Before we set out for the museum, I had to make sure that they had wheelchairs available for their patrons. It was a simple task, but one who’s underlying meaning came crashing down on me like a ton of something that comes crashing down on you. It’s not that it was unexpected, but you never feel the feelings you feel until there’s a catalyst that makes you feel them, right?

This was it.

I had already been sitting around with my Dad for a couple of days, seeing the pain he was in from his back and the arthritis in his hip, watching him work with his new cane and try to remain cheerful, even though I could tell he was in physical distress. And though I had seen all this and acknowledged the changes he was experiencing, I still found myself fighting back hot tears as I flipped up the footrests so he could take a seat in the chair at the museum; a contraption that I had never somehow expected to be wheeling my father around in. How could this be him? How could this weight that I felt at the ends of my arms be my dad? Yet, there he was.

As we set off, I found myself flung backward in time to all the art shows and exhibits that he used to carry me through, all the conversations we have had about art, and all the shared history we have that revolves around creativity and what it means to live an artist’s life. No small things, these. I remember looking at Theibaud and Diebenkorn, Picasso and Michelangelo, Koons and Warhol through the lens of my father’s critical eye and being amazed at what he saw. The appreciation he has for the quality of brushstrokes and lines still amazes me to this day and I am forever grateful for any small part of that I might have inherited, despite my thick skull.

This time was different, though.

I’m not sure if he was just self-conscious about being wheeled around or if the pain was getting the better of him, but we rolled along in silence for the most part, sometimes laughing a bit about this and that, but mostly quiet as we moved from piece to piece. I tried to make a game of it, telling him to say “click” when he was done looking at something and I’d move him along like a locomotive slide show of sorts. This provided more than a few giggles as he began to say “click” before we even reached the next piece if he didn’t care for it. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about what this trip meant, if anything. I was finding it difficult just to “be” in the moment because the moment was so absolutely foreign to me and I was woefully unprepared for every emotion that was washing across my bow. Somehow, a simple trip to the museum had turned into a pivotal moment at the intersection of our lives and I was frozen there, unable to free myself from memory, conjecture, future worlds and places in the past.

As we sat down to lunch in the cafe, dad became a bit more animated. The day had not diminished his appetite for ham sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, and seeing him eat made me feel better. Maybe just because it was a break from pushing the chair, maybe because it was just more familiar territory. Whatever the case, my shoulders descended a bit and I was able to regain a foothold on the present.

In that moment, I just looked over and loved him. I let myself just drop the steely facade and allowed myself to just love him. It was the most terrible, wonderful, awful, miraculous feeling I’d had in a long time.

My Dad was in a wheelchair, my mom and I were there with him, and everything, whether the small person inside me liked it or not, was perfect.

 

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