When my eldest son was about three years old my wife was working evening and night shifts as a dementia and palliative care nurse.
I’d often have delivered Matt to daycare on my way to work before she was up in the morning and just as often she’d be gone by the time we returned home, so we regularly walked to the nursing home to see her and hang out with her wards. Sometimes we baked and brought cookies.
Witnessing previously brilliant individuals struggling for words, balance, memories and connection was a heart-wrenching experience for Matt and me and an almost impossible job to leave at work for my wife, so we booked her some career counselling that cost us the budget-busting equivalent to about two months’ rent.
After the last of the tests and tête-à-têtes, she came home with the counsellor’s summary.
High on the list of alternative careers, right above the suggestion of florist, was the word clown.
Think about that for a second.
I think we laughed until we cried, or maybe we drank a bottle of Frangelico and just cried.
As the years went by Matt was joined by Stuart and then Hannah, and the four of us continued to make cookie pilgrimages, new friends and fond memories. They grew to become three incredibly creative and caring adults and I often see a kind of gentleness and compassion in them that could only have been forged from witnessing what happens when age and devastating illnesses carve the person out of people.
I left a management job to write when the kids were still in public school and I still had a wife who was nursing. That was more than twenty years ago and to this day I struggle for words to trace the thread and tame the flow in stories, thankfully with the memories of heart-warming heroes’ journeys as inspiration and reality checks.
And cookies of course — chocolate chip if possible.
Thanks to Sebastian Pena Lambarri at Unsplash for the Clownfish hero photo for this page. Go Nemo!