John One February 2019
Emily was nervous as she drove to see her father in the memory-care unit of the Silver Eagle home. She didn’t know why. Continually she put too much into her grip on the steering wheel; she told herself to, ” release, release your hands.” The 1937 Pontiac was a gem at which to gaze but not as much fun to drive. It was a celebration car upon the birth of the first boy child in that generation of the family, her grandfather’s son, Dad. The challenge of manual steering, clutch, and mildly-helpful hydraulic brakes was compensated somewhat by the foot button used to change low beams to high beams, the oversized steering wheel, and the radio even if it only did have AM stations. Though hard to steer, once you got it onto the road it went forward straight and true with little effort. For Emily, the thrill of driving this 80-year-old car was no more evident than the thrill of going to see her father. In the 1930’s, drivers were a lot more involved with the job of driving than today. Dad needed that extra portion of involvement as well. The car and dad were still in the family. Now it was a trip into the world of Alzheimer’s care.
He had been saying The Long Goodbye of the dreaded disease for almost ten years, though he did still remember her. Emily went to see her dad every Friday. As a former Greek scholar, you would not know who he really was based on the man he had now become. Deep inside there was still the knowledge, though it was progressively more difficult for him to retrieve it.
She had to make some tough decisions, and Silver Eagle did not make it any easier. The previous month they had billed her for vitamins at $358 on top of the $6,000 a month for his room and board. Dad was not going to leave this place until his life was over, and Emily didn’t know, at 60 years of age, how she was going to be able to continue his care. Phil had taken a second job, and the strain on their marriage was significant. They both knew it was the right thing to do, but that didn’t make it any less painful. She would need to have a chat with the Director about the vitamins. They weren’t going to cure dad.
Each week for the past year she and dad dined together, and then he and Emily entered the room, his room, his private room. Then the two of them would have a Bible study. There she told dad, “We are going to study the Book of John.” He would get excited and would always respond the same, “Great. Let’s start at the beginning, John 1:1.” You would think that Emily grew tired of this. She had heard that response over fifty times. Yet, she would tell you that every time they studied the first verse she would get something new from it.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Or as Dad would say, Στην αρχή ήταν ο λόγος, και ο λόγος ήταν με τον Θεό, και ο λόγος ήταν ο Θεός. The Bible had become the Big Steering Wheel in dad’s life now. Once he got his life on the Salvation Road, very little was needed to keep it going forward, straight and true.
A measure of our society, which claims to be progressive in character, is how we treat the elderly, especially those in our own family. Old fashioned, hand-written cards, a daily phone call, and a weekly visit can go a long way to make the life of the aged tolerable. I encourage you to spend that extra fifteen minutes every day. Your children will see your example. Your efforts may pay off for you in the years ahead when it is your turn in the assisted living facility.