to have a party and nobody be sad.