We walk the halls of the Veteran’s Administration with them; we, the daughters of men who served our country. There are some young women with fathers who are obviously of the Viet Nam era, but mostly it’s us older women; the daughters of men who served in World War II.
Gray haired and often struggling with our own ailments, we hold the doors for fathers with canes, walkers and wheelchairs. We put our fathers in chairs in the lobby while we run to the pharmacy, lab, physical therapy and the front desk to make and confirm appointments, pick up medications, update personal information.
We become familiar to each other. The woman in the red blouse seems to come here nearly as often as we do. The woman in the green shoes…I think I heard her father call her Kathy. That one has a new hair cut. That one’s father is in a wheelchair, now. He was walking last month. I turn my head to the side so no one can see my eyes fill. The one with the lyrical laughter doesn’t come here any more. I’m fairly certain I know what has happened to her father, and I look at my own by my side, biting my lip to stop the tears.
The halls resound with our voices:
“Daddy, wait here and I’ll get…”
“Dad, you don’t need to be so rude to this nice man…”
“You’ll have to excuse my father, he doesn’t…”
“Do you need to use the bathroom before we leave, Dad?”
“Hold my arm, Daddy. I’ll get you there.”
We’ve become the parents to our fathers, the parents to our own children and often the parents to our grandchildren. We’re sandwiched and weighted, weary and grateful.
We hold the frail hand of Daddy as we help him try to maintain some dignity and thank God that we’ve had him this long, and that we’re able to be here for him as he takes his last steps, as he was for us, when we took our first.