In my previous life, the one I can barely remember anymore, Tuesdays were spent going to the nursing home to visit my mom - with my dad.
I liked to go on Tuesday because of the hymn sing in the afternoon. My mom can still sing the old hymns and it always did us good to see her enjoying herself.
So today I ventured out alone, just a short time after writing the post below. That should have been a clue. Something embarrassing was bound to happen.
And, of course, it did.
They were already singing when I came in. I found my mom, sitting with two other ladies at a table. She didn't seem to recognize me at first, but she was trying to steal the hymnbook from either of the two ladies at her table. They can't give her one anymore, as she likes to rip them up. When I whispered in her ear that she didn't need a hymnbook because she already knows all the words to all the songs in it, she lit up and immediately recognized me (well sort of, she introduced me to one of her intended victims as her sister).
I think I've written here before about how singing hymns at the nursing home has nearly done me in before. But I seemed to be doing okay. Mom and I shared our little secrets. She seemed happy. But, she seemed more interested in chatting with me while everyone around us sang, and those closest protected their hymnbooks.
While the 'special music' was singing she inquired about the health of several family members, mentioning them by name. We sang Amazing Grace and by the last verse she had decided to join in.
Then it happened. The next song sung was "In the Garden". This song was played at my dad's funeral last month. At the funeral it was a beautiful rendition sung by Jim Nabors. The nursing home singers sounded more Mayberry - GOOBER Pyle. And my mom? She joined in with wild abandon. Okay, maybe not 'wild abandon' but she did indeed join in and sang every word of all the verses in perfect pitch alto. And I just lost it. Sobs. I didn't actually crawl under the table and roll around in a fetal position, but it didn't seem out of the question to end up so.
Maybe I haven't mentioned this here yet, but from the very moment my dad died I have not been able to cry. Not at all. Not even a teensy little bit. I felt sad - but nothing even remotely resembling crying would come out of me.
I tried hard to hold it together. We haven't told my mom that dad died, because she would not be able to remember it and would have to be told again and again - feeling it each time like it was the first time she heard. Or, so it would seem.
The concern in her eyes when she noticed me crying was immediate. She might not remember exactly who I am, or why I wouldn't have brought dad with me, but she did recognize emotion, and began rubbing my arm and saying, "It's okay. It's okay. It's okay."
There were more songs sung after that, and I tried to pull myself together. I was doing rather well, I thought, until several people approached me who hadn't heard that my dad had died and inquired about how he was doing.
I snuck away to a nearby bathroom and that's when I realized why I do not cry in public. I totally lack the ability to cry tears. Obviously, I MAKE tears, they just have no avenue for spillage. They drain down the insides of my cheeks and cause my lips to swell until my mouth resembles the bill of a large lipstick-wearing duck. It's unsightly, and only served to make me cry all the more. And, instead of making me feel better, crying only makes me feel even more miserable.
Let it be said that I tried my best. The very kind lady who had given my dad the story about the man visiting his wife at a nursing home was there today. I was able to tell her how much it had meant to him, and that his oldest grand daughter had read it at the funeral.
My mom and I had a very nice visit at the coffee/cookie time after the hymn sing. I was able to drive home okay, although with blurried stinging eyes and lips flopping around over my chin.
All afternoon I had this incredible feeling that my dad was there. There was a point at the nursing home that I was certain that if I turned around he would have been sitting there quietly. Like he always did.
(I wish there were a script for this.)