On Tuesday, I took my mother and father on the usual weekly trek we make to the hospital, where he has his blood tested.
This time, my mother also had a doctor’s appointment and me and my dad found ourselves sitting alone in the vehicle for more than an hour, waiting.
Once the requisite discussion of the weather and the poor condition of the pavement in the parking lot had finished, he looked wistfully out the window and said, “You’ll take care of your mother, right?”
This wasn’t the normal tone with which he generally speaks to me, as it had a slightly deeper and more serious pitch.
Although he has been quite ill for some time, he never engaged in any conversations about circumstances after he might leave us. He often refers to himself as “half-dead,” but there was never any doubt that his “half-live” part was going to fight a battle to keep the upper hand.
Not sure if he had something more to say, I deflected with the response, “I don’t know, Dad. I have my hands full with one woman; two might kill me.”
He smiled and I don’t remember how we got there, but we ended up talking about why women put so much in their purses, then have to empty them out five times a day and, whatever they are looking for is always the last thing left. Oh, and why it takes a woman (my mother specifically) longer to pick between two tomatoes than to buy a house.
I did remind him, just the same, that a trip to the hardware store with him went best with an army cot so you could have a nap while he debated the merits of various screw shapes and sizes for every job he had to do. Tomatoe/tomato; screw/screwnail.
We laughed, admitted we would both go to our graves without the slightest clue of how our wives really thought and he tapped me on the shoulder and only half facetiously told me, “Your mom will be in good hands with you, I’m sure.” Just at that time we noticed her coming to the car and he said we better change the subject before we both were knocked up the side of the head.
The next day, my dad woke in a terrible state and within 24 hours had passed away.
Did he know something on Tuesday that he wasn’t telling me directly, but implying with his question?
In hindsight, I believe he was ready, that day, to give permission for the half-dead side of him to put the half-live side of him to rest.
But like the responsible husband and father that he was, he needed to be sure that things were going to be taken care of in his absence.
While I never answered him directly, I’m sure he knew the answer and now that I have spent the past four months primarily helping my dad pass from this life with dignity, my new primary focus will be helping my mom live hers the same way.
Graham Hookey writes about education and parenting (firstname.lastname@example.org).