The slowest and most painful death is the death of the mind. It was happening to Dad, but I couldn't help but feel like it was happening to me, to all of us.
As I stood there quietly watching him, I saw his hands widen and waiver for a moment unsure, as if they had an agenda of their own and he was wrestling with them. They often took over and destroyed whatever it was he wanted to do. The very extension of his own body betraying him. In a second he gained control again and got his hands around Ava's little body to lift her up into his lap. He fumbled with her blanket and shirt for a minute trying to get his hands free of them. She turned around and looked up at him with her big brown eyes and said, "Movie Papa." He nodded and said, "Yes, how 'bout some Spongebob?" I let out my breath and relaxed my shoulders. It hadn't been easy for him the last few months since we'd moved out. He was lonely without the kids around making noise and slamming doors and leaving shoes in the doorway. We filled up the space in the house so there wasn't any quiet moments for thinking about things too much. There was always a bustle and a purpose when we were there. We needed him.
Dad seemed to light up whenever Ava was around. He would scoop her up and walk her around the yard in the sunshine. She would point to things and babble and he would happily obey her every command. Sometimes she would toddle around the yard and kick the ball or jump on him as he sat in the shade in his lawn chair. These were good times. Days at the lake in the hot sun, hours in the backyard throwing the ball for the dog, it was a time of forgetting the inevitable. I just prayed to God that she would remember him this way. Remember him like this, the way he should be remembered.