Dad is down to using one cane in public, because it's easier to move among crowds of people with as few "legs" as possible. Our extended family gathered for a belated Easter dinner this past Saturday, and I stopped to watch him walk across the kitchen, stiffly but completely unassisted. He's returned to the driver's seat whenever my parents go out in the county. He mows the entire yard by himself, and he even runs to his favorite store when the inclination strikes.
But I can't let go of that fear. That pervasive fear. That anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the next round of sickness or pain or death. The trepidation that has become a Pavlovian response whenever my phone rings.
Last week I missed a call from my Mom's cell phone, and when I couldn't reach the number, I called my parents' house to find out what they wanted (they almost never leave their cell phones turned on). Mom told me that Dad was out and about, and he had her cell phone.
"This is it," I thought, as my stomach dropped. "He's out there flat on his back, or worse, needing help, needing me, and I missed the call."
A few minutes later, my phone rang again, that same cell phone number, which I answered.
He was fine. He didn't need my help at all. In fact, he had driven out to our little woods, lumbered through the trees and underbrush with his cane, and found a whole sackful of mushrooms. All by himself. He wanted to drop by our house and leave them off for us to enjoy.
It bothers me more than it should. That he has regained his independence. That he goes out alone, especially into woods or areas with unsteady footing. I should be overjoyed that he is here, that he still has a wonderful quality of life, that he is able to enjoy his favorite pastimes, like nothing ever happened, like the cane isn't there.
But I'm having trouble letting go of the fear. And I so want to.