This morning, I lied to my son.
I don't make a habit of it, but I had just received a phone call from my mom. He knew--without really knowing--that it was about my dad. His Papa. He asked, "How is Papa doing?"
And I lied to him. Looked right into his eyes and said, "He's doing good!"
I'm not sure Isaac picked up on my faux optimism. Or my grammatical error. Or my lie. Because Papa isn't doing "good." Or well. Or even marginal.
I listened to Isaac talk and talk about how the only fun summers he has ever had are when Papa teaches him stuff about woodworking, makes him peanut butter and chocolate sandwiches, and they spend hours out in the workshop. That nothing seems like that much fun. And he talked and talked about how THIS is the summer Papa is going to get better and come home and they will resume their "funnest summers ever" woodworking apprenticeship program.
The call from my mom was to tell me about him crashing overnight and to ask my advice about what to do. About his health. The DNR. Life-saving measures. All of it.
But I couldn't tell Isaac those details. Because mom asked me not to, and because he was on his way to school. I can't imagine what kind of day he might have had if I told him how sick his beloved Papa is before he went to school.
At one point during our bedside vigil today, Dad woke up and told Kristen that he wanted to see his grandsons. I texted Tim. Within an hour, he had loaded the girls into the new SUV, collected three boys from three schools in three different parts of town, and arrived at the hospital with five kids, water, soda, and jelly beans. I sat down with the children in the crowded waiting room. I told them Papa was sick. That his body was tired. That he is very sleepy, and that he might not wake up when they talked to him.
And I looked right into Isaac's eyes, and I apologized for lying to him. For saying things were good when they are not. Isaac cries at the drop of a hat. If there is a child who wears his emotions on his sleeve, it is my sweet, sensitive, compassionate Isaac. But he did not let those tears escape from behind his eyelids and down his face. He held it together. And quietly asked when he got to see Papa.
The girls are too young to visit Papa in the ICU, so they started a coloring campaign that spanned dozens of pictures for Papa--of daisies, the solar system, a turkey, and the word "LOVE."
But he did wake up. For a few minutes with each boy. Long enough to tell them how much he loves them. To hold their hands. To smile. To take them in, and let them do the same.
I was a complete mess when Isaac sat down next to my dad. He held tight to Isaac's hand. He asked about school. Soccer. Grades. Isaac talked and talked and talked. At one point, Dad opened his eyes, focused on Isaac, and smiled. He said, "I love you so much, Isaac." Isaac leaned in and squeezed Papa's hand. "I'm so sorry...." Papa said. "I'm so sorry..." he kept saying it. Isaac knew what he was sorry about, and asked dad what his favorite thing he ever built was. Dad's eyes lit up as he described a black walnut kitchen to Isaac. Then he fell asleep. Isaac simply said, "I love you, Papa." Dad opened his eyes wide again. "I love you too, Buddy" he said. And he started, "I'm so sorry..." again. Isaac stopped him. "I know, Papa" he said. And he immediately said, "My favorite thing to build with you was the five-board bench."
My dad stared at him. Eyes wide. I ducked behind the ICU equipment and completely fell apart. To that point, my tears had been few and scattered. But the enormity of what is going on hit me as I watched my youngest son suddenly ask the man who taught him so much about woodworking, prayer, and life if he could pray for him.
Isaac bowed his head and prayed. Long. Hard. Earnest. For Papa to get better. For the lonely tools in the workshop. For Mimi. And he thanked God for Papa and all the fun they've had over the years in the workshop.
At the "Amen," Dad said, "I love you so much, Isaac." Isaac stared at him. Denying himself the privilege of tears--even as mine came fast and fierce while I stood behind him. "You are so special to my heart," my dad explained. Isaac looked at him, and said, "You are so special to me, too. I love you so much, Papa. And I'll always be your apprentice."
As they sat in silence holding hands, my dad fell asleep. Isaac watched his face and capitalized on every opportunity to talk to Papa. Between bouts of falling asleep, Dad expressed his love for Isaac a couple of more times. And he repeated how special he was. Then Isaac went to the waiting room.
On the way home, Isaac was optimistic. He explained that the last two times Papa seemed this sick, he ended up getting better enough to go back to the nursing home. And Isaac is SURE that is what is going to happen this time, too.
I hope he's right.
He doesn't want to talk about it. He just keeps talking about Papa coming home and teaching him more things in the workshop. Sure that my dad will get better. Sure that today's goodbye isn't going to be his last. Sure that his days as an apprentice aren't over. Just so absolutely sure that he told me he doesn't think I lied at all.
I hope he's right.
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