It’s Friday night and I am dutifully fulfilling my caregiving responsibilities by taking my turn at taking care of my father. I drove the almost 3 hour trip in mostly dismal, gray rain to get here, where my two brothers, two sisters, their families, and my father live.
Caregiving often feels like a thankless job and it is tiring and even embarassing at times. Embarassing for the caregiver and the recipient of care to take care of some of the personal issues involved. But we handle what life deals us in the best way possible and that brings me back home to help care for my aging father. His broken shoulder is somewhat better and his seizures are more controlled, but he still needs constant attention for nearly every move he makes.
After a long and exhausting day, he and I both were very tired tonight. He decided to turn in for bed and watch a little of the Virginia Tech basketball game from his hospital bed.
A sports fan
My father is an avid Virginia Tech fan and has been a sports enthusiast his entire life. He can reel off the names of coaches, players, teams and stats that most people don’t even know exist. In his early days, he was always exuberant and nearly fanatical during any type of football, baseball, or basketball game, or other sporting events. I remember my mother “warning” us each Sunday when we were kids that a game would be on television and we should find something outside to do.
Now, he still enjoys watching games, but not with the same vigor I recall when we were both much younger.
I had left him watching the Virginia Tech and Florida State game for a while, as I cleared away some final dishes and finished up some housekeeping chores. Then, I went in to see if he was ready for me to turn off the TV, and he asked, “Why don’t you sit down and watch the game with me for a minute?”
An unusual request — since he knows I’ve never been much of a sports fan and sometimes I’m not even sure about the rules of the game. But to oblige him, I sat compliantly.
More than a game
We sat in the shadows of his bedroom, chatted and watched the game a while. Before long it became a little more intense as the gap in scoring was narrowed and VT was gaining momentum. It looked like the Hokies would surely lose at first, but a new energy was overtaking them. For a moment it seemed that they would win and the cheerleading spirit of a sports enthusiast took over my father as he became totally engaged and animated about the game.
And for a moment, I saw glimpses of my father when he was younger and when he had always been exuberant and excited about every second of a game. As his enthusiasm grew tonight, so did mine. We were both like over-zealous fans — him kicking his feet against his metal hospital bed and me punching the arms of my chair as if it would make the ball miraculously plop through the net. We yelled at players and high-fived each other at unexpected plays — being careful not to upset his broken shoulder of course!
With less than 3 seconds, the game was now totally intense and the score teetered between a 1 and 2 point spread for the teams. And then, with less than 5 seconds, Florida State had possession of the ball and just as the buzzer sounded — swish — and the 2 pointer appeared to position FS as winner of the game.
But wait……a review of the play. Maybe the FS player didn’t get the shot off before the buzzer. Intense moments ensued as my father and I sat with knuckles gripped, holding our breath, and shouting our own “official calls” of the winner. And then the final official call came.
The shot was too late and Virginia Tech had won the game!
My father and I both shouted and laughed like we had not done in many years it seemed. I turned to look at him in the bed and for those moments during a college basketball game, I had forgotten how frail and fragile he has become. I had forgotten how sad it is that he no longer is able to care for himself. And I had forgotten that I had left my own husband and family over 160 miles away to come and spend days and nights with my father as his temporary caregiver.
Glimpses of beauty
Life is challenging and even unbearable at times. But there are glimpses of beauty, happiness and joy in every day. Tonight I saw incredible glimpses of all three of these as I sat by my father’s bedside enjoying a basketball game with him. I’m thankful I didn’t allow this moment to go by without taking advantage of it.
These are memories I will cherish forever.
Yes, my father’s favorite college team won tonight….but that’s not the only win I saw tonight. I saw my father winning his battle to live a happy life in spite of his physical ailments – in any and every way possible.
“Thank you Virginia Tech — for giving me and my father a chance to forget about how frail he has become, if only for a short while.”