That softening around someone’s eyes during that fraction of a second they first see you and recognise you – fondness, or perhaps just an involuntary relaxing of some obscure eyeball muscle upon the sight of a familiar face. Who knows? I can’t even work out whether it’s something about the eyes themselves or the face immediately surrounding them.
The reason I had realised I took it somewhat for granted was when it wasn’t there the day before yesterday. I had gone with my Dad and my Granny to see Grandad in hospital, who is in an increasingly bleak terminal condition thanks to the ravages of bowel cancer. Whilst his frailty and obvious illness is upsetting, his sharpness of mind had been pretty intact.
It was a bit different this time, his eyes glazed and no flicker of recognition for some time, and the words he managed to utter didn’t seem to make much sense – although I get the unquantifiable impression that the thoughts behind the utterances were fairly robust, and sensed the frustration he must have felt at not being able to communicate them.
Certainly it is a difficult experience – particularly for Granny who, after over three score years of marriage isn’t able to offer any comfort to him. So very sad. Particularly since with her dementia issues she might not necessarily recall exactly how poorly he is before she sees him. As we left Grandad managed to utter that he was sorry and call me by name, and there was that softening of the eyes that betrays recognition and fondness.
Whether he was exhausted, needed time for his faculties to warm up or whether the ravages of his cruel illness is spreading to affect the reliability of how he can think we can only casually and macabrely speculate. This process does make one think more philosophically though, that’s for sure. It’s good timing in many ways to be heading away for a few days next week, I do feel quite drained.
I can only imagine how the rest of the family who have taken on much more of the burden of dealing with Grandad’s illness and the care of Granny now he’s no longer able to provide her with care. In the meantime I selfishly reflect on an ethereal facial flicker, and how it made me feel… sheesh!