Unexpectedly — because they’d never been a favourite or something we kept in the house — my dad asked for mandarin oranges, the kind in segments in syrup. I couldn’t have exited the hospital faster had I had wings. The only explanation for the nearest gas store convenience store having them has to be my grandmother’s celestial intervention. I carried them to the counter with delight. In hours upon hours of discomfort, he’d asked for nothing; there was nothing he could imagine that would offer him a bit of pleasure. Until the oranges. And I had them in my hands to give to him.
He was sleeping when I returned. I peeled off the foil top. Maybe the scent would make the room a little sweeter? I felt JOY that I had these oranges for him. And when he awoke, and brought one small segment to his lips, it was then that he discovered he could no longer swallow, he could no longer eat. And he cried.
I couldn’t say it to him because he wouldn’t have wanted to hear it, plus, I’d probably sound sanctimonious, and my voice would break, but here’s what I wanted to tell the man beside me on the park bench on Sunday, the man who was annoyed that his older mother wanted him to make an hour-drive to help her with something at her home: One day, you will long with all the cells of your body, with all the atoms of your spirit, to be able to give your parent something desired. Whatever your relationship is or has been, whatever the disappointments between you, it will drop away and what you will know is that this person gave you life and loved you as best they could, and you will want to offer something — anything — that says you’re grateful, that you understand. And you won’t know, when it happens, that the last chance for that offering has passed.
Carrie Klassen writes about (and sometimes photographs) things she finds beautiful. She ghost-writes for thoughtful people with something important to say at PinkElephantCreative.com, teaches writing for small business at PinkElephantAcademy.com, and she shares her own words at CarrieKlassen.com. Carrie is currently working on a series of personal essays.