In May of 2017, my father lost his fight with gravity. He took his final fall. The next few bedridden days took some adjusting. When we fall, we often think of the day we will get back up. It was obvious this was not one of those situations.
The first clue was when he shared his deep gratitude for all the movers. The movers who were so gentle with his favorite cherry furniture. How they did not make a scratch on his dresser and matching end table. How they arranged it to look just like home. He was in awe at how well they were able to pull that off. “Intuitive movers,” he would claim.
The second clue was when his aid and I had to work together to change him. You see, someone always had to turn him to change his clothes, to wash him, to put on his bed sore medicine. But, with a broken shoulder from the fall, we had the added challenge of moving him without hurting him. This took two people, and a little morphine.
On this particularly sunny June day, his aide – Sarah – and I were shifting him towards me. So dad and I could be eye to eye while she cleaned his back and bottom. During the turn he said to me, “somewhere I have a set of pipes for my arm Jilly, do you know where they are?” I replied, “no dad, could you tell me more about them, then I can go look.” He laid on his left side, eyes locked with mine. “There are many pipes. My arm fits in them. They are made of plastic. They keep my arms still so my shoulder won’t hurt. Sarah’s husband is a plumber, he will know what I am talking about.” He was right, Sarah’s husband was a plumber, and yet Sarah and I both knew nobody would know what he was talking about, and that really didn’t matter.
I continued to ask questions as Sarah worked her magic, somehow changing his adult diaper while only able to access one side of his 160lb nearly paralyzed body. Dad, now laying on his back, said “Jilly, I know what to do. Could you go out and ask Gary about my pipes. Gary is at the front desk. I bet he will know where they are.” “Excellent idea dad!” I replied, “I bet he will know. I’ll be right back.”
I walked out of dad’s room, into the kitchen and cut up an apple … ate a few slices … and returned casually eating my apple slices and handing some to him. “Dad, Gary said he wasn’t sure but would look in the storage room. He wonders if the pipes are there.” Dad replies “Excellent, thanks Jilly.”
At first, I thought this was the morphine talking. But as the days passed, Gary at the front desk became a daily character in my dad’s caretaking.
“Jilly, can you ask Gary if the mail has come”
“Jilly, can you ask Gary if lunch comes with cake”
“Jilly, can you as Gary if the virtually reality headsets I ordered have come yet”
(I have to admit, I was a little excited that one might be real)
Each time, I would leave dad’s room, walk to the kitchen, grab a snack, and return with said snack in hand .. informing dad that Gary was all over the task at hand.
I have no idea who Gary was. I have no idea what desk he was sitting at. I like to pretend he is everyone, or that everyone has the potential to be Gary. I say this because I find Gary to be the most human person I have ever never met.