I helped him poop and pee; wiped him, washed him, lotioned him, shaved him, fed him, dispensed medicines, tugged his lanky six-foot-three frame back to semi-recumbent each time it slid down his bed.
He was stoic, docile, acknowledging, laconic at eighty-eight. He said I was “meticulous.” He said he understood now where my son, his grandson, had gotten his vocation for nursing. (My son is a Navy nurse.)
I was proud that he had observed me and commented on me. In hospital, he required the covers to be tucked around his feet as only I knew how. “Let my son do it,” he would say. We bonded more in his extremity than we had in previous life. Finally he needed me.
My eulogy at his thronged memorial service concluded: “I don’t know if I was the son Harold ordered, but I’m the son he got. I acknowledge to you that I leaned on him, relied on him, put the touch on him, more frequently and for a longer period of time than I had any right to expect to do. And he allowed himself to be leaned on. He was a support that I didn’t always even know I had, that I took too often for granted, but that I never ran out of.”
(C) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.