We used to go down to the local watering hole, order the early bird special while it was still early, and have a cocktail before dinner – which was a bargain by the time we ate at 5 p.m.
He had no sons, so I, his oldest daughter out of four, would hang out with him. He taught me guy stuff. How to change a tire, how to ride the John Deer tractor mower, and how to drink scotch. His terms of endearment for me were Bonehead and Safire. I in turn referred to him as Bones. He was tall, straight, and thin, and no matter what he wore, his cloths simply hung off his frame.
Back in the sixties when I was young, Dad, like most men of his era, was not the family disciplinarian. So after being chastised by my mother for the indiscretion of the day, which usually took place on Saturday mornings, he would make me a cup of hot chocolate, or a glass of Nestles Quick, depending on the season. He felt bad, and this was his way of saying, “I’m sorry.”
Dad was always one to respond positively to my dinner invites. You see, I was twenty something and these events ,while always pleasant, were quite experimental. Dinner might be tofu spinach lasagna but, despite the uncertainty of the menu, he always came, always ate, and always said how good it was.
I remember being sick with the flu, living out of town, going to the doctor and finally coming home to my old bed in my old room. Daddy crept into my room, with a bowl of hot beef broth, looked at me and said, “You’re home where you belong.”
Daddy’s birthday is July 13th. One year he decided on the morning of his birthday that he wanted a party. So, he told me early in the day that he wanted hot dogs on the grill, baked beans, potato salad and Heineken beer. Of course I made a party. There were cloth-covered tables, freshly picked centerpieces from the garden, and at least twenty guests – all friends and relatives.
I saw Daddy on Tuesday. “Hi Daddy,” I said. No response. His eyes were closed, mouth open. He doesn’t move, even when my sister pats him on the knee.
“Daddy, can you hear me?”
No response, no signs of recognition. But this is no different than yesterday, or the day before, or even the week before, or the year before.
Daddy is in a nursing home. He can’t speak, he can’t move. He eats pureed food, and spends his days being moved from his bed to his wheel chair.
If his eyes do open, I don’t know who is in there. Maybe they’re mostly closed because he knows that he’s trapped and can’t get out. And he knows he can’t utter a word.
So, I sit with Daddy, look at Daddy, hold his hand, and miss him more and more.
Marilynn S. Turner is an Associate Professor of English at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where she teaches writing.