Third watch. . .
Nan’s getting tired.
A vibrant, opinionated and fiercely independent woman for most of her eighty plus years, she’s now become timid and forgetful. Her time to slip this world is rapidly approaching.
This weekend, my fiancé and I attended a funeral for one of Nan’s peers. A cheerful woman who’d lived into her nineties, Marie, Nan and my mother (who died some two and a half years ago) were the matriarchs of the family. That title now rests solely on Nan’s shoulders.
Her daughter and granddaughters remind her to take her medicine. They encourage her to eat her meals, and help her with the simple routines of the day. They include her in activities when her failing health permits, and see to it she’s comfortable when she naps.
It’s obvious to all of us, Nan included, that the torch will soon be passed to the next generation. We’re sprinters in a relay race; each with a hand on the baton, one tightening their grip, the other preparing to let go.
After returning from the viewing on Friday evening, I had a dream in which Nan’s daughter Kelly and I worked together. We showed up early and had to unlock the building. As Kelly placed the key in the lock, the door opened on its own. We remarked to one another about the lack of an alarm.
“Someone must be in here, “I said, “they probably turned it off.”
The building was dark except for a single light in the foyer. The rooms were left in various states of emptiness, as if the inhabitants were moving and still had one or two things left to pack. From out of the shadows stepped a much younger and more alert version of Nan. She was dressed in her old parka with her purse tucked under her arm, and held a set of car keys in her hand.
“Call home right now,” I said to Kelly, knowing that Nan was sleeping on the couch, and seeing her here could only mean one thing.
I continued into an empty kitchen, where a younger version of my mother was just hanging up an old rectangular wall phone.
I approached her and put my arm around her. She seemed tired from her journey to this place.
“Nan’s going to leave today, isn’t she?” I asked.
“Yep,” my mother answered.
“You came to get her, didn’t you?”
“Yep,” she answered again.
“OK,” I said, and a feeling of complete acceptance swept through me.
I awoke shortly afterwards and went out to the front room to check on Nan. She was snoring softly in the dim morning light.
Later, I recounted the dream to her daughter. “What a beautiful visit,” she said, and we shared a hug. We smiled and held each other for a bit.
“It just is,” she said, and I nodded.
We pressed forward, accepting the baton. . .