Today I saw True Beauty. True Beauty is something more than a concrete object that one can photograph, although I could have photographed what I saw today, but I don’t have the skill to do justice to this beauty through photography. True Beauty touches the heart and soul deeply and inspires wonder, admiration and reverence. What I saw today was Truly Beautiful and I doubt that I’m going to be able to do justice the that beauty with words, but I have to try.
A little background information: Today was my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. My husband’s family celebrated the event at his (Pop’s) favorite restaurant. One of the reasons Pop enjoys this restaurant so much is that they have live music several nights a week. Over the years, he’s gotten to know the regular musicians and they know him. They also know that he and his wife of almost 60 years (Himself’s mother), enjoy dancing. So tonight, after our group had finished dinner, sang the obligatory Happy Birthday and served the cake, the band started playing dance songs. And Pop danced with his wife. And that dance was Truly Beautiful.
What made the sight of an eighty-year-old man dancing with his wife a thing of True Beauty?
Some more background:
Himself’s mother has Alzheimer’s.
She cannot take care of her most basic needs and hasn’t been able to for a few years. Before that, Himself’s parents lived a good life together. They enjoyed many of the same things and spent a lot of time together sharing those interests. But for several years Pop hasn’t been able to share much with his wife, even though they spend just as much time together – if not more. When it became obvious that she could no longer take care of herself and needed help, Pop looked into nursing homes. After considering that option he decided that, as long as it was possible, he would take care of her himself, in their own home.
Caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s is a tremendous task that many find thankless and frustrating. Yet Pop continues to do it. He has some help, but he’s the primary caregiver. As the days, weeks, months and years have passed, she has seemed to slip away from this world that most of us inhabit and entered into her own world. One often has the sense that while her body is present, she’s very far away.
Tonight she didn’t register any recognition or awareness of whom was present. Her expression and demeanor are pleasant and she smiles with her mouth, but her eyes don’t register emotion.
When Pop danced with her, an outsider would have seen nothing remarkable – just two rather stout, somewhat stooped old people dancing. But I noticed that she kept up with the rhythm of the music. Although the smile on her face was the same non-seeing, non-emoting smile as at dinner, her body responded to the music and she moved in time to the beat. Pop danced with her just as he did ten years ago, the only concession to time being that his moves were less broad and sweeping due to the restricted movement that old age brings.
And I saw much more than two old people dancing. I saw selflessness demonstrated by all the times he’s gotten up in the middle of the night because she had risen, dressed herself in an odd combination of clothing and wanted to go out shopping; the times he’s had to put away a suitcase and the contents that she had packed thinking they were going on a trip; the times he’s taken care of her most basic needs as one would those of a baby. I saw tender, giving, selfless love, a love that is living testimony to the sincerity of the vow he took decades ago, “… for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…”. He is living love for her in a way that speaks True Beauty.
I wish I could better convey the Beauty I saw tonight. Perhaps I should just say that I saw True Love. And True Love is Truly Beautiful.