Voice, Big Smile and I went to Vancouver to see my parents last week. Yes, that is my father letting Voice ride his mobility scooter while Big Smile asks a question he can't quite hear. And yes, the scooter is pink (they got it second-hand though I think it still cost a small fortune . . . enough of a fortune that my mother decided it had earned a name: Fred).
My father is not the intrepid (reckless?) man he used to be. Getting him out of the courtyard of their townhome was unusual. The trip to the beach less than a mile away? Extremely unusual: I don't think he'd been there since 2012. He is down to three fingers, hobbled by back pain and suffering from seeping wounds on his ankles incurred while trying to get into his car in a crowded parking lot without scraping any paint off his own car doors (car vanity, with painful and long-lasting implications).
He is lucid though.
And he is, with the help of two daily nurse visits, my mother's sole caretaker.
My mother has a spinal condition, is wheelchair-bound, incontinent and, new on this trip, "absent." She was not so much this way at the time of my last visit in December 2013. She is somewhat aware of her surroundings, and of the people in the room with her, but she (of the lengthily verbose, often bigoted, opinionologues) is silent. I wasn't expecting this. Her body, broken-down as it is, is still present, but my mother is unexpectedly gone.