Monday, February 13, 2017

French fries and daffodils

Lori's dad turned 82 Thursday but yesterday was the first day we could visit. He is in a well-maintained assisted living facility about two hours away. We arrived later than hoped and Lori's dad was in the dining area, back to us, reading a newspaper while the twenty or so others slowly and silently, some needing assistance, finished their dinners.

"Hi Dad, it's Lori and John," Lori said as she leaned over him from behind with a hug. With shaky hands he set the paper down and greeted us with cheer. I asked him if he had watched the Super Bowl—yes, but had fallen asleep before the end. Without the Steelers in it, I asked who he rooted for, New England or Atlanta? Atlanta. Lori handed him the double order of Burger King french fries she had brought, a favorite, along with a potted daffodil, it's blooms timed for his birthday four days ago.

After the introductions and gifts, he turned quiet. Not too long ago, during past visits, Lori would ask her dad about growing up on the farm in Indiana, PA, or his time in Korea, or how he met mom. Yesterday he seemed content to turn back to his newspaper.

Driving away, Lori cried. We want to do what's right, you know? Honor a father on—or near—his birthday. Maybe cheer him up with flowers and french fries. Did we cheer him up? Does he remember it?

Canadian Geese
Then we turned to the real topic: There are still miles ahead for us but there is enough road behind to know how quickly it will go. We won't be like that, right? Difficulty eating, going to the bathroom. We'll end it before getting to that place, we tell ourselves unconvincingly.

We were quiet for a moment then Lori pulled out her iPhone and clicked on the live stream of our local NPR station's Sunday evening programming: The Big Broadcast. Last night it was another episode of Johnny Dollar, Our Miss Brooks, and Gunsmoke. We drove on.

Living in the present. It's hard work.

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