I spent yesterday at my parents dragging boxes from the attic, setting up the Christmas tree, and doing what I always do when I’m there … listening to my dad talk. My dad and I are two peas in a pod. Always have been. But the past few years have been difficult. He has cancer and he has a huge hole between the atriums of his heart. Discussions always verge on what will happen when he dies. Or how to relieve some of the stress in his life.
I don’t mind. Really. I love my dad. And I’m a listener. It’s what I do best. So I’m there and I listen.
Almost every time we talk though, he complains about my mom who has dementia. I know it’s tough to live with but I find his complaints kind of amusing, honestly. Because despite his complaints, he loves my mother and he is compassionate towards her. They’ve been married for 55 years now.
Compassion when you’re first married is different than when you’ve been married for over five decades. They used to go out to dinner, take dance classes together, have parties with their friends, travel the world.
Now, as they’ve aged, compassion is simpler. Compassion is my dad waiting until my mom leaves the house to reload the dishwasher so things will actually get clean. Compassion is my dad arranging for someone to take mom to the doctor. Compassion is the kiss they share every night and every morning. Compassion is my dad cooking every night despite being exhausted from work. Compassion is my dad asking me for help.
I don’t like the idea of my dad dying one day, but I know it will happen. He’s not getting younger. His health issues are mounting.
But I love seeing him take care of my mom, knowing that he’s worried about what will happen when he’s not there to do it himself.
Because that’s how love should be. That’s how marriage should work.
Compassion between two people who love one another, for eternity.