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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Getting Him

The phone rings several times, and Dave picks up.

"Everything all right?" he asks.

"Oh, yeah," I reply.  "Couldn't be better."

"Where are you?"

"Just outside."

I pull the car in front of the house.  I see my husband standing in the doorway of our home with a cell phone in his hand.  I wave.  Dad is right there in the seat next to me.  I give him a gentle slap across his belly and point to the porch.

"Look.  It's David."

"David who?"

"Oh, aren't you something?"

My father laughs quietly.  I can tell that he thinks he's enormously clever.

"Did you hear that, honey?  'David Who,' he said."

"I heard it.  He's joking."

"No, he isn't," I insist.  "This guy doesn't give a shit about you or anybody else."

"That's not true," my husband maintains.  "Gene loves me."

"You're living in a fantasy world," I tell him.

Clearly, my dad is quite pleased with his clever comment.  He is still chuckling. But David is right.  The old man is terribly fond of him.  He makes sure to extend his hand whenever they meet.  Like there's something very important going on between them.  Even if he's just stopping by to pick up the laundry.

"Your skin is soft, like a lady's," my husband suggests whenever they shake hands.

This has been a running joke for as long as I can remember.  Gene Dall's feminine side.  It's hilarious.  Especially since my father was always such a bad ass and now, he's a pussycat.

"I'm not kidding," David adds.  "You have very womanly hands.  It's so strange."

My father grins.  "Thank you," he replies.

I'm not sure if Daddy gets the joke or not.  I don't think so.  He doesn't get most jokes anymore.  They're happening too quickly, and he is not that fast.  But he recognizes a smile and the warmth in someone's voice.  That's what keeps him connected to situations.

"Listen, I'm gonna need you to slide that blue rug out of the hallway.  I don't want him to fall."

"Roger that," Dave assures me.  "Bring him in."

I hang up and look over at my passenger.  He is messing with the knobs and dials on the dashboard of the car.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

"Trying to turn on some music."  He gently adjusts the air-conditioning vents.

"I just shut the radio off.  We're going in the house now."

"Oh," he pauses.  "I thought we were taking a ride."

"We did.  But now, we're here."

I enjoy a nice long breath, so he can catch up in his mind.  I unfasten his seat belt.  He attempts to follow the length of strap to its origin, along the bottom outside of the cushion.  Years ago, he cut the seat belts right out of his own car with a knife.  He had no use for them, and they got in the way.  Safety was never an issue.

"You need to stay right where you are.  Do you understand?"   I wait for some acknowledgement, and when I realize I'm not going to get it, I continue.  "I'm gonna come around to that side and open your door."

"Like a chauffeur."

"That's right.  You're the boss.  So tell me, are you hungry?"  Of course, he is.

"Sure."

"Then, let's go have some lunch."

"Whatever you say."

That's what he always told my mother.  Whatever you say, as he went out the door and disappeared.  He never meant to do what she said.  He didn't even try.  He only wanted her to be quiet.  To get off his back so he could take care of business. Maybe enjoy a little freedom from the rules.  That woman had so many rules.

You know what's funny?  I suppose my dad had his own rule:  Ignore her rules.  Okay, maybe it's not really funny.  Just ironic.  And it doesn't seem like that big a deal now, the way he used to be.  Perhaps because that time is behind us.  And he is old and gentle.  But I know it meant something then.  It was important to her.

"Goddamn it, Gene.  Pick up your feet!  You're gonna fall."

I can still hear her yelling at him.

I run around behind the car and appear at his door.  I pull on my father's pant leg to encourage his right foot to the ground.  He follows with the left and stands up.  I grab his hand.  He shuffles along toward the house, as he's always done.  Two hundred and thirty pounds of elderly guy, moving super slow.

He will not lift his feet, and he's not gonna watch where he's going.  Big Mare swore that's how it happened.  That he tripped on the curb, bending over to pick up a nickel or an empty soda can.  It's entirely possible.  But we'll never know because he doesn't remember.  Somebody just found him laying on the sidewalk with his head split open.

Up three stairs and onto the porch.  Perhaps he is concentrating this time.

"You okay, chief?"

"Sure," he says.

David is waiting in the hallway and as my dad proceeds into the house, he trips.  He rests his weight briefly against my husband, and I grab his coat.

"Goddamn it, Gene!" I find myself scolding him.  I sound exactly like my mother.

He is laughing.

"You got him?" I ask Dave.

"Yeah.  I got him."

And we go inside.

2 comments:

  1. Your dad is adorable. And you look just like him. So much warmth in this piece.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jayne. It's a great feeling to create these lovely memories. I know they will serve me well.

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