Dad and Nikki a few years ago, at home. Neither has changed.. and that’s great!
We painted the town last weekend, our brushes missing a few hairs and the colors running a little thin, but we painted nonetheless. I know my dad well enough to know a quiet time is just as enjoyable as trying to see everything possible in a day or two. So, we mixed in quite a bit of just sitting in the living room with the fireplace warming us to an occasional nap. That was perfectly acceptable and OK.
Dad called me Friday afternoon, asked me if I was home from work yet. He was two minutes away from my place, nearly an hour earlier than expected. I was not surprised. He always leaves early, likes to take his time on a trip, stops when he feels like it. The thing is, once he starts driving he is not going to stop as much as anticipated. My father transports cars for a dealership, his retirement job. Even though he is well suited for the greeter’s job at Walmart, he is just as well suited to drive cars. He loves it, gets to drive a variety of different vehicles, something he likes to tell me about. Want an opinion on a Kia, Toyota, Chevy, Ford, Honda, VW, Dodge, Chrysler? Name the model and he has been behind the wheel.. and has a strong opinion. Dad always has a strong opinion.
I knew he would be early. I was home and waiting for him. There was one problem — Dad has only been to my condo once. All of the condo buildings in the complex look the same. I waited a half hour for him to show, figured out that he probably was sitting in front of the wrong building. I called.
“Did you get lost?”, I asked.
“I am out front, been here for a while. Already walked the dog.” Dad replied with assurance (he also talks in clipped sentences).
“That’s just what I thought. I am standing out front, in the middle of the street.”
Dad read off a street number. He was right around the corner, just out of my line of sight. I guided him to my place until I saw his little gray Nissan truck appear around the corner. I heard quite a bit about that little gray truck over the weekend, as he is very proud of that truck. Over the years, I have become accustomed to Dad talking with pride about everything he buys. That includes how he came about finding said prize and the tweaks he makes to it. It’s endearing and, well, it’s Dad.
Dad pulled up and opened the rear passenger door to reveal Nikki, his little Shetland Sheepdog. She is his constant companion, has been for years, but especially since Mom passed. I really don’t think Dad could leave Nikki with someone else. The pup is a bit spoiled, evidenced by the weight she is carrying now. I had to help her out of the truck by picking her up, then watched her waddle carefully to my father’s side. Once we reached the lobby of my building, she hesitated at the bottom of the steps to my unit, waited until Dad carried her up the short flight of stairs to my second floor home. That was the routine all weekend, whether going up or down those stairs.
The plan for Friday evening was to meet my friends, Jim and John, for our regular ‘therapy’ session. They had insisted on meeting Dad. We arrived early, which may have been a good thing. Our regular waitress, Emily, smiled as Dad tried to negotiate the beer menu. Dad’s not a beer drinker, but boldly tried the different craft brews. We finally decided that the brewer’s own cinnamon root beer would be the best choice for him.
It was.. and Dad proudly chirped about it the rest of the weekend.
He was a hit with my friends. I sat back, quietly observed as he interacted with them. It was a joy to share him with them, even better as it was obvious they enjoyed talking with him. Dad is pretty interesting. I learned a few little tidbits about him, stories that I knew a little about, his experiences during the early days of mainframe computers very cool. He learned about computers by working with one of the first three Univac computers installed in the world. He also worked for Ross Perot at the beginning of the 1970’s, when Perot was working to free POW’s in Vietnam. Dad soaked up stories about the military that my friend Jim told to him, stories about Hawaii and Canada that my friend John told to him. Dad had a great time, told me so before he left Sunday afternoon.
We took in the Chicago Auto Show on Saturday. I let Dad drive his truck to the show. He was dying to show it off to me. For a 79 year old, Dad does very well. The auto show is at the large expo center in Chicago, McCormick Place. To his credit, we walked the whole show for three hours, barely took a break. I have to laugh at how Dad flirted with the pretty and outgoing parking lot shuttle driver. He talked about her several times on the way home. The guy was smitten.
Naps were in store when we got home, the fireplace lit and a movie on TV. We talked on and off, Nikki resting up on the recliner with Dad.. although now and then she asked for assistance down, so she could get attention from me. Nikki may waddle, but she loves it when I play with her. After descending from the recliner, she approached me with a few yips, demanded my attention.
Dinner on Saturday evening was good. Dad was jonesing for good BBQ ribs, so I took him to a place called the Patio. Excellent food. We ate, chatted for over an hour over coffee after dinner.
Sunday morning, we went to church early, had some coffee in the lobby while we waited for service to start. It was my chance to be proud. Dad had not been to my church since the large addition and auditorium was built. He was impressed. The service was good, but Dad let me know that one song the band played “is not my favorite”. That’s my father. He was interested in everything, since he has been appointed to a committee at his church to hire a new music minister. Going to my church gave him some ideas. We have an excellent band and worship team.
Brunch at Cracker Barrel. Dad didn’t need to see the menu. More conversation, probably longer than the folks at Cracker Barrel liked. We kept our table for a while.
It was a great time. Dad excused himself a bit early. There was a winter storm in Chicagoland on Sunday, so he wanted to make sure he travelled during daylight. He called while he was driving (had to show off the Bluetooth in that truck), let me know when he arrived home.
Good time. We shared a lot. It’s tough for him, for the both of us, without Mom, but we are getting along fine. Dad talks more about dying now, sees the light at the end of the tunnel. I keep telling him that he doesn’t know really how long he has left. Neither do I, for that matter. We are both enjoying what time we have, happy to be alive.