Nothing has been more important to my dad these past 11 years than to spend time with, and create a legacy for, his grandchildren. Maggie and Grady have provided my elderly parents with a reason to keep going.
Earlier this year, my dad said it would really mean a lot to him if he could take the kids to see where he grew up: the house he was born in, the nearby farm he grew up on, and the lake and mountain on which he spent many a day as a boy and young man. At 87 years of age, I figured he should lead this journey sooner than later.
We went in June, amid our ongoing brutal Georgia heatwave, trying to get there and back before the sun took hold of the day. The trip was a great disappointment to my dad. I'm not sure what he expected to find, but the land had gone untended, the house was vacant and unkempt, having recently been the scene of a drug bust. Nostalgia trumped by 21st century realities.
We did walk by the lake, through the woods to the mountain, where we trekked farther than I believe we should've, my dad's legs not what they once were, before turning back to eat a sack lunch and call it a day.
Fast forward to a day or two later, as we got a call that my dad had found a few ticks on his body and we should perhaps do a tick check ourselves. Each of the kids had one, both easily removed. But, we continued to hear that my dad was finding one or two daily, until he had a final parasite inventory of over a dozen. Time passed and he attributed his weakening condition to his diabetes, the heat, the slowing down of old age. But, when he (finally) went to see a doctor about how run down he was feeling, he was diagnosed with lyme disease. Not a death sentence, by any means, but if untreated for too long, especially for an elderly person, it could start to cause a systemic shut down of his body.
He took penicillin for a few days and then got a call that further blood work showed it was actually Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, causing a change in his prescription and prognosis. Essentially, he was given 14 days of antibiotics and told to take every last bit of the dosage, even if he felt a tremendous recovery after a few days.
Instead, he's seen no improvement and been told that, once his two weeks of medication runs out, he's pretty much on his own. No additional medication will help. He's weak, he's fading in and out of clarity, and - I can see in his eyes - he's scared.
Perhaps things will improve. He's very much a pragmatist, and if the glass is at 50%, he's as apt to call it half-empty as half-full. A lot of his wellness will depend on how he sees that glass going forward. He is the essence of resilience to me - a WWII veteran, a man who never turned his back on a hard day's work in conditions I am too much a tenderfoot to muster, and a man who has never refused to do a kindness for others if he could. I pray that resilience carries him through this. I can't fathom a bug smaller than my smallest fingernail could sideline a man who has not let anything stop him before.
Fragility. Resilience. On good days, the two can co-exist, right?