My dad died in March. Even though he needed a pacemaker to regulate his heart and he was a brittle, non-compliant diabetic, his death still shocked us.
Often, my father would start a sentence, “If I ever die….”--as if the inevitability of his death was not a foregone conclusion. Somehow, we bought into his way of thinking.
This past year, my parents spent two weeks with us at Christmas. Other than his slow recovery from a jitterbugging accident (don’t ask), he seemed fine, for a ninety-one-year old. Yet, a week after his return to Florida, his doctor entered him into at home hospice care. When we found out, we thought it must be a mistake.
My father did not take his hospice placement too seriously. He drove his caretakers bonkers. He’d go out nights to play pinochle with his buddies. At least on one occasion, he snuck off to Dunkin Donuts. He claimed he only ate a piece of “bread” there. The next morning his blood sugar reading had risen to the mid-five hundreds.
Those weeks, keeping Dad off the road presented a major challenge. By this point, my father could not see out of one eye, could not hear well and had trouble finding his way home. We decided he shouldn’t be driving his golf cart, so someone hid the keys. He found a second set and took a little trip. Someone hid the second set. Later, neighbors saw Jimmy loose on the golf cart. Did he hotwire the cart? Who knows?
Years ago, I did fear that my father faced imminent death. He was visiting us days before he was to have cardiac bypass surgery and a pacemaker installed. My neighbor, Mindy (name changed) wanted manure for her garden. So, she drove her truck to a horse farm. For some reason (maybe moral support?), my father and I followed her in my car. Mindy cruised right past the pile of nice dry, composted manure. Not potent enough. She headed her truck into a mountain of hot, smelly, fresh horse poop.
Mindy produced two shovels. My father and she began scooping steamy, odiferous manure into the bed of the truck. Not a fan of poop of any sort, I stood back, wishing I’d stayed at home.
When they finished, Mindy started the truck. Her tires spun, splattering horse manure in every direction. They more they spun, the more the truck sunk into the mess.
My father always had told me, “Never rush toward trouble.” So I didn’t.
He, however, did not follow his own advice. He leaned his shoulder against the tailgate and pushed with all his might.
I thought, “My father is going to die on a pile of poop.”
I spotted a man driving a tractor in adjacent field. I ran toward him waving a twenty-dollar bill. He dragged the truck out of the manure. And, my father lived to see another day.
Although it’s been several months since his passing, I still catch myself talking about my father in the present tense. I still find myself hiding pastry so that his non-compliant, diabetic self won’t find it. And, I still expect him to walk through the kitchen door belting out that ridiculous old vaudeville song, “Hello, everybody, hello!”
Most likely, the man is sitting at some heavenly card table, irritating his angelic partners by making wildly high bids on a terrible hand, assuming, as he always did, that he would beat the odds.