“One must do everything one can and then say ‘God have Mercy!’ “

—  G. I. Gurdjieff

Today is my father’s 90th birthday.  We live at a distance, so I will not be there to celebrate with him.  We will talk on the phone and acknowledge his milestone, but his mind will be on other things.  For the past week, he and my mom have been in quarantine.  The assisted living facility where they live is having a run of the stomach flu, and all the residents are confined to their own apartments.  Meals are brought in to them and medications are delivered to their door.  On the surface of things it doesn’t sound so bad, but for my dad it has been a real struggle.  Mom has suffered from dementia for the past six years, and Dad has loyally and lovingly cared for her, reassured her and lately even thought for her through all of her changes.  Quarantine has meant that Dad has had no escape from the prison of Mom’s disability.  There are no walks down the hall to shoot the breeze with people who can communicate.  There are no dinners in the dining room where other residents stop by to chat and pass the time.  It’s been Mom and Dad and the Turner Classic Movies that keep a bit of cheer in their long days.  Now Mom is beginning to slip away.  She sleeps most of the time; and when she’s awake, she seems to have no desire to communicate.  Her ability to move around is declining, and today she needed to be carried to bed for a nap — something she usually does in her recliner.  It has been five days since Mom has eaten anything but breakfast, and today she was half-hearted about that, too.  Dad doesn’t know whether to yell, to cry, or to run away.  He only knows that things couldn’t get much worse.   He has done everything he possibly can, and now he must say, “God have mercy.”
Happy Birthday, Dad.  I know it’s not the one you planned; but some things are beyond our ability to plan.  You’re a good man, and you’ve done all you possibly can.  I love you more than you can imagine.