Maureen Locher photoJoie de vivre. Joy of life. Finding the joy in living.

Sr. Rosalia would be proud that I remembered the translation. Painstakingly translating Les Miserables in high school French class took the entire year. Or maybe it just felt like it. What a quick segue from joy to misery. Not surprising these days though which is perhaps the most difficult aspect of visiting my parents: my dad has lost his joie de vivre. Pop was the most easy-going guy on the planet before he fell and landed in assisted living – before his whole world turned upside-down. Before mine did too.

In the past few years I’ve had my own ups and downs, and as anyone who writes that phrase knows, it really means more downs than ups. Yet this Tigger manages to bounce back…sort of. But throughout the past several years I have noticed that it takes much more time and effort to right myself – to find something to hold onto which makes me want to wake up in the morning and keep plugging away. Perhaps that’s why I sleep so little anymore. As I compose this it is 4:26 in the morning when the world should be sleeping. How many others are lying awake right now unable to process their lives – wondering what comes next, and not exactly looking forward to it?

It has become harder and harder to visit my dad. My mom continues to brighten like a light bulb when I walk through the door of the nursing home, but not my dad. It becomes increasingly more difficult for me to rally feigned cheeriness. Because Pop has lost his joy for life mine is seriously diminished. Does he lie awake at night wondering where the life he knew suddenly went, as I lie awake at night wondering where my dad went? I miss him. I miss how he used to be. I miss and need what he used to give me. Is that selfish?

I know I have to be the giver now; I get it. But the little girl in me wants to be 3 years old again climbing up on his big belly without a care in the world. I want to go back to that time of joy. Future joy seems pretty shaky right about now. I see incredible sadness on the horizon. But I have to remember the joy: the ripped out articles about writers Pop always saved for me; the file folder entitled "Four Horsemen" my dad made for my boys and chocked full with articles about LeBron James and basketball and track; all Pop’s famous quotes – "Everything in moderation," "Eat slow everybody," "Keep plugging away," "Everything is difficult before it becomes simple"; popcorn; Wild Irish Rose and pockets full of candy; lobster –  witnessing my dad eat a whole lobster is both a thing of beauty and a distinct repulsion; music; opera; records; cars – countless wonderful old car memories. The list is endless.

Maybe as I try to remember the joy, I have to especially remember that fourth famous Pop-ism, "Everything is difficult before it becomes simple." He’s a smart one – that dad of mine.

Copyright 2010 Maureen Locher