He sits shotgun, all quiet, even through the massive highway construction towering high above us and stretching as far as the eye can see. He says nothing about the huge earth movers scrapping and scouring and shifting the soil to conform the landscape to their man-made plans. He ignores the trucks and hard hats and “mens’ work”.
Something is seriously wrong with this picture.
For a man whose life was filled with outside work, climbing poles, driving huge drilling trucks, his silence is suspicious.
I know this silence.
It is the sound of children sitting in the back seat in a panic going to the pediatricians office pondering the unknowns; specifically, shots or no shots. As a young mom I never told my children they were going to the Dr.’s until the last second. Too early and one was driven nuts with questions, worried glances, and tears.
What they didn’t know then was not telling them really had nothing to do with their whining and fear, it had to do with my own.
Ask any parent they’ll tell you, it is always harder on us, we who watch.
There is something slightly sadistic about taking a babbling little six month old to get their shots. We wash them, and dress them up, brush their fuzzy heads, all to take them into a room and allow a stranger to jab a needle in their fat leg, usually not just once either.
But you have to do it. There are things we don’t like, things we don’t want to do but gotta, and this is one of them.
Then nurse comes in with the tray.
The little plastic or metal tray that hold the syringes, needles other wise known as the business end of this office visits.
Then just as the parent reaches an all time high of jumbled frayed nerves, stomach is doing somersaults, the unforgivable is asked of them.
“You ready?” This is when they usually lay out their plan of attack on your unknowing, unsuspecting childs little limb.
Then it comes.
“Could you hold their leg still?”
This is where the sadism enters the picture…we have to hold them down.
I told you it’s always worse for the watchers.
So I know the silence, been there, done that.
This time it is my father-in-law, Griff is on his way to a new Dr. appointment, and that old silence is back, the kind that hangs in the air, a foggy fear, still with apprehension, and just like with my children, I feel it swell in me too.
“So what do you think about all this mess?” I try to engage him with his usual favorite topic.
“.. lots going on.” Not biting.
I ponder my choices, I need to do something to reassure without demeaning, belittling and getting all mommie on him. He is my father-in-law after all, he may be 74 and have a debilitating chronic terrible illness, but he is still a man, and he doesn’t need a mommie.
“So… Griffy,” I offer. “Ya think this new guy will have a clue about your MSA?”. I bait.
Demeaning the white coats always seems to work, he likes pick on college grads, his favorite topic after construction jobs and real work, the kind men do outside.
“Probably not, they’re stupid arse holes, all of them…” came his quick grumpy but comic Liverpudlian reply.
Now we are getting somewhere.
I just have to be present.
Be here in the moment with him.
That is all he needs.
It is all anyone really needs.
To know they aren’t alone.
He went on to do well, and liked the new Dr.. He joked and laughed, and thankfully this time there were no shots, and I wasn’t asked to hold his leg.
But its worse for those of us who are the watchers, the caretakers, the ones standing bedside, holding the hands, and wiping the tears. We are the ones who watch, and worry and stand and witness until the real silence comes, after the beeping alarms all fall quiet.
We wait until then, we are present until then, the moment we are left behind.