Yesterday we packed up my father, TB the Elder.
Packing him up was easier and more difficult than packing for my mother. Easier, because there is not a sense of secrecy as we go about looking at things, of having to have a ready answer for "why we are taking that".
Harder, in that my father is very clear what we are doing.
He is less concerned with some things. The practical matters of things like towels and linens and dishes he is little concerned with, and I sincerely doubt he knows which clothes we have selected for him. He seems surprised as we haul a bed frame and mattress past him (he has slept on the couch for years; the facility tells us the medical staff will not like that so down the the bed goes). We debate which recliner to take; he finally shrugs and says "Whatever". We take the one that he sits in next to the fireplace now.
His concern are the pictures.
My sister has done a good job, grabbing pictures that my father has mentioned as well as ones which she thinks he will want. There are far more going than went for my mother, but then again my father remembers more. They are mostly pictures of the grandchildren, both mine and my sister's, with a healthy grouping of pictures of he and my mother. I assume there are one or two of us there as well; as children, we often rate somewhat below the grandchildren and slightly above remembered pets.
He just sits and watches as we trundle past, slowly transferring what seems essential to his life in a new location. His grief and sadness are palpable as they are largely unspoken - when my sister asks him how he is doing, he just says how much he misses my mother.
He goes to bed at 7:00 PM tonight, the earliest he has gone since I have been here. When I ask him if everything is okay, he just shrugs and says he misses my mother. Sleep is a way to escape the reality of the pain, the memoryless hole where we find visions and confusion and occasionally, rest.
And so I sit here in the computer room off the side of the living room, working in the flickering light and darkness of the ;laptop screen. If I look through the glass panes of the closed door, I can see the flickering of the television and beyond that the orange and blue flames of the fire in the stove, slowly burning away to keep out the cold of the rain that I hear pouring down outside in the darkness - the fire that has burned here all winter for over 20 years. My father has gone to sleep, dreaming the dreams of old men who have had full lives and now find themselves in a place they had not imagined.
I look out the window into the darkness. The rain only comes down harder, giving me no answers except for its fury.