My dad died in July of 2008. It’s still really weird to say that. I’ve been thinking about him a lot, lately, and I haven’t yet told the story about the first time he died, which was a few years before I was born.
Except he wasn’t really dead… just… the whole town thought he was. It’s like a sitcom episode.
In three days’ time, my father will have been dead for a year. I have a hard time believing that.
Sometimes, it feels as if he’s been gone forever. Other times, I hang up the phone mid-dial, when I remember that he won’t be there to answer whatever question I wanted to ask him – usually about World War II.
Instead, I will publish just this one – which my mother has given to me to keep, as it seems to have just a little bit of everything in it. It’s very strange to read my father’s words while he was courting my mother (while my mother was courting somebody else – gasp…!); he sure was a tease – I can just hear his voice when I read this.
Anyhoo… I’ve kept the syntax the way he wrote it – some sentences may need to be read twice to get the proper gist – but I’ve taken the liberty of breaking things up into paragraphs. I guess paper was at a premium, and he didn’t want to waste it.
He was training in England when he wrote this.
July 19, 1944
#1 C.O.R.V. C.A.O.S.
Dear Teacher –
I received your letter and pictures to-night so here goes for a start at least. I don’t know when I’ll finish this.
Say how do you manage those pictures anyway? That ‘close up’ of you alone looks like Dorothy Lamour. They were all very good and Thanks a million for sending them. Now I’ll have something to spend my spare moments at gazing.
There was a buzz bomb went over a few minutes ago and of all the jobs I had to doing. By the time I realized what it was and got outside it had gone past.
I thought it was a squadron of our own planes until it was right above us – one of the fellows here has had his camera ready for a couple of weeks intending to get a picture of one but they seem to be too fast.
They make a terrific noise and fly very low and fast. It is only a few seconds from the time you first hear them until they are gone out of hearing and at night look like a ball of fire in the sky.
This place seems to be charmed or something. There has been any number of them went over but none have taken a notion to stop here yet. The closest were a mile or so away and just shake the windows and doors.
Well I wouldn’t mind if I could get a couple of weeks leave on the Island now. I can imagine the nice weather you would be having there. I am kind of disgusted with the weather over here. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in the winter and summer.
We had a few weeks nice weather the last of March and since it has been raining about three parts of the time. The fogs are beginning to start now & also the blackouts again.
I wouldn’t mind so much but through what nice weather there was we weren’t allowed any leave and by the time this course is over the fog will be so thick we’ll have to carry a shovel with us to make a way for us. Of course that shovel would be handy to have along for the B.S. too wouldn’t it?
This is a sort of gloomy letter I guess it’s the army blues.
I hear they are going to give the 7 day leaves soon (I hope. I have 16 days coming now). They have already lifted the ban on train travel & the 20 mile limit. Before we had to ride on the buses or hitchhike as the trains were supposed to be reserved for the evacuees. I guess all the small towns are filled with them now.
Bill (Ahem…* Sorry to interrupt: Bill is my mother’s brother)thinks England is O’K. eh? To tell the truth I like it a lot better than Canada too as far as army life goes. I’d sooner be in Canada just for the sake of being in my own country though.
The stuff isn’t rationed as much now as it was. We can get most of the things you can in Canada but only in small amounts and they use you more like a human than an animal.
With the odd bomb around and France not far away you’d be surprised the difference it makes to the N.C.O.’s & officers. There are very few A.W.L’s here. Fellows that were always away in Canada never think of going loose here.
For one thing there really isn’t anything to go on the loose for like Canada. No means of travel and no place to go or stay or eat if you did go.
Say I hope you don’t get tired of reading this monotonous thing supposed to be a letter and throw it away before you finish.
I had a letter from Edith, my sister-in-law last week. You should see some of the queer English expressions but I’m getting used to them. I suppose if I’m over here another year I’ll be completely “Limetized”. There is a Limey camp right near us and we see quite a few of them often.
Did you know Jack MacMillan from Cockburn Island? I met him in the canteen last week. He is here on an A.F.V. course. I had quite a chat with him. It almost seemed like going home.
Well I haven’t been out of camp for a month now. I think I’ll go on a “bender” at the wet canteen and then settle down for the duration of the course and get ready for trade test Bay. It is only 4 weeks away now. It’s nearly three months since I came here and it only seems about three weeks.
By the way don’t let Eiro tickle you too much (I HOPE). It makes me nervous and I’d hate to have to tell the instructor some day what is wrong with me. ha. ha.
Let me know how your pictures of you and Helen and you and Helen and you and you and Helen, turned out eh? If I were you I would move my shorts around and get all sunburned the same. That would feel too much like shaving only one side of your face (Of course I’m not you though).
How are you and the cows getting along in the mornings?
Well I guess I’ll close as there isn’t anything else I can think of. In fact there was nothing to write about in the first place: Write soon & long.
I’m getting so I can almost start an argument with myself eh?
A Doctor in Sequatchie Valley in Tennessee was called to examine the young wife of an elderly, deaf mountaineer. “Your wife is pregnant” he told her husband.
Mountaineer, hand behind his ear, queried, “eh”?
The doctor shouted, “I said your wife is pregnant.”
Finally the doctor screamed, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”
The man walked to the edge of the porch, spat out a mouthful of tobacco juice, and drawled, “I ain’t a bit surprised. She’s had every opportunity.”
Excuse the writing. It is slightly worse than usual as there is a poker game going on, on the next bunk & every once in awhile somebody just has to step back & shake my bunk.
I would dearly love to know what “job” it was that my dad was doing when that buzz bomb went over. I don’t know if he started writing the next sentence without realizing he hadn’t finished the last, or if it was something a little embarrassing and he didn’t want to say. Perhaps, he was in the latrine…?
My mother still remembers writing to him about that sunburn she got, from laying for too long in one position. And how her father used to give the girls holy hell for going out in public wearing shorts. He thought it was shameful.
And I guess one might have to be a man to figure out how shaving one side of your face might feel the same… does shaving hurt like sunburn?! I wanna know.
Ky’s finally sleeping again, and is back to school for her morning classes, which is good. I’m assured by the school that she’ll manage to get those credits without a problem – music class, which is hardly surprising (the principal tells me she’d have passed that one based on her talent, never mind that she doesn’t bother with any assignments – I don’t know whether to be proud or pissed off), and geography. Now, that surprises me.
Two credits is better than no credits, though, I guess, isn’t it? I’ll try to be proud.
My own sleeping is not happening again, now. I’m a little concerned about my job. I’m getting there, but it’s difficult. Luckily, I don’t have to drive to get there, so no lives are in danger – unless I blow the place up, but there are safeguards in place against idiots, so maybe that’s not such a big worry…
I need to finish the latest novel. That’s that “hard” one I mentioned a while back. It’s still got a lot of the same elements that the sitcom had in it, but the entire pilot plot has pretty much disappeared, along with a character or two. I’ve kept the bare bones of what would have been the first season. I tried to change the main characters’ names, but they just will not be renamed. All I’ve managed to do is steal away their last names completely.
I had a lot of false starts trying to pick this project back up again. There was a time that I ate, slept and breathed it. That turned into boozing and smoking it, and I think I just wanted it to go away. Working on it kept bringing up nasty, bad thoughts that I didn’t want to think.
I lamented about this to Ky one day, and she surprised me by telling me I should be getting it done and over with. When I told her I didn’t want to listen/watch/write my main characters anymore, she rolled her eyes.
I told her I’d noticed she wore the one and only promotional t-shirt made for the project all the time, even though she’d once told me she was glad it was dead in the water so what’s up with that, huh?! And then, she made me laugh by paraphrasing Holden McNeil:“They’re fictional characters, Mom. Fictional characters. Am I getting through to you at all…?”
So I’m working on it. And it gets a little easier (and a little closer to done) every time I sit down to it.
My blog is turning back into a place to air my grievances, and although that’s part of what it’s for, I really want to get back to telling the Ruby stories (there’s a ton of them), and The Father Chronicles (there’s a ton of those left, too).
And I talked to my Mom today, and she’s feeling a little lost and lonely without my Dad. She said it’s gotten worse, lately, and she’s been rereading his letters from World War II. At first, they made things worse, but now she finds them a comfort and is glad she saved them…
Wait a minute…. “You have letters from Dad during the War…?”
All his letters…?”
Wow. I didn’t know this….
“Can I read them…?”
“Ummmm…… can I blog them…?”
So as soon as I can get myself down to Teeny-Tiny Town, I will have a new category here: Dear Maude…
Another worry is my imminent move. Far, far away.
I’m not certain how imminent it is, now, considering new and ugly turns of events of legal and financial persuasions that may (shudder) bankrupt me (not if I can possibly avoid it), but I will be moving to Vancouver and will be there for at least a year, once I manage it.
I’m going to be going back to school (yes, again), in an accelerated screenwriting program at the Vancouver Film School. I chose this program, because a Canadian school somehow seems more “doable” than trying to get into one in the States – although I’d rather be in the States. I have more friends there. 🙂
It’s going to cost me a mint, though. I don’t know where the money’s going to come from, yet, but then again, I bought the Prissy-Van with money I didn’t have yet, and so far, so good, she’s still mine. I’ll manage this. Somehow. Gulp…*
I didn’t think I’d be able to convince Kyla to go with me, so was working out an alternative arrangement for her, but when I told her about it (actually, I let it slip in a moment of upset over all this stress), she surprised hell out of me by telling me she would love a change of scenery.
I found this bear claw in a box full of little trinkets and treasures in my father’s closet nearly a year ago. It was in the same box with his pocket watch, along with some other neat stuff.
This was during my Walk-About days, when I would hoof it all the way across town once a week, to see my parents at The Old-Age Home, have a visit, a meal and a story, and then hoof it all the way back. I had a tight ass, then, dammit. Not even a year ago. Man, things change fast.
2. Favorite late night snack?
— Mashed potatoes. And beer.
3. Do you own a gun?
4. What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks or other specialty coffee shop?
— Here in Canuckia, it’s Tim’s, and it’s either a black coffee, or an English Toffee something-or-other.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
— Not anymore.
6. What do you think of hot dogs?
— I try not to think of them, or it puts me off them. Have eaten them. Will most likely eat them again.
7. Favorite Christmas song?
— Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
— I wish I had the nerve to say beer. It’s coffee, though.
9. Can you do push-ups?
— I can… but will I? HA!
10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
— It’s a toss-up between my Grandmother’s little silver “broach-watch” thingy, or my father’s wristwatch. I wear neither of them, though. Or any other jewelry of any other kind, for that matter.
13. What’s one trait that you hate about yourself?
— I procrastinate. A lot. I probably stole this meme weeks ago.
14. The last disease you contracted?
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.
— I can’t possibly be expected to untangle THREE of them considering I might have A.D.D.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
— Coffee, coffee and beer. Although ‘regular’ on beer has become more ‘few and far between’. And that’s a shame, if ever there was one.
17. Current worry right now?
— None. I refuse.
18. Current hate right now?
— See above.
19. Favorite place to be?
— I haven’t been ANYPLACE, yet. I’ll have to do something about that.
20. How did you ring in the New Year?
— I seriously cannot remember.
21. Like to travel?
— I hope so.
22. Name three people who will complete Sunday Stealing this week:
23. Do you own slippers?
— Yes, I do.
24. What color shirt are you wearing?
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
— Haven’t the foggiest. Probably not.
26. Can you whistle?
— Can so.
27. Favorite singer/band?
— Impossible to attempt to decide.
28. Could you ever make it 39 days on the show Survivor?
— I’ll betcha I could. But what the hell for?!
29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
— I don’t. The Idiot Child does though. And in the sauna. And in the “bathroom”. And in her sleep sometimes.
30. Favorite girl’s names?
31. Favorite boy’s names?
— Hmmmmm…. Matthew for my father, maybe?
32. What’s in your pocket right now?
— Nothing right now, but a few seconds ago there was a hand in there!
33. Last thing that made you laugh?
— How fast “Hand in My Pocket” started playing in my head after I typed the above answer.
34. Like your job?
— I do.
36. Do you love where you live?
— If you mean my apartment – yes. If you mean this town – not like I once did.
37. How many TVs do you have in your house?
38. Who is your loudest friend?
— “Real Life” friends – The Fly-Girl. “Imaginary Friends”, as my mom calls anybody I know online, I haven’t a clue yet. But it’s probably Suzi, now that Sheikh is gone… 😀 / 🙁
No, really, let’s compare, shall we? If only to piss off my daughter – who tells me she’ll kill me if I post this, but then laughs out loud when she looks at this photo of herself, so I think I’m all good…
Of course, my Dad found out. He always found out everything I was up to, and he always gave me a chance to own up to it, relating the dirty deed to me in a manner designed to make me believe he really didn’t know who had done it. You know, in case I wanted to get it off my chest. Which I never did. Even though *I* knew that he knew…. nope. Wouldn’t admit to it. Never.
Like that time when I was five, and the kids up the street and I set fire to the empty field behind my house. Somehow we managed to stomp it out before it got away from us, and we all went home for supper, absolutely certain we were in the clear.
And then, my Dad read the “Police Report” out of the newspaper (yeah, the one that had been printed before we found the matches, but I was five and that was beyond my scope) out loud….
“…The POLICE are VERY worried about the three children, 2 boys and a little girl, who were playing with matches in the long grass, today. They are VERY worried that these three children don’t know any better and could have been BURNED TO DEATH, because they don’t seem to understand that fires can very quickly get OUT OF CONTROL and BURN CHILDREN TO DEATH before their parents can get to them. ESPECIALLY if their parents believe their children SHOULD KNOW BETTER. The POLICE hope these three children, 2 boys and a little girl, have LEARNED THEIR LESSON, and NEVER DO SUCH A STUPID THING AGAIN…”
And he turned to me and gave me that chance to own up: “Do you know who those three children are…?”
“Well what do you think of what those three children did …?”
Me: “I think they’re very lucky they didn’t get caught and go to jail.”
Right up into my teens, I would stubbornly stick to the “Wasn’t Me” defense, even when handed unequivocal evidence that it was so me.
Like that time when I was 16, and was accused of stealing a magnum of Champagne out of the wine-cellar, drinking it, and hiding the empty bottle under my bed, I said, “Wasn’t me.” Even though the evidence was found under my bed… with the date of the crime etched on the label… along with the signatures of myself and the friends I passed it back and forth with.
But about that tree….
When I was growing up, we spent almost the entire summer on the boat. We traveled all over the Great Lakes on one boat or another – at first, sleeping on the boat, which was cool, but then my parents built their camp on Cockburn Island (That’s pronounced “Co-Burn”, remember. Suzi, stop laughing.).
By the way, a “camp” is what Northern Ontarians call “The Cottage” – for those of you who might picture tents, or a lumber camp. The “camp” is now owned by my sister Tootie and her family, and it’s a bona-fide second home. It ain’t “camping” by any stretch of the imagination.
It was a slow build, though. The first year, we lived in the woodshed (huge by woodshed standards) while the main house was being built. We had an outhouse, kerosene lamps, and a woodstove. The refrigerator was a propane unit, and my Dad built a pump system for the water that pulled it from a cream can under the sink with the push of a button. He didn’t think my mom should have to lift a pail to the sink. He was a nice guy, my Dad.
Everybody on Cockburn drove old beat-up trucks and cars. When you bought a vehicle for “The Camp”, you either had it ferried over on a barge in the summer, or drove it across the ice in the winter. These old things could live forever over there, it seemed. Didn’t need a safety, either, although that was still illegal, but since nobody was gonna check…
And it was on Cockburn Island that everybody learned to drive. The unspoken rule seemed to state that once you hit the age of fourteen, you could drive on Cockburn. Everybody did it. That was my argument to my parents, anyway, when they wouldn’t let me drive over there. Their return argument was… well… inarguable: “Well, YOU’RE not gonna.”
But I was determined to be like everybody else and drive, dammit.
So, I went to the camp across the road and lamented to the Neighbour-Lady all my woes. Neighbour-Lady was a nice gal. She always had her long blonde hair wrapped around her head with pins in the mornings after she washed it, because she didn’t like the natural curl it had. She always wore green eyeshadow. And she always had a beer open.
Neighbour-Lady had cancer, but wouldn’t take treatment. Much of the time, she was “tight”, as my mom would say – not “falling down drunk”, but she generally had a buzz on. I guess it was one way to deal with cancer.
Anyway, I was over there complaining to Neighbour-Lady, and smoking her cigarettes. She wouldn’t give me a beer, but she gave me cigarettes all the time. And that day, she solved my “can’t drive” problem for me, by loaning me a car.
Now, to this day, everybody in my family thinks I stole that car. I did not. Neighbour-Lady loaned me that car. Never mind that the car did not belong to her. Or that I didn’t have a license. Or parental permission to drive. She handed me the keys and said, “Take it. Don’t smash it up.”
I was half-way up the road while she was still popping open her next beer.
Ahh…. the freedom! I drove up the long side road and turned right on the “main” road that would take me down to the Government Dock. There was a guy on the Island that summer, that I had a crush on. On the Mainland, this guy ran in a different circle, and wouldn’t give me the time of day, but on Cockburn he would talk to me. Probably because there weren’t many teenagers on the Island at a time. And I was there. So…
I decided to go to the dock, because he would likely be swimming there. I had to sort of “happen to run into him”, of course, so he wouldn’t know I had that crush, you see, or I would have gone to his camp to find out where he was.
As I came up the road, it was fairly obvious that the dock was deserted, so I decided to make a left, and go to the other side of the Island to the sand beach. Maybe he’d be there. And I could drive there, because I had a car. I was cool.
I was so cool that I could light a cigarette while negotiating a left turn, having never driven a car before, and not end up in the ditch.
It worked out okay, though, because the ditch was adjacent to a government building where large logging machines and road-maintenance equipment was stored. I found a guy with a grader that yanked me out of the ditch, and promised not to tell anybody. Oddly, I don’t think he did, either, because no one has ever brought the ditch portion of this story up to me.
So, on the road again, I re-lit my smoke without incident, and drove to the beach. And, oh joy! My crush was there! With his entire family and then some.
We swam for a bit. Talked for a bit. And then I tried to convince him to let me drive him back home. Because I had a car. I was cool.
But he would not get in that car. I think his reasons included the phrase, “death wish”, and the fact that he didn’t have one.
I’m not sure how I finally convinced him, but he did reluctantly agree to a lift. Apparently, it was just so he could wax derisive of my driving skills, though, because he wouldn’t stop wincing, advising, and clinging to the dashboard.
I finally got tired of the exaggerated terror he was exuding and decided I’d show him what scared was, and floored it. Of course, I chose to do such a thing while going up a steep hill, forgetting about the curve in the road on the other side of it.
For the record, I missed the tree the car was trying to hit. But I over-corrected, and hit a tree on the other side of the road, dead on. Very hard. Poor tree.
And poor car! The front end was smushed in. The driver’s door wouldn’t open. I still have a faded scar on one elbow – the only injury sustained in the accident – unless you count the car. Or the tree. And I’m sure my crush didn’t speak to me for years after that. He probably felt bad, because it was his fault I hit that tree. I mean, if he hadn’t been putting down my driving in the first place…
And what are the chances that the first vehicle to drive up that lonely road to happen upon us would be my father’s truck…?
Pretty good, as it turns out. He didn’t speak to me for a while, either.
When I turned 16, though, the first thing Dad did, was register me in Driver’s Ed. I passed, and got my license. And not once would my father loan me his car – not even when I was grown and on my own, and had a perfect driving record.
Except for the tree incident.
Which happened on Cockburn.
And what happens on Cockburn is supposed to stay on Cockburn, dammit!
But still my Dad always said no. Followed by, “Remember that tree you hit on Cockburn…?”
It’s the only time I couldn’t get the nerve up to try “Wasn’t me.”
So, the Mini-Van Saga is finally over…. and it turned out to be a trilogy, at that. I was originally going to be leasing The Fly-Mobile, so-named because it was The Fly-Girl’s ride, and she wanted to get rid of it.
I liked that mini-van. Turns out, the Fly-Girl did, too, and decided to keep it after all, even though she had to pay a bzillion dollars to get it registered in the U.S. after she got married and jumped The Ditch (Traitor!).
I got over it, though, when Fluffy (so-named by Kyla, because he’s, well, fluffy – 🙂 ), the Fly-Girl’s partner-in-car-sharking, found me another mini-van just like the Fly-Mobile, except fully powered and, um… purple. Which prompted Ky to name it The Grape-Mobile. And that prompted me to like it. I like pretty much anything provided it has a cool, freaky, and/or plain ol’ weird moniker.
And then the Grape-Mobile kakked on the operating table during the certification. And I do mean kakked. It barfed out every kind of fluid running through its veins, through all orifices, including new and bewildering orifices that no vehicle should have. So Fluffy shot it. Ky was pissed.
But, Fluffy turns out to be a Genie of sorts, and magicked us up a pristine (albeit older) one-ownered as-yet-un-named mini-van of the Chevy Lumina APV variety, that positively beamed throughout its certification, and Ky loves him again. The two cases of soda, three bags of potato chips, and two large jars of pickles he soothed her with may have had a part in the forgiveness, mind you.
The Pristine Un-Named was delivered to me Friday evening, whereupon, I immediately drove it the three blocks to Ruby’s house to show off. And I drove it the six-ish blocks to the J.O.B. yesterday, and then had to return to the mall from half-way home, having forgot it in the parking lot when my shift was over. Having wheels will take some getting used to…
Anyway… it was decided last evening, now that we have transportation, that we should pick up Ky’s doggish-type companion from her father’s place and get us to a too-far-to-walk-a-dog hiking trail with the camera. I put on a pair of sneakers for the first time in what feels like forever, and off we went.
During said Walk-About, I took the above photo, and noticed when I uploaded it, that there seemed to be a face peering out at me. This face looks eerily like my daughter, until it’s zoomed-in on, whereupon it just turns creepy.
Methinks, Shrinky may have sent a faerie over from the UK. She’s always catching them with her camera. I hope she doesn’t do it again, though, because it gives me the heebie-jeebies.
This afternoon, we will be traveling to Teeny-Tiny Town to visit my Mom, and bring some flowers to the cemetery for my Dad. We will be listening closely for the sound of him rolling over in his grave at the thought of me owning a vehicle. His response to my news, months ago, that I was planning this lease was: “God help the trees on the side of the road.”
From the time I moved out on my own, right up until my parents moved into the first retirement home, I received a unique gift from them at the end of every summer: enough vacuum-sealed fillets of whitefish to last until the next delivery a year later. 22 annual deliveries, by my calculation. That’s a lotta fish.
My dad raised kids, and vegetable gardens, and sunflowers, and honeybees. Sometimes he raised the roof. He could raise hell, too, when he wanted to.
He wasn’t the kind of guy who said “I love you.” I used to wonder how he proposed to my mother, without saying those three little words, because I’d never heard him utter them, not to her, nor to any of us kids, nor to my daughter. When we said “I love you,” to him, he would reply, “Okay. Goodbye, then,” or, “Here, I’ll get Maude (my mother) on the phone.” He never said it, but we always knew, mind you.
He’s been in and out of hospital for several years, now. The first time that we all knew he was dying, and all the kids came home, I was sitting beside his bed with Un-Brother Ken. Dad was all talked out for the time being, and we sat there in silence for a long time, when he suddenly said, out of the blue, “I’m not afraid.”
I don’t know if he was talking to me, or my brother, or maybe it was himself. After a bit, Ken answered him, saying something to the effect of that being a good thing, then. I couldn’t say anything, myself. I was certain it was my last visit with him, but glad, nonetheless, that he was okay with… It. That day, when I left the hospital, I kissed my dad goodbye, and said, “I love you.”
“Okay – are you taking the bus home?” was how he replied. I think he meant “I love you,” though.
And he got better.
Several hospital incarcerations later, as my mother kissed him goodbye, she said “I love you.” I’d never heard her say that to him before, although she says it to me all the time. I remember thinking then that maybe my mom knew she would never get another chance to say it to him.
And he didn’t hear her – his hearing aids were in the bedside table. So, when she was halfway to the door, he called, “What was that…?” And my mom giggled a little, and called back a little louder, “I just said ‘I love you.'”
“What’s that? I can’t hear you.”
And so, from the doorway, laughing, my mother yelled at him.
“I said, ‘I LOVE YOU!'”
And they both laughed. And then he said it back. Out loud. I heard him. And I knew I’d never see him alive again.
But he got better.
The next time he was dying in hospital, I kissed him goodbye, and said “I love you,” as usual.
And he squeezed my hand, kissed me back, and said, “I love you, too.” Out loud. I heard him. And I knew I’d never hear that again, but that was okay, because he’d actually said what I’d always known anyway, and I knew that he knew that he’d never see me again, and that’s why he said it, finally, just in case I was wondering, maybe…
But he got better.
We’ve had many more chances to talk since then, and we’ve made the most of it. I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful bloggable stories of his life, and those that haven’t been told here yet, will be in future, I promise that. My dad was a great storyteller.
We talked, too, of what it was like to be near the end. He was pleased with his life. He’d done almost everything he’d wanted to do (“…and some things I didn’t know I wanted to do, but I did them anyway,”), and he didn’t have any regrets that he could think of.
I’m comforted to know that near the end of things, my dad was able to look back on it all, and feel content that he’d had a full life. And that he wasn’t afraid. But I think it’s also important to remember that from his standpoint, “It sure went fast.” I imagine, if we all live to be 87, we’ll feel the same. So, if we want to do something, we’d better get at it. I would hate to look back and wish for things to be different.
The last time I saw him, in a different hospital, eating a piece of pie, with a non-cooperative, trembling hand, I realized he might never get any more pie. He wasn’t supposed to have this piece of pie, but there comes a time when restrictive diets just don’t matter anymore, do they?
The best meals for my dad always ended with a piece of pie, something he would complain about to my mother, if she didn’t provide it. He was known to say to company around the dinner table, “Gee, I’m awful glad you’ve come for supper. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have got any pie.”
And here he was, eating what might be the last piece of pie in his nearly 88 years, and his damned hand couldn’t catch it on the spoon. So I tried to help, as best I could, guiding his hand to scoop it up, and he said what I was certain would be his final words to me, knowing, I imagine, that we would never get the chance to speak again.
“Hey, you. Quit tryin’ to steal my pie.”
As last words go, they were good ones – if you knew my dad.
But he got better. Sort of. He said many more things to me, but right now, I can’t remember any of them.
He had a few more set backs, but he did get out of hospital, and he did get more pie. He never quite got back up to himself again, though.
And this morning, at 5:15, My Brother the Trespasser called to tell me he’d gone in his sleep. I imagine his last words would have been to my mother: “Goodnight, then…”
If I could have been there when Dad breathed his last, I like to think I’d have had the nerve to say, as my goodbye to him, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” It would have been a way to let him know I appreciated everything he’d done for me over the years – which was a helluva lot. More than I deserved.
It would have made him laugh, too, even though he’d never seen the Hitchhiker movie, nor would he have read the book, or ever even heard of Douglas Adams. But he’d have remembered all that whitefish, and he would have laughed, I know. And to go out laughing would have been just his style.
Instead, he made me laugh, with “Quit tryin’ to steal my pie.”
I think, though, that what he meant was, “I love you.”
I’m feeling a little raw, lately. There are a lot of changes being thrust upon me, and, as you all well know, I don’t deal with change ummm… much.
I’m not having any luck becoming accustomed to the schedule at the new J.O.B., which kind of throws everything else out of whack as far as my family life is concerned. As well, my kid is about to graduate from… what should I call it…? Pre-high-school…? Grade 8, anyway. And another “landmark of Motherhood” being reached is difficult for me.
It’s an exciting time for her, though, because the graduation process is filled with trips, and camping, and dinners, and formal gowns, and what-all and what-not and God help me if any more gets added, because it all costs a frightening amount.
That makes it the “wrong” kind of excitement for me, because the J.O.B. wage is crap, and the schedule does not allow for a supplemental part-time J.O.B. (I never know from one week to the next what my shifts are). My small and hard-fought-for nest egg has been punctured in several places long before I’ve built it back up to where it should be, and the funds are leaking out in an alarming manner.
Other, scarier things loom ahead. The building I live in, which has been for sale for well over a decade, has finally got a serious offer. Good for Ruby – she’ll finally be quit of the huge headache the maintenance on the place has become for her.
Not so good news for me and the kid, as, rumour has it, the new owner wants to gut the interior and remodel, and plans on giving all the tenants notice. I don’t have a move built into the budget anymore, unfortunately, so I’m torn between hoping Ruby gets it sold, for her sake, and praying the guy changes his mind, for mine. Time will tell, I guess, and I’m trying to take my mother’s old saying to heart: “It’ll all work out.”
And I’m about to add another bill to the mess with the acquisition of The FlyMobile, which has now become a necessity if I ever want to see my parents.
They have moved back to Teeny-Tiny Town, where I was born and raised, the place they spent the first 50 years of their married life, to a facility that offers my father the 24-hour care he now requires, and allows them to stay together.
This was a good move for my mom and dad: they know everybody there already, having worked with them, and lived near them, and socialized with them since 1947. It’s also good because my sister,”Tootie”, is a nurse in the hospital that is housed in the same structure. She can see them everyday, without having to drive an hour each way and still manage the swing shift.
It kind of sucks for me and Ky, though, unless I can handle the payments on the minivan, which start in July. Money’s easy to get, though, right? It’ll all work out. Somehow. I hope.
Having a vehicle will allow us to visit once a week, like we’re used to doing. I’ll just have to spend more time on the stepper, which is currently gathering dust in my closet, to make up for the lack of weekly Walk-About to the other side of town and back. Now that I have an ass, I don’t want it to get flabby, do I?
We’ve driven down twice now, thanks to the generosity of The Fly-Girl, who has me drop her off across “the ditch” in Michigan and hands me the keys. “I’ve filled up the tank,” says she. “Go visit your mom and dad.” What would I do without her?
The Fly-Mobile is fair on gas, thankfully, and if the prices ever drop, I should be okay, assuming there are no more surprise grad fees dropped on me that I’ll have to suck out of the “transportation” category of the budget.
But, we’re carrying on with the carrying on… getting ready for Ky’s grad…. arguing over which photo to pick from the proofs…. pretending there’s nothing but happy, happy on the horizon, because what else can we do, really?
When, really, graduation for Ky may be a bust… Dad had a heart attack on Friday, and another on Sunday morning. He’s wiped on morphine and often confused, but for the most part, he’s holding his own. We’ve been down this road before….
Un-Brother Ken has come home from Alberta, and Big Sis will come up from Southern Ontario after her own graduation on Wednesday. We keep our fingers crossed, but our hearts are in our throats. There’s that “no resuscitation” order as per Dad’s wishes, after all. Again, good for him – it’s the way he wants it to play out – but I can’t help but feel selfish and wish they’d ignore/forget about/pretend they don’t see the yellow wristband on his arm, and just fix him, dammit!