I drove home in silence after seeing “Nebraska” for the first time. It didn’t occur to me until a few miles later that I hadn’t bothered turning on the radio. That’s unusual for me. I always have the radio on. Instead, I was deep in thought and teary-eyed. I suspect many people who have cared for an aging parent felt the same way after seeing the Oscar-nominated film.
Will Forte’s character, David, is like many of us – trying our best to help our folks do the things that will keep them going. Yes, caregiving is about making sure our loved ones make their doctor appointments. It’s about calling in their prescriptions and picking them up. It’s about buying their groceries and making sure their bills are paid. But it’s also about entertaining their quirky whims, even when you’re not sure it’s a good idea.
For me, “Nebraska” is a love story. It’s a movie that accurately and tenderly depicts a son’s love for his father. The father, played by Bruce Dern, doesn’t make it easy. Woody is a man of few words, a curmudgeon. He lives in Montana and insists on going to Nebraska to collect a $1 million sweepstakes prize he thinks he’s won. David finally agrees to take him giving them a chance to spend time together.
Like many seniors my mom’s age, a lot ails her. Arthritis. Blindness in one eye. The inability to walk without assistance. Lower back pain that makes it difficult to stand.
But connecting with her past is often a temporary remedy for what troubles her. Ask about her 84 years of life and she’ll talk for hours.
When I was younger, I failed to appreciate the significance of these stories, the tremendous value they would have as I aged. Now that I’m older, I realize that these stories not only comfort her, but me as well.
For a moment, I forget about all my worries, my fears about the future. As she tells these tales, I’m transported to another time. In that moment, her connection with the past becomes our mutual escape.
Mom enjoying her plate of lengua, nopalitos and arroz.
Who knew that a trip to the grocery store would unlock memories tucked away deep in your subconscious? That walking the aisles of verduras and pan dulce or noticing the familiar sight of a woman cutting up cactus would feel like a step back in time.
That instead of worrying about the 20 other things you need to do, you find you are somewhere else – in Mexico as a young girl on summer vacation accompanying a tía to el mercado.
The feeling surprises you because it’s not what you expected from a seemingly ordinary trip to buy groceries.
Dad sporting his new Dallas Mavericks t-shirt a year ago on Father’s Day.
“We have these great Father’s Day gifts,” said the young woman at the grocery store as I walked down an aisle looking for something. I faked a smile, said thank you and quickly turned around.
It’s hard to avoid the mass marketing of this day. Nearly every day for the past month or so, I’ve received at least one email from retail stores or online sites promising to have the perfect gift for Dad. On the radio, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, the ads and headlines scream Father’s Day.
“Are you doing anything fun for Father’s Day?” the young cashier at Tom Thumb asked my husband on Saturday. No, he answered.
The question raises another one. What do you do on this day when your dad is gone? Both of us lost our fathers within two months of each other last summer. So today is especially difficult. We’ve been asking ourselves how we should spend it.
It’s not until you lose a parent that you realize how painful this day can feel. What makes it especially tough is that the previous Father’s Day was the last time I saw my dad alive.