Dear Dad

July 8, 2015

Dear Dad,

Mom said you called out my name today;  you needed help with your hearing aids and mine was the name that came to mind.  There have been times lately that you can’t remember my name or even that you have a daughter.  But today, it was my name you called.  Maybe it was because we laughed together at dinner last night – a small, inside joke we shared.  Whatever prompted you, I’m glad you called my name.

Why is it, Daddy, that we get along better now than we ever have?  Now that only a fraction of your brain is working? Now that your body is withering away and you’ve lost so much of what made you you?  Why is it now that we don’t bicker and argue about the smallest thing?  Are we finally learning to enjoy each other?  Like when we used to play cards or board games on the porch after Carl died.  And you’d note a move made by Mom or me, and you’d say, “Uh Huh” with a French accent.  I enjoyed you then. 

I remember when I was very small, following you around on some project or another.  After I grew up, I didn’t tag along anymore.  But that didn’t stop you.  I can’t begin to recall all the handy, must-have improvements for my cottage you’d devised;   the lamp post out front, the ingenious floating dock, the tricky way you gave me removable plexi-glass on the screened-in porch.   You hung every light fixture and picture I came up with, you refinished old, oak dressers.  You were always thinking of me and my house with new items on your endless to-do list, countless projects  — all for me. Did I ever thank you?  Did I ever tell you how much I appreciate them? 

Bob and I had to re-build the platform for the dock.  There was a lot of rain on Thursday night, and the monster waves from over-sized wakes pummeled it on Saturday so the base of the dock moved off its foundation.  When Bob asked me if it was anchored in any way, I couldn’t recall.  It seemed like it should have been, but for as long as I could remember, there was nothing holding it in place.  But as we began to take apart the rock foundation, I found the chain you had secured it with 20 years ago.  It had rusted and deteriorated to the point that it fell off the hook and into the rocks.  We dug some more and found another chain on the other side.  Of course you had anchored the dock.  You wouldn’t have built it any other way.  Bob and I commented on your elegant design...we quietly appreciated the workmanship we had taken for granted for most of our lives.

Today, as I was helping Mom cut your pills in half, she got up from the table and gave you a loud kiss on the forehead as she walked out of the room.  You said, “I don’t know why she kisses me.”  After a second or so I began to sing “You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss...”  You sang along with me.  All the words came back to you.  Mom joined us on the second verse and the three of us belted it out right there on the front porch.  Mom said, “Isn’t that the song you and Carl danced to at your wedding?”  and I nodded.  You said, “Where do I know that from?” and Mom and I told you about Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  “You know, her daughter is still around”  Mom said, as she filled the pill box with your prescriptions.

And a sigh is still a sigh.  We're getting along so well, Dad. But we're running out of time.  Stay with me a little while longer.