The backstory: I visited Mr. Montana, my old friend and new beau, for the second time this October. The wifi was still spotty-to-nonexistent, but I had darned fine cell phone service. So I wrote to my Facebook Friends often and at length while I was away, sharing the best of what was happening and the thoughts that came along with them.
This day found Mr. Montana’s father, Dad Montana, inexplicably weak and disoriented, and his mother, Mom Montana, recovering from hip surgery and not able to get around much, often, or easily. After a week, it had become too much for them both, so they called him for help. This is what I told my Friends late that night.
Today was a tough day. Mom Montana’s recovery from hip surgery brought to light how much she’s been doing to sail the ship of their life and how much, or how little, Dad Montana can do for himself, or anyone else, when he’s not feeling his best.
She said she wouldn’t have had the surgery if she’d known how hard the afterwards would be on them both.
I didn’t say that I recalled pretty clearly the surgeon saying it was a good thing she did it when she did because there was almost nothing left. Left of what, I don’t know, but there was near to nothing of something her body needed plenty of.
Yet much abides, yeh? Even as a body ages and withers, fades and misbehaves, the will is strong and able. We remain as conscientious and insistent as we ever were, and maybe more so.
Like Dad Montana deciding it was vital to shovel the deck so no one would slip and fall. Nevermind that no one was expected or likely to visit, that he requires a walker to get around, and that the person most likely to fall was himself while trying to shovel snow on a cane – because you can’t shovel with a walker. Of course. :+)
I talked him into letting me do the shoveling, but I couldn’t talk him out of going to the garage with me to select the correct shovel from the array, showing me where things were to refill the ice-melt bucket that stays by the front door, and training me on just how to stand the shovel when I was done so the winds wouldn’t toss it about.
I was grateful for his company and his instruction, to be sure. He saved me from fumbling around, and we made quick work of it. Other things got done, and they all got done the right way. But whoa, was I worried about him moving about with only that cane.
Along the way, he told me about his recent, repeated falling-downs and the difficulty of getting up and, quite suddenly, that old commercial was tragedy instead of comedy. He waved me ahead as we walked around, but I stayed close; and a good thing too, as he lost his balance when he too-quickly changed direction, and the car and his cane weren’t enough to catch him.
He’s a big man, 6′-4″, though a bit bent now, and he’s far too heavy to lift even though he’s not the thick-bodied plant worker he once was. But it only took a stiff arm and my palm on his chest to steady him – and thank God.
Mr. Montana is agitated at seeing his mom ailing and upset, seeing his dad as anything less than the mountain of a man he grew up with. He knew this time would come, and now it has, and he feels as helpless as anyone would about this process and its inevitable outcome. He says he has no idea what to do.
But I think he does. After the flare went up from their house, he puffed and paced for a bit, then calmed himself and started calling their doctors for direction. Next, he drove to town for quick and simple meals they could manage themselves, then came home and made a plan for the next day.
I thought that was great. I mean, in the heat of it, what else can you do? When the shit hits the fan, you clear your head, you ask for guidance, you get folks’ basic needs met, then you nestle into the calm you created and think on the best next steps. That’s all there is.
For now, for today, until tomorrow, that’s all there is.
The big – huge! – issue is they can’t be by themselves, not while Mom heals up and, depending, maybe not after. Dad needs more care at the moment than she alone can give him, and the big – huge! – question is how much help do they need now and where will it come from? Not from him or me, so … from where?
I didn’t always say the right thing today, but my silences always went over well. Hand-holding and back-rubbing and hugs and kisses were magic. Listening worked best of all.
After, Mr. Montana was making the two of us dinner and said he was pretty sure I hadn’t traveled all that way to clean the top of his refrigerator, which I was scrubbing the hell out of at the time. I told him I came for lots of things, primarily to share his life for awhile.
He snorted and said something about that, running his hands through his hair, a gesture I saw a thousand times today, then I had my say, and then I had a short, angry cry, and he held me, and then I went back to cleaning and he went back to cooking and we both felt useful.
The smaller issue, the smaller question, is about tomorrow: How the hell are they going to get to town to talk to the doctor about all this, when neither of them can drive and he has to go to work?
I have no idea why he was surprised I said I’d do it and that I don’t mind at all. I mean, has he met me?
And so that’s all there was and is for us four – today and tomorrow. What could we do to get through today and what can we do to prepare for tomorrow when we’ll learn more. I told him that, I told her that: Let’s just get through today and tomorrow, and then we’ll see.
It was hard, but not the hardest thing I’ve ever done or even the hardest thing I’ve done this year. But it was very, very hard to see these people I adore being afraid for their futures. It was good to be both a part and apart because I could carry calm to them and help them clear their heads for making decisions.
Dad Montana and I shared private jokes, and when Mom Montana and I were alone, I hugged her and told her I loved her a ton. Afterward, Mr. Montana and I were close and easy with each other in a way we hadn’t yet been since I’ve been here.
And I woke up around 4am, as one does, thinking this election crap is cresting, yeh? This country is a pot boiling over, and maybe it’s time.
Maybe it was inevitable, as this day was for this family. We can, and will, meet the coming days with some fear. But we can also bring calm to the equation. We can bring warmth, we can listen, we can try saying the right things, and we can also try shutting the hell up for a change.
And afterward, we’ll hold each other in the dark, marveling at how we got through it, reviewing what happened and what will happen next, saying how grateful we are to have each other.
There are people who’ll be raising hell, flailing in their fear, and there are others who’ll be orderly and angry, trying to put things in place or keep them there. We need them to do those things. Someone needs to, after all.
You don’t have to, though. If that’s not your thing, if that’s not your best way to serve yourself and others, then don’t do it.
You can be calm. You can be quiet. You can have a good cry. We’ll need people to do that, too.
There’s today and tomorrow, and that’s all.
Crys Wood is the copyeditor + proofreader at Paper Crane Publishing, making a career of her innate pickiness and love of words. She lives not-so-quietly in Big Sky Country with her sweet and cranky old man, a cat who is more of the same, and stacks and stacks of books.