Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Role Reversal (59/90)

My Dad has a lingering cough.

I've been hearing it for far too long. I started nagging him a while back, before I went to Tampa on break and after I noticed it wasn't going away.

 It started out sounding like one of those coughs that just sneaks up on you after your throat gets a little tickled. But it happened often.

"What's with the cough," I started asking.

"I don't know," he'd say and that would be it.

 But it continued and I started probing with more concern and urged him to go to the doctor. And he went and got the cold medicine that was supposed to remedy the cough.

It's getting worse still now, no longer dry and shallow but deep and mucousy. And every time I hear it I worry. And by worry I mean my stomach falls to my feet, my face gets hot and for those few seconds--or minutes if it is a fit-- my world stops.

When I  am up in the wee hours of the morning working I hear him coughing down the hall, his sleep interrupted. I cringe, stop what I am doing and wait for it to be over, for the silence to envelop me again. And when it does, it brings with it a lingering fear.

I sometimes wonder when the roles reversed. But I can't remember a time that I haven't worried about my parents.

I remember waiting up for my Mom as a little girl. I'd be laying in my bed filled with panic waiting to hear the roar of the garage door opening and the back door swing open as her keys jingled in her hand. By the time she made it up the stairs I'd already exhaled, rolled over in my bed and was finally ready to sleep. I just needed to know that she was home and safe.

For some reason I always feared that she'd get lost or hurt and every night I had to make sure that my fears were, indeed, just fear and not reality.

I've never worried so much for my Dad as I do now, though. And I'm sure it's because now I'm watching his hair gray as he slows down. He used to run every day,  come into the house smelly, dripping with sweat and make a smoothie or drink a Gatorade while he watched the news or a sports event from the couch.

 Now, the arthritis in his knee won't allow him to run and he tells me to just walk on the treadmill because he doesn't want me pounding on my knees when I work out.

I've seen him be totally caught off guard by his own emotion as a tear slipped down his cheek and his voice broke when we were chatting one day. He stopped speaking for a moment and looked away before he finished his sentence, his lip still trembling.

When he was done, I excused myself and rushed to my room and crawled into my bed where I was flooded by my own emotion.

All of this in the midst of my excitement about the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Only my excitement is drenched in heaviness and dripping with worry.

And I have to remind myself, that my parents survived this world without me for many years.


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