First off, my apologies in advance. This may find itself as the beginning post in an ongoing series. We’re approaching some delicate days here in the next few months. I promise to throw some fun stuff in here, too. Anyway, thanks for listening!
On March 16, 2009 I told them that I didn’t want to do anything. I took a glass of orange juice and a new book out to the patio and got comfortable. Short of a few Diet Dr. Pepper breaks (and the subsequent bathroom visits) I didn’t leave that chair until dinnertime. He had asked me to come out to the woodshed and work on a project with him. I said I wanted to keep reading, but did go visit after awhile. He was working on a Morris chair. When I asked if I could get moved up the waiting list even though I wasn’t getting married anytime soon, he said as he had a million times, “of course, Margo. If that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll do.”
I’m not sure if we went for Chinese (please see previous statement) or had chicken on the grill that night, but I do know it ended as I finished the book and needed to give him the social security number test after I woke him up in his chair. He let Tom out, and then as he had a million times, he sat at the end of my bed and we talked for awhile. No matter how tired either one of us were, there was always enough energy to squeeze in pontifications in those last, precious minutes before I came back home.
The next morning mom woke me up. She made a hot chocolate for me and went to get pretty. I did the same. While he waited for me to get out of the bathroom, he practiced his mandolin. What do you want to hear, Margo? How about Crippled Creak, Padre? Perfect!
I don’t need a photograph to remind me he was wearing a green shirt and the pants with a lot of pockets and no shape. I had on a white t-shirt and jeans. Mom was in a pink and black sweater set and black pants. We had a little time to kill, so we stopped at Steve and Tiffany’s to say goodbye and to take a photograph. How did we not take any pictures?? That’s what we had done a million times before. Miss the good photo opportunities and document the anxiety and sadness of the immanent parting of ways.
On the way to the airport, we stopped at the Red Robin at La Cantera. He was so proud of himself because he ordered a burger with BBQ sauce and pineapple. We also had onion rings and raspberry lemonades. We sat outside since I was coming back to Milwaukee, but it was pretty cold. As we had a million times before, we pulled up to the San Antonio airport and I got out to get in line. But for the first time, I told them a Morris drop-off was fine. I didn’t need him to park the car and come inside so we could all cry.
Instead we cried at curbside. As he got my bag out, I gave mom a huge hug and a kiss and an “I love you.” Then I turned to him and did the same. And then we all did it again. As he got in the car, he said as he had a million times, “make me proud”. I yelled back, “I always do.” I watched them put on seatbelts, honk the horn and drive away. I took a couple deep breaths of San Antonio air, set my shoulders back, and made friends as I waited in the security line.
That was the last time I saw my dad alive and awake. I’d like to say if I would have realized the importance of these moments that would have paid more attention to the details of the day, but it sure looks like the minutia stuck with me anyway. I would pay a million times to have that day back again. To almost fall asleep and have him appear at the end of the bed to discuss the meaning of life tonight and a hamburger for lunch to look forward to tomorrow.
A friend is going to join me in a commemorative burger and onion rings tomorrow. The new most-important-man-in-my-life will be around in the evening to contemplate life like we have a million times over the past 6 months. All is not lost. But holy schmit, I sure miss you, Padre.