Wednesday, September 29, 2010

King Lear's New Palace

It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions.
King Lear Act 4, Scene III

I have written previously of my aged father and his unyielding grip on an independent life as his offspring hopelessly argued that he needed help.

Three times in the last year my dad was discovered prone on the bathroom floor of his apartment in a high-rise building. In each case he had been there for hours and sometimes days.

During another collapse, in the spring of this year, his building had an electrical blowout, shutting down the elevators. Paramedics had to climb fifteen floors to get to him and then carry him fifteen floors to the ambulance far below.

After each event Dad spent weeks recovering in a hospital.

Meanwhile, a new assisted-living building was about to open in his neighborhood. Fancifully called "The Poppy," it appeared to be a perfect fit for our poppy, but oh the persuasion and oh the deaf ears.

Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
Ripeness is all.
King Lear Act V, Scene II

Until one day he decided, okay.

I recently flew to him and, along with my two brothers, packed dad up and made the move. I'm a thrower-outer. I cringe at accumulated stuff. I went to work filling garbage bags as my father sat in a chair and watched.

"Oh, the ironing board, Mel...."

"They'll have one there, Dad, in the brand-new laundry room."


It was tender to know that he liked to iron his shirts but the new palace was considerably smaller than his current castle and there would be no room for his ironing board.

Within two days we had Dad's belongings situated. Pictures hung, a new flat-screen television on the wall, fresh linens on the bed and fluffy towels hung in the bathroom.

Two chairs sat across his kitchen table in front of a window where Dad could solve crossword puzzles and look out to a view of mountains. From over those hills his armies could march to protect him as sun would set and snow would fall.

On the morning Dad moved in, we stood back and let him wander his 480-square foot manse. His blue eyes watery and twinkling took it all in. He shuffled with bent back and asked, "Is that my bed?"

"Yes, Dad, that's your bed, the very same."

"Oh Mel, the management of this place should see how beautiful an apartment can look here. I should have them all come up."

Dad has worn-out things but they are his things. We managed to pare piles down to the essentials. Photos of his family were pressed with colored pins on to a corkboard which hung over his telephone shelf. A teapot waited to hold a brew and a recliner sat ready for his body to relax and watch a football game.

Our relief at his acceptance filled The Poppy, blew out the windows and across that mountain range.

Come, let's away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies.
King Lear Act V Scene III

And Cordelia slept.

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