Reading Spartina by John Casey. Not my favorite topic – boat life in New England – but I’ve dog-eared so many pages of good stuff. Like a memory of a father that brought tears to my eyes and looming memories of mine. I fight the slide into my father’s later life.
He sits alone in his recliner in his big empty house waiting for the phone not to ring. Year after year. And it doesn’t. Financial papers are strewn in piles at his feet, waiting for the attention he will never again give them. He hates what’s happening to him; watching the bedrock of his life – his superior mind – crumble into dust.
“How’re you doing Dad?” I ask.”
“I’m gonna jump off the bridge.” or “I’m gonna shoot myself.” or some other form of suicide.
“We want to take you out for dinner.”
“Got stuff in the fridge I gotta use up.”
Right. Like the moldy bacon? Or the bottle of orange juice, so sour that Terry spewed it out like a surging fire hydrant after the first swig. He’s stubborn just to be stubborn. So closed up inside he can’t break out of his hard Cancer shell. He’d rather suffer loneliness than crack open and let his guts spill out.
But time passes. The teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling stage subsides until he forgets how to be stubborn and closed in; forgets how to hate losing his mind.
And at long last. He smiles and hugs and kisses me hello and good-bye. He (the absolute atheist) goes to church because he likes the music and sings along. He says ‘I love you’ for the first time in my life.