Many mornings, the first thing that Ted notices when he awakes is that Juanita is not there with him, as she had been for 67 years. As he gazes around the room it is somewhat familiar, but he doesn't know where he is. If we hear him stirring, we go in to greet him. But other times, he has to sit up in his bed and wonder what the closed door on the opposite wall will open to.
Ted does not know who owns this house. He doesn't know the buildings floor plan. He doesn't know what city he is in. He doesn't know how he came to be here with us. So the morning ritual is often answering those questions and many others for him. It is not unusual for him to ask the same question over and over with only short intervals between each time.
Usually the fog lifts a bit, and Ted knows that he is with Barbara, his youngest daughter. Then he wonders where Bruce, Barry, and Brenda are. We remind him. He usually remembers that Juanita has died, but he tends to think it was years ago instead of weeks.
Often it is not a promising start. Today was one of the days where Ted morosely ate a slice of toast, drank a bit of coffee, and then wanted to sit quietly in his arm chair. He spent most of the day in the chair with only a bit of interaction with Barbara and I. Suddenly, this afternoon he was ready to eat a bit. I sat with him at table and we began to discuss various philosophical questions. For example, how did paper money come to be? Why do people with a lot of money labor under the illusion that they are safe from life's problems? How is it that some of the folks who labor the hardest earn the least? Once we have started, a talk like that can easily roll on for an hour.
A new thing happened today. Ted loves to sit where he can look out at the fields and trees that surround our house. He watches the birds at the feeders. But usually he is concerned that he will be too chilly if he were to go out on the deck. Today he hinted that he was ready to try.
I got his coat and dried off a deck chair. We sat together and enjoyed being outside for an hour or more. Humming birds zoomed to the feeder just above our heads. Crows commuted to the woods from the valley below. Song birds staked out the tip tops of trees and serenaded us.
After a while, Barbara called us inside for some bratwurst, beans, and oatmeal cookies.
Dinner complete, I went off to putter on the computers. Barbara sat at the piano and began playing hymns that Ted knew well. Ted sat on the bench next to her and joined in singing.
Now Ted's day is drawing to a close. But for a while he laid on the sofa and sang the hymns without Barbara and the piano. He closed his eyes and began to speak to Juanita. He talked about how glad he was that she was in heaven, but how much he missed her. He told Juanita that he thought he would be able to join her soon, but he sometimes wondered if he really would.
Somehow the words of "The Old Rugged Cross" echoed in his mind and he began to realize that his sins were atoned for and he only had to wait a while longer before joining Juanita for eternal life in the presence of God.
He wept for a while with relief. He shared the revelation with Barbara. After they talked a short while, they agreed that it was a good time for going to bed, while he was still filled with the assurance that he would be reunited with Juanita soon.
The days pass quickly. There are good times and bad. Yet it seems that every second is precious and significant, if only I can open my mind to it.