I’ve done a lot of grumbling lately. The weather has been lousy for four months. My work load has been heavy. My mom and I haven’t had the time we had last year to market our newest book, Wretched Fate. My dad can no longer drive which means many hours figuring out how to get my parents back and forth to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store. None of which compares to the real heartache: Mom and I, and the rest of my wonderful family are dealing with: Dad’s Alzheimer’s.
So when a tiny piece of sunshine breaks through, it feels like a miracle. But then, maybe it is.
For about a month and a half, my daddy cheerfully utters the same phrase whenever we get into the car: “You’ll let me know if you see any deer, won’t you?” As long as we are driving where there are trees, he says the phrase several times. There’s a reason he repeats the request: In the largely rural areas of Ohio and Michigan where we grew up and lived many years, we spent hours driving around and trying to spot deer. It was a family tradition that all of us remember from vacations or Sunday drives. And even though none but my oldest sister lives in a rural area, I think we all still search the tree lines when we’re driving in the country.
It’s a bit disconcerting, however, when you live in an urban area like Washington, D.C. and you’re just on your way from point A to point B and happen to be on a tree-lined street. But we always smile at Dad’s “joke,” and we nod and reassure him that we’ll be on the lookout.
Recently, Mom, Dad and I were on our way back from a doctor’s appointment that didn’t take as long as we all expected, so we decided to take a ride through a local park. It was the first pleasant, spring-like day in many weeks, and we were all in a good mood. I cranked up the music, and Dad responded almost immediately. He may not have remembered my name half an hour earlier, but give my Dad a melody, and he will sing along. He usually knows the melody, and he often knows most the words.
We took a winding road that led into the park, and on the way in, Mom and I heard “Let me know if you see any deer, won’t you?” All three of us chuckled. Then we rounded a bend and there before us, was a long stretch of land with seven deer munching happily on grass. I slowed way down, but they barely batted their beautiful eyes. They were young and didn’t know enough to be afraid (park season hasn’t started). Or maybe they just sensed that we were a car of people in awe.
The deer were so close to the road, we were afraid to roll down the window and make any noise that would scare them away. So we glided slowly by, as silently as we could, all of us appreciating the moment. Then we turned around and came back and appreciated their beauty again. They never stirred. Just lifted their heads and stared back as if to say, “Yea, we see you. But we are not about to move.”
In a municipal park that is packed later in spring and summer, to see seven deer out in the open is truly wondrous. It dispersed the drabness that can easily surround everyday life. And it gave my housebound daddy, who is dealing with a horrible disease that keeps him inside his apartment far too much, a few minutes of pure pleasure.
Genilee Swope Parente