Sweeping me into the room he shines his flashlight on my mother, illuminated by the beams emanating from the T.V., which has been on since T.V. was invented. She’s stretched out on one of the many lazy boys populating theatre number one and I’m forced to do a double take. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her recline on one before. She's a dedicated "sinkie". I even wonder if the woman sleeps, as she eats… standing up.
Mom waves and greets me with a cheery “Hi.” Without more being said, Dad motions me to sit. Like some kind of anthropologist I've been granted the privilege to observe this, at least to me, bizarre, unknown and never before witnessed, nightly ritual.
He shines the light on the clock over the stairs, the only way you can see it in this den of a room. Dad, like many of his peers, can no longer read the digital watch he still wears, nor can he hear its alarm buzzing at precisely designated times of the day for purposes long forgotten.
“So I guess we’re ready to do this,” he asks.
“Ready.” She confirms.
Ready, I wonder. I suspend my breath and watch.
Flashlight in one hand; bottle in the other. He's barely able to control the constant shaking of his hands. Yet, miraculously for a brief moment they are steady, just long enough for him to get one exact, gently placed drop to find its mark on Mom’s eye. And then I exhale, relieved for him that he can still do this small task for her.
“So that’s it for the first set of drops.” Dad explains to me. “Now we have to wait for two minutes before we can put the other batch in.”
I begin to set the alarm on my watch but Dad motions that it isn’t necessary. He perches on the arm of the couch behind her lazy boy and begins to push down on the top of her chair, setting her in motion. Each rock becomes increasingly far ranging. She bravely clutches the arms of her mount to keep from being bucked off.
“One, two, three, ...” they count every push.
“This is how we do it” they say in unison, counting off the seconds since neither of them can see his watch.
“I’m hoping I’ll be able to rock her to sleep.” They both break out into fits of laughter as the rocking and the counting continue.
“Fifteen ... sixteen ...”
Speechless, I leave them to it, laughing and rocking as I go to tend to the medications. I close the kitchen door silently behind me, make my way over to the counter across the room and turn on the little lamp.
“Twenty ... twenty-one ...”
I clamber up onto the counter to reach into the cupboard, to the back of the top shelf, where the medicine bottles are hidden. As I pull out the stash, I recall the day when such precautions became necessary and this ritual passed on to me. A dreaded sound, the ring of a phone in the early hours of the morning, was my awakening alarm. I stumbled into the den to intercept the call intuiting that I'd hear Dad's voice on the other end.
“Nance, could you come over?”
“Dad is everything O.K.?” suddenly I’m wide awake.
“Yes, but, but I um, can’t remember which medications I have to take.” his words betray astonishment and shame, for he has been responsible for sorting out his medications from the day he took his first insulin injection some 25 years ago.
“You’ve taken your insulin, right?”
“Yes, yes that’s not the problem.”
I’m relieved that it’s not some kind of blood sugar fog, but puzzled by this new turn of events.
“It’s the damn pills. I have to take so many of them… I just can’t remember.”
I arrive to find him mulling over the unopened pill bottles laying in disarray on this very counter.
“Forty/fifty ... forty-one/forty-four ...”
“Edie, come on now it’s forty-one,” he chuckles. The creaks from the chair having gotten progressively weaker have stopped.
“No, it’s forty-four.”
“You made a mistake back there at forty,” he’s laughing not sure if she’s putting him on or not. “Now lets start again, forty-four.”
“Well then we should start at fifty because we’ve been talking.” She, the voice of reason, states.
“Come on Edie co-operate with me,” he pleads.
They resume, “forty/fifty-three ...”
A silent pause.
God they crack me up! I chuckle and shake my head and can take no more of this petty bickering. “Fifty- three” I yell out.
“What?” Dad shouts back.
“Fifty-three, start at fifty-three.”
“Fifty-three ... fifty-four ...” they’ve been jump-started back on track and the chair’s a rockin’.
And, I had to jump start his memory back then…