I just watched my husband lift his dying father up the stairs.
It wasn’t a moment I planned for in life. Or maybe I planned for it at age 51 instead of 31, but I don’t think so. Fathers die only in abstraction. They aren’t supposed to die for real.
I haven’t planned for this moment, but whether any of us likes it or not, the moment is here.
For the last nine years, I’ve seen moments of Jeremy that no one else gets to see. 3 AM moments. Moments where I snuggle into his arm and tell him, “Jeremy, I’m anxious, I’m sad,” and moments where he pulls himself from his deepest dreams to trace my face and dry my tears. He never sighs. He never bristles. He just listens and squeezes.
It was 3AM Jeremy that held me during my emergency c-section and welcomed our little boy to the world. It’s 3AM Jeremy that rocks Hudson out of his nightmares.
To the world, Jeremy offers happy-go-lucky with a dash of workaholic. The world sees his quirk and his ego and his humor, but they don’t often see his care; the part of him that gets his feelings hurt, the part of him that knows exactly what lever to pull when I’m feeling blue, the part of him that makes the perfectly dry, humorous comments—not too disparaging but just disparaging enough—muttered in undertones and delivered without eye contact. I get him. He shares so little of the vulnerable core with others, so usually it’s mine, my treasure, my Jeremy.
But this week he’s sharing it with his dad.
And the little I’ve seen of Jeremy this week has been 3 AM Jeremy. The Jeremy that heeds his alarm clock for his night shift of keeping guard over his dad, providing 3AM comfort and funny jokes, and gentle, but deliberate lowering and raising from a homecare hospital bed.
Jeremy sometimes gives the impression of apathy because he has a tendency to save his caring for moments of shove. But when moments of crisis are shoved to the forefront, Jeremy is your fiercest advocate, and your gentlest caregiver.
He learned it from his mom, and he gives it to his dad. And I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I am that he also shares 3AM Jeremy with me.
It’s worth adding, that Jeremy doesn’t lift alone. He has a throng of sisters and a matriarch so strong, they could break steel beams. They are his fortitude, his dad is his solitude. They’ve given everything to him, and I love to watch—day by day, lift by lift—Jeremy quietly try to give it back.
To Carey: we will miss you so. Thank you for every contribution you made to Jeremy. And thank you from me. It is such a privilege to be your daughter-in-law. Thanks for reading my writing and thanks for the unfailingly good advice. I love you and I’m proud to share your name.