Not that I don't want to talk to him. I do. But he's not really him anymore. After a few minutes of talk about me, the kids, my husband, the weather, the Cubs, we sign off. I tell him I love him and I'll talk to him later. It pains me to hear how pleased he was at my call.
I hang up, take another drink, and push the buttons to call my mother at the rehabilitation center. Hip repair; this one's working. She's eating dinner when she answers, and we laugh. No matter what time I call, she's always eating something. I listen to the commentary on the food-enough butter for the potato, really good strawberries. She asks about the kids, about me, about my husband, about the garden. I answer, sometimes 2 or 3 times. Then she asks about the grand-dogs, Are all three doing alright? I take a deep breath and remind her our oldest dog died last year, just like I did last week.
The same conversation, the same questions, every single week. Sometimes there's a moment of great lucidity, a comment or question that takes me by surprise. This week it's about my daughter, make sure to tell her how proud they are of her, for getting her CNA while still in high school, for having such great ambitions for college and career. I tell her my daughter's ambitions are inspired by the health problems my mother has had, and I can tell my mother is pleased.
The pain I feel as I sign off isn't unique to me or to any child of an aging parent. The guilt I feel at not being there, at not being able to help, is not unique. I give my sister the support she deserves for taking care of them through phone calls and prayers. It's all I've got to give. I let her know to call if she needs anything.
There are no answers to this situation. I'm not independently wealthy, I can't conjure out of thin air a full time nurse, a cook, a rehabilitation therapist, a doctor, a car for my sister. All I can do is to pray God , let this be enough.