Mere Walls


On May 2 I busted down the walls of a nursing home. Figuratively, of course. Though in my annoyance at the restrictions in our lives these days because of the virus scenario, the thought of actually getting that physical occurred to me. Fact is, my amazing father was turning ninety-seven and I was determined his birthday be fun and semi-festive despite the rigid quarantine that wouldn’t allow our family to enter the facility for any reason except our loved one’s imminent death. None of us had been with Dad in person for over five weeks. I ached to hug my wheelchair-bound daddy and to remind him of a love that’s not limited just because the world’s gone crazy. So my kids and I and my grandson, along with a few wonderful friends, armed ourselves with bunches of balloons, chocolate cupcakes, corny birthday cards, and fizzy drinks and gleefully stormed the place, all the while singing “Happy Birthday.” 

Love is greater than nonsense or heartache or worldly limitations. Love believes, perseveres, holds on and never turns loose. No mere walls or world-wide crisis can squelch it. We gathered that afternoon around Dad’s first-floor window, where he’d recently been transferred from the third floor. He sat in his wheelchair next to the window, opened a bit so he could hear us sing. We imagined we watched him blow out a candle on his swirly cupcake, though no actual candle was allowed because of oxygen use in the room. We talked about family, other times, and other birthdays, and conjured up friends on FaceTime to wish Dad well, pressing our phones against the window screen so he could smile at the miniaturized faces and hear the tiny voices of those who care about him from afar as though there is no barrier of time or distance between. He was overjoyed and content, maybe even thrilled.

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote the American Revolution-era patriot Thomas Paine. It’s no surprise that our generation is also tried and challenged. When we persevere, it’s surprising how mere walls come down.

By Jean Hoefling

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