I don’t know of anything unusual about the configuration of my clothing or my body that would trigger a search every time I go through an airport scanner, but I guess there is. Almost inevitably I get the polite questioning, as they look at the screen and ask me if I have anything in my pockets. “Would you like a private room or is it ok for me to do it here?”

I don’t really mind, the screeners are always professionally bland and impersonal, but somewhere my brain bristles at being considered a security risk. More annoying is my doubt that all the rigmarole is that helpful, in terms of keeping us safe, but I don’t know. Traveling with the kids there’s hardly time to think, but now I’m on a solo trip to help out my folks in Austin. Sitting alone in an airport without kids I’ve got so much quiet time.

Dad and Mary have downsized from their house to an apartment in a lovely independent senior community, and I feel relieved that they’ve got this extra support and safety. (I find myself musing how much I’d love to have a restaurant included with my rent. Is it too soon for me to retire?) But for them, in this minute, they most feel the loss of the familiar, the pain of change.

Moving house is a thousand small and individually simple things, piled up like an emergency. It’s easy to forget how long it took to get the right reading light for the bedroom, until you’re in a new one and things aren’t quite there.

At the same time as my folks moved there was a real, absolute emergency: my dear sister-in-law Beth was struck with pancreatitis, a serious illness in an organ most of us never think about. The pancreas makes one’s stomach work, and when it quits it is direly dangerous. She spent a week in the ICU, and has at least another week in the hospital. The conflicting ideas of the doctors make it hard to know what the truth is; what will happen. It’s so scary, but a good reason to be here, hanging out in the hospital making small talk and hearing gossip, juicier thanks to the pain medication.

I was here to help my folks settle in, to shuffle stuff from the old to the new house and back. But my secret hope, one I’d nurtured since we first toured this place, was to get Dad to try the swimming pool. We grew up with a pool, and for the nearly 30 years since he left that house he’s missed it. He’s gotten quite frail, and a trip to the next room can be tiring, so getting to the elevator, then down the hall to the gorgeous pool, wouldn’t be a small feat.

My first day here he agreed to come down to lunch, which was a great start. Maybe this will be easy, I thought smugly. Then the second day he didn’t get out of bed. Fair enough I guess; when I’m nearly 85 I’d like to reserve that right for myself.

Yesterday was the last day of my visit, and an excursion out of the apartment wasn’t seeming likely. A few times he seemed to enterain the idea, but then decided he wasn’t going anywhere. Approaching 5pm there were thunderstorms predicted for evening, and I gave it one last push. “Dad, come on, let’s go swimming?” Perhaps he took pity on how much I wanted to. But for whatever reason, he agreed.

By the time we got changed and downstairs it was after 6, and out the windows of the gorgeous indoor pool the wind was howling and lighting flashing. Does the one-clap rule apply to indoor pools? As a kid any visible lightning and we had to stay away from the water. But I decided we had too much invested to stop now, so in we went, briefly a few steps into the big pool (too cold for him) then to the spa. His steps were so slow, and I wasn’t sure he’d get past his knees, but finally we were fully in the water. Thunder boomed outside and rain smacked the windows, but we were warm, and floating. If we were struck down now, I thought, this wouldn’t be the worst way to go. Water has such a dreamy quality, and brings back so many memories.

We were floating for a long, long time. Because face it, if it takes over an hour to inch your dad downstairs and into the water, how long do you think it will take to get up the steps and out of the pool, get dry, and go upstairs? Dad’s a stubborn and proud guy and won’t accept any help, no lift on the elbow or shove from behind. Oh no, he was going to get out himself, even if he’d briefly forgotten how to get his feet under him and stand up. He had his feet way up on the second step and was surprised he couldn’t pull himself up on the railing. “Dad I think you’ve got to bring your feet back down to the bottom of the pool.” As we moved slowly toward the goal, or paused for long periods on the way, there was plenty of time for reflection. When not freaking out that we would not ever get back to his apartment without help (can you call 911 for help out of a spa, or is there some kind of service?), I had to admire the way my once bustling, busy, business-first dad dawdled at every opportunity.

He was really enjoying feeling the tiles of the pool, the splash of the water. He’d seem so lost in thought that I felt some of the same sleepy drift. Occasionally he’d look up, snapping back from wherever he’d been, and we would both startle. Where are we? What are we doing? What brought us here?

I’d managed to wrap his shoulders in a towel when we were standing knee deep, as I didn’t want him to get cold, but he was still in no hurry. I got him into a chair next to the pool, wrapped in towels, but he wasn’t ready to put his shirt on. The little stone table seemed so interesting. The windows. I’d wait two minutes, or three, and ask again. “Shirt on, Dad?” “Not yet,” he said, again and again, as we sat and watched the now calm, dripping tree branches outside. “Not yet.”