Remembering you is easy; I do it every day

Jun. 14, 2014 @ 11:02 AM

I make a lot of fun of my family, telling hilarious stories about my visits to Ohio, about my parents, who are becoming more “seasoned” citizens every day (Dad is 87 now, and Mom turned 86 in March). And yes, hand to God, it is like “otherworldly” crazy up there, like being plunged into a family tornado ... or, maybe a family hurricane, which is not quite as destructive, but is much wider in scope, you know?

However, this being Father’s Day, I’m thinking back over my recent visit and remembering not the Keystone Cops episodes (look it up!) that made up most of my days with my parents. What I’m remembering is watching my Dad as he fell asleep in his chair watching the news, under two afghans because he’s cold all the time. 
(It is a running joke in our family -- every time we pass the thermostat, we check to see if the heat is on, and we flip it back to air-conditioning -- it was 89 DEGREES UP THERE, and my father has the heat running! He’s sneaky about it, too. He’ll look at you with a totally straight face and tell you he hasn’t touched the thermostat; meanwhile, I’m making dinner using an oven and two stove burners on high, with heat pouring out of the vents onto my feet. He is a big fat liar. In fact, we often call him the BFL.)
I’m remembering him at the kitchen table in a suit and tie, heading to his law office to work for a few hours. I’m remembering watching him walk away from me, his pants baggy, held up only by a tightly cinched belt because of his recent alarming weight loss, which he’s had tests to investigate, lots and lots of tests, until he’s exhausted and discouraged from it. 
But I remember his eyes lighting up with hesitant hope when the doctors explained to us that his lack of appetite, weight loss and disappearing energy is likely due to the heart medication he’s on, and that within a week, his test results would determine how/when he could stop that medicine and start a different one. I’m remembering how thrilled and relieved I felt. 
(Of course, we found out this morning that Dad, being Dad, decided he’d stop taking the medicine the day the doctor told us this MIGHT be the problem. Somewhat abashed, the BFL admitted this to my sister after she’d hung up with the cardiologist’s office, and she responded very patiently, “What the hell are you thinking?!” And he says, “But hey, my appetite has really started coming back!” ... I swear, if you men weren’t so handy at moving heavy objects, killing large spiders, and climbing tall ladders to retrieve the hair scrunchies that the grandsons shot up onto the ceiling fan, I think we’d let y’all become extinct!)
So, where was I? Oh, yes, remembering. I close my eyes: and, there’s my Dad, wearing his oldest work pants, a flannel shirt, a cardigan sweater and a floppy canvas yard hat (yes, 89 degrees, my friend!) sitting on his tractor in the barn. I caught him before he started working, intending to mow the whole back yard and around the pond (frightening at any age!) which is an area of several acres. 
He’s tired. He looks worn out. I brought him a bottle of water which he drinks like I do -- straight down. And, I said, “Dad, please don’t do this today. How about if I get the guys who do the front yard just to do everything?” 
He sits a minute thinking. He is the king of Stubbornville. He will say no, he’s fine, he’ll scoff, been doing it forever, not paying for someone else to do it when he can. I’m braced with my second argument: Murray and Monfils are playing at the French Open right now! (My third argument was going to be dropping to the ground in an apparent seizure.)
Instead, he looks at me with tired eyes and asks, “Do you think they can come tomorrow?”
My Dad would never have said that. I froze for a moment, but only for a moment. It was my turn to parent. I told him yes, they would come tomorrow (vowing to myself that they WOULD come tomorrow, or there would be hell to pay!) and we walked slowly back to the house together ... the first time my Dad allowed me to do something like that, to be “in charge”. 
As we walked, though, I felt tears sting my eyes, and realized that I’d wanted my Dad to argue with me, to remain his confident stubborn self, to be the one “in charge.”  Because if he wasn’t, who would be? 
Inside, he sat in his chair, Mom on her sofa, and we all settled down to watch Murray whip up on Monfils. In 10 minutes, Dad was asleep. 
So, the stories aren’t always funny. But, I want to remember it all.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or by visiting her website at www.vickiwentz.com.