A most contented abuela; nearly all shots by a most talented Belgian.
Days have passed and the burrito has changed into the happy chappy, little man, or when he refuses to burb, the twerp. Burp twerp has become a late-night refrain, and I sing different songs, some of which aren’t even of my own creation. We watched the Big Star documentary a few nights ago, and I’ve been humming Chris Bell and Alex Chilton tunes, thinking about my new world as an abuela, and about my dad.
The happy chappy will meet his great-grandfather tomorrow, when the home health nurse isn’t around. My father is excited to hold the littlest member of the family, but I don’t think it will be a long cuddle. Dad’s lower right leg has a bad edema wound, and he’s not firm on either of his feet. He’s lost ground in the last two weeks, whereas his grandson has gained a foothold, and to be honest, I’m not sure how these two will mesh in the weeks to come.
Which brings me to today’s title; what does time mean? My grandchild is hovering at a week old, my father is seventy years. I’m forty-eight, but those are merely numbers. Life is a constant pull-push of breaths taken, occasions experienced, then the slow (or not so slow) approach to the end. Now, due to my faith, the end isn’t the end, but it’s still a cessation of activity, involvement, memory. When my father takes his last breath, all he knows, and has known, will be gone. What he’s shared with us shall remain, but those are fragments of what he has seen, done, felt, and at times, avoided. It has become impossible for me to separate my father’s ill health with the emergence of the next generation of family. I cannot look away from these issues.
And perhaps that makes all of this easier for me, in that my dad’s decline is balanced by the burrito. He’s still a burrito at night, swaddled in his sleep sack, out like a light. We put cloth diapers on him today; they make his butt look HUGE! His umbilical cord has fallen off; we’re going to plant it under a hydrangea given to him by one of my daughter’s dear friends. Not quite like planting a tree over the placenta, but it’s one way to mark this very auspicious occasion. And I come back to this fact again and again; people are born, then they die. I have no clue as to my father’s timeline, but equally I won’t ignore what is obvious. It would be like closing my eyes and running right into a wall.
Seasonally, new life is blooming around us. Almond trees are flush with white flowers, which fall to the ground like a carpet. Yes, it’s only February, but spring floods the senses with warm temperatures and lengthening days. My grandchild is turning from a taquito into a happy fellow, with reflexive smiles that tease; when he starts to grin for real, no one will be able to resist him. In the back of my head, I wonder how much of this boy my father will know, for how long will their paths cross. I don’t mean to be maudlin, but it’s a study of life in real time, day by day. Maybe that’s what time means, not the accumulation of seconds and minutes, but moments and learning. Over time we accrue knowledge that enables us to love. Sometimes we are caught off guard by events that derail that plan, but to me, that’s the plan: we are here to love. If we can look past the hurt, our hearts are made stronger by that which has attempted to thwart the plan, and we love more deeply. I adore my happy chappy, even when he’s being a burp twerp. My father’s sufferings cause me anguish, but his perseverance demands my respect, right alongside my overwhelming love.
My dad in 1947.
I never imagined all of these forces colliding right now; just three months ago, my father carved the Thanksgiving turkey. Now it’s like he’s aged those twenty-five years he thought he had back in September. While I wish he felt that well now, I can’t do any more for him than I can for the little man.
Which is a very strange situation; right now the little man isn’t such a happy chappy. It’s nighttime, bedtime if you were a baby. He’s a wee bit cranky, as many infants are this time of the evening. We rock him, change him, but we’re sort of helpless to completely soothe, other than his mum, but he’s not really hungry. My father’s woes are similar; as a daughter, I accompany to appointments, I ask questions. But my dad is in charge, and as his perseverance requires my respect, so do his choices.
My father and his grandparents, August 1946
This is the part of life that requires patience and acceptance; a fussy crying baby and the plethora of maladies that plague someone battling cancer. These older photographs are precious to me, in that they denote my history. I never knew my great-grandparents, but they are alive in my dad’s stories. My mum is in fine health, but the burrito taquito chap will most likely know of his great-grandpa via my tales, and those of other relatives. That’s not how I necessarily want it, but….
My dad, 1945.
But time can only be measured by yardsticks our feeble cerebral mechanisms can harness. Yet, what if time was without parameters? Maybe it is. Perhaps all this blog-blogging is just a way to unwind after a long day. But I would love to convey, if I have totally missed the point, that time is what we make it. Time is as fleeting as a goodbye wave, or as lasting as firm devotion. Time is nothing we can truly qualify, if our expectations are turned toward an ethereal home. Time is only a manner of one day’s end, another’s beginning. Life is very much the same.