I was rushing to visit my Dad a few years back, ticking off my list of things completed and adding others as I drove steadfastly towards RSL Care.
I had just been to a meeting and I was concerned about another one, scheduled on the other side of town in two hours; yet it was very important to fit this precious man into my crazy schedule.
There was no parking near the entrance to his room, so I had to park around the back and as I walked in the hot midday sun, I wondered if I was in the right state of mind for my visit.
Already giving instructions to him in my head, I barged in. I found his room deserted and his chair empty. Lunch, that’s where he’ll be. I pushed on to the dining room and there he was, sitting at a table for four. Mrs Johnston opposite him and his mate Kerri, on his left.
Kerri was 20 years younger than Dad who was 89 at the time. Kerri was confined to a wheelchair, a stroke had detained him here for his recuperation as he struggled to mouth his words and move the left side of his body.
I waved as I walked towards the table, noticing their white rolls and butter ready on their bread-and-butter plates. That’s unusual I thought, Dad loves his tucker; why is he holding back?
As I arrived I heard their conversation. ‘Well, Kerri, where to today?’ Kerri grunted as his words travelled from his brain to his mouth. ‘Paris, yes definitely.’
‘Not Copenhagen? How about you Mrs J, are you happy with Paris for lunch?’
Mrs Johnston looked startled. Alzheimer’s had laid its heavy hand on her and today was one of those days where she did not comprehend.
I’d forgotten about their daily lunchtime ritual. Two well travelled men, unexpectedly holed up in a place that neither thought they would ever be but making the best of it.
‘Uhu?’ she replied.
‘Well that’s settled then: Paris. Left or right bank?’
‘Left of course,’ Kerri insisted.
‘Well, let’s start there,’ said Dad
I stood there in awe. Here was my Dad, the man who taught me as a child to use my imagination, showing me the way forward yet again.
I slid into the fourth chair, smiled and kissed his cheek. ‘Is there room for one more?’
‘Always room for you, my darling.’
And I sat listening to these two marvelous men talking about the tiny laneways, the open boulevards. Dad reminded me of the colour of the River Seine as it meanders through the city. That every boulangerie, every shop window, has a story to tell.
Our talk moved to the rich food we were enjoying in our lunch-time jaunt. We tasted escargots in a little café outside the Notre Dame. Enjoyed the Duck à l’Orange at that tiny café off the boulevard near the Arc de Triumph. We inhaled the bittersweet smell of the coffee as it was placed before us.
We were laughing and playing, just as I had when I was a little girl. Kerri was smiling from ear–to-ear as Mrs Johnston happily tucking into her corned beef and cabbage.
It was wonderful to spend that half an hour in Paris with my Dad, Kerri and Mrs J. When I left, I noticed my adrenal system was calmer, my body was more relaxed but most of all I was composed and joyful. After all, isn’t that what happens when you go to Paris for lunch?