Late afternoon breezes by overhead as I sit in the warmth of the green house at St. Claire Meadows. This is where I sit and calm myself, stilling my emotions before I pile into my Acura and point it down the highway toward home. Three hours away, beyond the Cheddar Curtain.
Having just clicked past a dozen senior citizens in various states of mental awareness and physical presence, running the gauntlet from my mother’s room to the exit. As always, tears well up, unbidden, and my heart rips apart just a smidge more. And here I sit, crying. It’s a gentle cry, usually.
A gentle cry of mercy, and of gratitude, and of helplessness. Gratitude for the safety and warmth and care of strangers-turned-family. Mercy tugging at my heart for the amounts of love I heap in service, and in miles, that never seem to be enough. Helplessness because for every mile I drive, every stranger’s parent I tend to on my way to tending to my own, there are so many men and women sitting here alone. And I can’t fix that. I can edge away some of the loneliness, I can warm up a room with my temporary presence, like the green flash before a tropical sunset. But I cannot keep the heat from waning as I click on down the hall.
And for that I cry. For the echo of my footsteps retreating down the hall as I make my way toward freedom, and head on down the highway. A freedom laced with tears. And while driving home I wander still. Down the hallways in my mind, pausing to pray in doorways, to hug stooped shoulders and kiss greying heads. Making my way back to room 305, making my way back home.
Here’s to our mothers and fathers, and to our loving them all the way home.