His skin is mottled,
He is 94.
He stands erect,
He walks with assurance.
He says, I feel the same as I always feel.
Right now, I think.
He can’t imagine feeling different,
He doesn’t remember.
Months before, winter of 2016, hospitalized 5 times or more in Florida,
Weakened by persistent diarrhea and congestive heart failure.
We see his mortality as he lay in a hospital bed,
Grateful to have his ‘son the doctor’ by his side.
He felt his vulnerability – then, not now.
Summer of 2017, Saugerties, NY.
They have a full-time aide,
Living ten minutes from their daughters.
Close to their sons.
In an apartment, furnished with familiar things,
In a new community, in an unfamiliar place.
I arrive to take him to his doctor’s appointment,
We leave his wife, many years into Alzheimer’s, with the aide.
We step outside into the light so bright, he shields his eyes til they adjust.
He walks with purpose to the car.
Fall is in the air, he says.
Almost time to go back to Florida, he tells me
I start the car and drive,
I don’t respond to his comment about Florida.
What to say?
When was the last time he drove?
He would not be able to navigate the roads to the doctor’s office,
Or the paperwork,
Or explain his complex medical history.
He might understand the doctor’s instructions,
He is a compliant patient.
He has an iron will,
Which may explain his 94 years.
His long life brought him from the woods in Poland
Where he fought with the partisans against the Nazis,
To fight in the Russian army,
To survive by any means necessary.
To a displaced persons’ camp,
To immigrate to the United States,
To build a life.
To outlive friends and family, still bound to Paula, his children and his faith.
Should he and Paula go to Florida?
What is the right balance between their quality of life and their safety?
What is the right balance between David’s wishes and the peace of mind of his children?