He was lost. Confused. Unsure where he just was and how to get back to that place, the downstairs living room. You could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
Imagine visiting a place that you've visited for years with people who aren't just like family. They ARE family. A place you've cumulatively spent years of your life and yet on your most recent visit, getting lost there.
There's been a lot of consistency in our travels to England over the years. One of my aunts and uncles, my mom's brother and sister in law, has been in the same house since before I can remember. Like usual, we began and ended our trip in their older home. It's a gorgeous, delightful, large home that I could find my way around in while blindfolded.
Since the mid 90's, this home has been our base for all our visits to England. During each visit, we spend a few days with Alan and Margaret, getting settled in and catching up over pots of tea and G&Ts....(or at least Margaret and I catch up over G&Ts.)
At my aunt and uncle's, my parents always sleep in my cousin Louise's old bedroom. The second floor, where the bedrooms and most bathrooms are located, has a distinct layout to it. There are hallways and mini-hallways off of each other. Imagine an "L" shaped hallway with rooms off of rooms and bedrooms with multiple doors. At one end are three bathrooms - my aunt's, my uncle's and then a toilet room in the middle.
During this visit, I saw their home layout through my dad's eyes. There were multiple moments when my dad was confused as to how to get back to the living room, the room we were just in, having tea.
During one moment, which repeated itself often, I was in my bedroom, just next to my parent's room. And I saw my dad out of the corner of my eye, walking back and forth in the hallway. I just knew he was lost as there was no other reason for him to walk back and forth like that. And honestly, I just instinctively knew as this is a common occurrence.
We've all had those moments - when I would bet the farm something I just had in my hand and had since put down was "right here, I SWEAR!" Or I would swear that "this has to be where it is." But with some thought processing, I can retrace my steps, recall when I last had the thing and end up discovering it.
My dad's brain doesn't work that way. He doesn't think, "I'm in my bedroom which isn't on the same floor as the living room." Or "I was downstairs and came upstairs to brush my teeth so I just need to go back downstairs."
So he gets lost. Easily.
It's not a problem to jump in and lovingly help my dad get back to where he wants to be. The helper in me jumps up as quick as possible and intercepts so as to save him any more confusion. I feel complete to point him to the stairs or better yet, walk down with him and steal a few moments with him. But it tears my heart out to see the uncertainty and fog in his mind, the lack of confidence that is born from the uncertainty.
To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.
I stand in the room where I'm sleeping at my aunt and uncle's home. In front of me I see, gorgeous, tall door with high doorknobs and keyholes. I see three bathrooms at the other end of the hallway and can imagine how easy it is to wonder, "which one is for me?" Or perhaps I use just the toilet room and wonder where the sink is.
The room where my parents sleep has a door to the room next door and 6 inches from that, is the door to the hallway. It's in those options, in the choose your own adventure of leaving the bedroom where the confusion lies.
There's so much I take for granted. In fact, the list is super long because I don't even realize all the brain processing I take for granted. But as I see the world, more and more through my dad's eyes, my blessings pile up.
Personally I love going to new places. I love adventure and discovering things I don't know, people I've never met, foods I've never tried and places I've never seen.
I'm okay with the unknown, in fact I embrace it. I know questions to ask to learn more. I have an innate understanding that I'll figure it out. And if I end up in the wrong room or bathroom (always interesting when that happens) or place, I can manage my way out of it....never led by confusion.
Yet my dad is unsure. Home, where my parents live, is familiar.....yet even then he has his moments. At my parent's place, he has his routine (which you can't crack no matter how much you want him to move quicker!) It's a safe place for him to be. I've come to realize and understand this. He knows (for now) what's behind each door. He knows (for now) when he's in his upstairs bedroom, how to get to the family room.
When traveling to other familiar places, places I would feasibly consider home, the holes + gaps in my dad's memory and brain become more apparent.
There truly is no place like home.