A month or so ago I wrote that I had told Dad my dream of the way he’d pass away. He and I don’t talk about certain things. It’s an unwritten agreement.
One of the things we don’t talk about is what happens when people die. We almost did one time, not that long ago in the grand scheme of things. My Mom had been dead an hour or two, back on 7/1/13. There is a story there. But it’ll have to wait to be told until Dad is gone.
Dad turned 91 a few days ago. I chauffeured him to my sister’s at the lake…a 250 mile drive. The next day it was lunch at his favorite place in Branson, then cake and ice cream back at Paula’s. Today we had breakfast on the southside of town, then it was to the Abbey. I showed Dad and sis the 36 garden boxes. Three of them are mine. I picked a head of iceberg lettuce for him…the first homegrown he’d ever had…and a few onions. Then on to Doe Run for the two of them.
It was nice to spend time with him; I have lots of “Dad stories.” Some are already written, but nobody will see them until one of us has had a published obituary.
When I wrote about “dying like Leroy Nichols” it was only about the incident itself. In the case of my dream for Dad’s death, I’ve got his entire day planned out. Some of my friends have heard this dream. Shelly has heard it several times. Here goes….
Nothing special. Cereal; a mix with half of the bowl corn flakes and a top layer of “all bran.” I always referred to it as straw. Being regular is very important to my Dad. Some day in the future I’ll be sad that I can’t hear his voice in a sentence that includes the words “my bowels….”
A couple of cookies. Store bought oatmeal ones.
This day there would be a treat: finishing off a can of pears.
Walk down to the creek.
Spot a deer in the woods on the way, and a few fish in the creek. Spend a few minutes checking out the paw-paw tree.
Take a lap of the yard that he mowed yesterday. “The east 40” and “the west forty” to Dad. He mows about an acre and a half of yard, some of it with a push mower.
J. Vernon McGee and “Through the Bible Radio Network” on the radio. Dad has been listening to this on the radio since the early 60’s. The good reverend has a very distinctive voice. He died in 1988. His radio ministry will continue, thanks to people like my Dad who contribute often….including after they die.
Hopefully “the doc” will be in the book of Romans this day. That would be Dad’s favorite.
The lunch menu would include his favorites:
Some braunsweiger on a saltine, with a slice of a sweet onion.
There would be pickles, chips and caffeine free cola.
Desert of a nice bowl of butter pecan ice cream.
A couple of dividend checks in the mail. Neither one worth more than a C note.
A nap. When he would tell me about it later, he would say that he had nodded off for “maybe 15 minutes.” The nap actually was 76 minutes.
A surprise visit by someone from down at the church. They’d stand outside for awhile and talk about how great Dad’s place looked. The garden boxes would get compliments. They’d see some birds and a mother rabbit with 2 little ones.
I leave B-307 and head downstairs to rack up some steps in my daily walk-and-talk with Dad. Typical call just over 30 minutes. Dad talks most of it. It’s hard to be sure how much he hears. Some of his responses might just be guesses.
For sure some of mine are. When I’m about to hear a boyhood story of his for the twentieth time, there is a good chance that I go on “auto listen” and toss in an occasional “uh huh.”
Today he’ll have lots of stories and things to talk about. We’ll both laugh a lot.
After we finish, he’ll eat a snack and watch MASH or Seinfeld or Raymond. He’ll laugh a lot.
My sister calls him on her drive from the hospital to the lake. It’s probably a 45 minute drive; worse in season. I hope the call this day is a mix of reminiscing and dreaming and planning a visit.
There is still plenty of light when they finish talking, so Dad decides to take a look around the place.
He likes what he sees. He sees all these things he wants to do. Some of these could involve the use of a ladder. (Fuck Me!!)
As Dad admires his home, he sees a cardinal out of one eye and a fox squirrel out of the other. Dad and I have talked lots and LOTS of basketball over the years. He loves defense, and if I’ve heard this phrase once I’ve heard it 2000 times: “you have to keep one eye on the man and one eye on the ball.”
At that moment, as he admires the cardinal and the squirrel, his heart stops and he collapses onto the lawn. A couple of passing cars witness it and brake hard to get into the driveway. 12 minutes later Dad is dead and on a stretcher.
Paula calls. She had just received the notification call that our Dad is gone.
For almost everyone I’d wish for a day and a death like this.
The last day: doing things they enjoy.
The death: dying quickly and painlessly.
Be. Just BE. And don’t be stingy with the hugs!!