Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30th

April 30th, 1973 & 2013: If you've been reading along, you know I failed to maintain my diary in the month of April in 1973, when dad was sick, and dying of cancer. But there were a handful of events, four or five, that I remember clearly. And though the chronological order of those happenings is somewhat jumbled, they are crystal clear. Even after 40 years.

Here's another one. A funny one, but a "racy" one. Read on if you care too.

As dad's condition diminished, he spent more and more time in bed, in his and mom's bedroom. His energy was all but gone. The cancer was spreading to his brain. He was not mentally "out of it" yet, but he was frail. Pitiful, actually. He'd once been pretty rotund.

There was a period of time in April when he was sent home from the hospital. He'd wind up back in the hospital again. And that's where he'd die. But this incident took place at home.

Not knowing how long he'd live, we'd had central air-conditioning installed at the house. The idea being that it would keep him cool and comfortable over the summer. This was quite a luxury. Before this, we had 2-3 window fans. In the summer, the big thing was to get our baths when it would cool down. Then, sit out on the patio in the summer evening before going to bed. Avoid the heat of the house as long as possible. Falstaff was consumed by the parents. Occasionally, a bullfrog would visit from mom's flower beds.

When I look back on those times, repeated over and over for many summers, I think of a line from a James McMurtry song. "Mama used to roll her hair. Back before the central air. We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night."

The second addition that spring, was an extension telephone. The one and only phone was in the kitchen, not far from the back door. The extra phone was put in mom and dad's bedroom. Again, it looked more and more like dad would be spending time in bed. If the phone rang, and he were able to talk, or if mom or a caregiver were in the room... it would save many steps, and a rush to the kitchen phone.

One evening the phones rang. It was Aunt Erma and Uncle Ray, from Macomb, calling to check in. The conversations went on. Everyone talked. And with two phones, more than one could listen and chime in.

Dad was using the phone in his room. Mom had said her piece and was off doing something. I was on the kitchen phone, listening to the banter between Uncle Ray and dad. Their talk had been serious, but as things were winding down, the subject matter went in a different direction. Uncle Ray obviously believed I'd already hung up the phone in the kitchen.

"Are you still getting a little pussy?" Uncle Ray asked dad. There was a pause. I don't even know that dad knew I was still on the line. "Well, age starts to take care of that too," dad answered, something along those lines.

I hung up the phone with the stealthiness of a cat burglar. Very gently laid it back in the cradle. Not a sound.

Soon after the call ended, dad got out of bed for some reason. I was in the kitchen and headed to my room. He was in his room and headed to the kitchen. We passed in the dining room. There was enough light that I could see him looking at me, a wry grin on his face. He knew I'd heard the conversation. I said absolutely nothing. Neither did he. A silent exchange. A knowing moment. Funny stuff.

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