On Friday as I was leaving the dialysis waiting area after my dad was summoned in for his "oil change" (as he used to call it when his mind was still a little fuzzy), I stopped briefly to talk to one of the hospital volunteers.
She's an older lady herself - probably in her mid 60s - and I have long suspected that she has a tiny bit of a crush on my dad. She lights up when she sees him, teases him like a schoolgirl, and has also been known to pet him. Like, literally - she strokes his arm like she's petting a cat. Friday she went to far as to pat his face, cupping his chin in her hand for a brief moment.
Were it not for the fact that she's a very kind woman - and really no competition for my mom since my dad has only ever had eyes for her - I would probably have already issued a passive aggressive smackdown. But she's entirely too sweet for that sort of thing. And, really, why should I mind that someone shows my dad a little extra kindness?
There's often not enough to go around in this world. That he gets extra doses when she's on call is fine by me.
So on my way out on Friday, she asked me if I thought it upset him that she pokes fun at him. I smiled and told her no, that he eats that sort of thing up (he is a man, after all).
She then went on to say how sweet he is, and that he seems like a good, kind person who has lived a good, happy life. She sees a lot of old, broken people filing past her as she greets them and checks their names off the list. My dad is no exception, held together by spit and tape the way he is. But she has somehow managed to see beyond the old, sick man he's become so dreadfully quickly. I don't know what her gift is, but with just the briefest of contact each week, she was able to see right into his soul. And was kind enough to tell me what she saw.
It's what I see too, of course, but it made me feel so good to know that what I know isn't a secret - that it's still obvious, even in the hardest and saddest of circumstances. As beaten down and as sad as I know he sometimes feels, he still radiates an inner light that is visible for miles.
As I drove back to have lunch with my mom, I thought about how incredible it is to have someone see you that way; to have someone feel the goodness and kindness radiating from you like the heat from a bonfire on a chilly autumn night.
So along with learning the ukulele (which I'm still determined to do, despite evidence to the contrary in the form of a thick layer of dust on the poor little thing), my new life goal is to try to be the kind of person my dad is so that one day someone who doesn't know me - or anything about me - might feel that kind of warmth too.
Maybe this isn't something you can aspire to. Maybe it's just something you have to have without trying - or even knowing. But I will never forget that conversation with the hospital volunteer, or the light my dad manages to bring to her face with the power of his own.