His books, his booze, his Brooks Brothers shirts are all at home, but he is not. In their eighties, my once inseparable parents have been wrenched apart, physically anyway, by the disabling symptoms of Parkinson’s. Dad is in a veterans’ care facility where everything is top-notch except the ghastly institutional food. White bread served with packets of margarine doesn’t fly with the Old Sarge, long the appreciative recipient of my mother’s excellent cooking.
She prepares brie and salami sandwiches on nine-grain bread for his lunch. On his nightstand sit little containers of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, sour cream cake, and sliced apples – tastes of home. She wheels him into the parking lot to see what he thinks about her car tires.
When the aides dressed my always dapper father in appalling combinations, she swooped in and hung matching outfits for the week in his closet, Garanimals-style. His room holds his Civil War bronze soldier, books, fresh flowers, pictures of his family, a book of prayer.
She brings him a communion wafer each Sunday after mass and they sit, then, and read the paper together. Life goes on. So does love.