"I don't make coffee," Pop, my 78-year old grandpa, declared today. "Your dad's been making the coffee." So, two-heaping scoops later, the coffee's brewing, and we're standing around the kitchen on round 3 of the same story, something about how Joan (my grandmother, Nana) used to buy plate lunches for some of her friends at the Senior Center.
Meanwhile, while she's laying in a hospital bed, unaware and unable to feel, while I think of the words to tell him that she's not doing so well, because taking care of him also involves telling him the truth in a way that he is able to receive it.
On Monday eve, with work-tired minds and Starbucks in hand, we rolled down the Interstate, leaving Memphis behind. I think now that the most difficult thing was not the knowing that she would be connected to tubes and machines, or even that I might not make it home to see her alive. Maybe the most difficult thing was that I may have missed the last of who I know her to be, the Nana who slipped me $20 on my last visit, who receives my letters in joy, who showed us meaning in the washing of dishes and the hanging of clothes on the line.
And though the end of breath and heartbeat has not yet come, what life is left has changed - for all of us. Already we're taking care of one another in ways we did not need to only a week ago.
A drive to the hospital, so mom can allow tears and thoughts to come.
Reminding each other of the Grace given us through her, all of these years.
Holding Nana's hand, though she cannot feel it.
And of course, brewing the coffee.
My season here to help take care of this family I love will be short - shorter than I wish it could be. But when I leave them, and when I leave anyone in the future, I'll say these words, "Take care!" and I'll remember what this means. That we not only take care of ourselves, which is what I usually think of when I send someone off with this, but that we take care of the ones whose life and breath are tangled up in ours.
And in taking care of each other, we, too, take care of ourselves.
Today, take care.