I remember one summer day, a long time ago, when my family piled into our Impala and drove to Puyallup. I can still see my brothers feet, too short to reach the floorboards, dangling over the seat as we sped along. It was a hot, sunny afternoon (well, hot for Washington), the sky was a cloudless blue expanse and the country fields went on forever. The ride took a long time, but that was OK. It meant we got to get out of the house and tedium of the farm.
My dad was in a good mood that day, laughing and eating with his napkin tucked into the top of his shirt in the restaurant we'd met at with some friends. Tall and strapping, with thick black hair a la` Elvis, he was belligerent and often angry, but that day was different. That day was a "good" day. Joking around with our friends, he was jovial and almost fun. My mother, beautiful with her quick brown eyes and thick dark hair looked after everything. Usually scared of my father, today she, too, seemed less afraid, more at ease. I sat, quietly stuffing my face with the delicious roast beef, thrilled to be on a drive. My brother, messy with food on his face, ate peas in his highchair.
That was a long time ago. Nowadays, the situation is different. Diagnosed with alzheimers, my father is practically housebound and shuffles from room to room with a cane, or by my mothers arm since he is often too stubborn to use one. Gone are the heavy, thunderous strides that used to make the china rattle in the cupboard, and terrify us when I was a child. Now, the only traces of the man he was exist solely in his words; the same hurtful and abusive spews of yore, and in his hard eyes. Bent with the weight of age, like an old tree, he is shriveled and the vitality that once seemed to define him is gone. The man with the formidable strength who once worked 16 hour days nonstop, overcoming both a stroke, and a heart attack, now spends his days sitting in a chair with the TV flickering in front of him. He doesn't let anyone open the blinds, preferring to sit in darkness.
It is both difficult and painful to watch the process of aging, especially since I only go home twice a year. The memory of him between gaps makes for a stark contrast to the present visual, you just can't help it. The disparity between who my father was and who he has become, is creating an ever deepening chasm in my memory that both snatches my breath away and makes my soul ache. My heart takes a snapshot of him , then I compare the pictures between gaps and cry private tears.