Unexpected Knock on the Door


Through all of this he has honored my wishes.  It was important that certain things be handled in a way that followed what was requested to the letter.  No one better than an Engineer with more degrees than most to follow through on that desire.

My father doesn’t visit.  Ever.  That doesn’t mean we don’t see one another, technology allows for the simple press of a button for his image to appear on my screen, on any device.  The thing about him is that he can’t talk about what he is feeling.  I respect that as much as he respects my need to sometimes grab the cat by the tail and throw it into the crowd just to gauge people’s response.

In 44 years I have only seen him get upset twice.  When his grandfather passed away when I was 5.  It was the first time I had seen my father cry.  The other being when his granddaughter passed away.  He couldn’t control his emotions that day.  Words were lost and despair showed in his every movement.  But that is to be expected.

Since that day, with everything that has happened around me, he remains like a statue.  Even sitting in a room with a doctor asking him questions when I couldn’t reply, he gives short, sharp answers.  Or he doesn’t answer at all.

So him showing up last Thursday was unexpected.  He hadn’t called ahead.  Hadn’t warned anyone that he was going to be in town overnight.  Just got on a plane and ended up 500 miles from home.  [Although he knows the town of Boston well enough to drive it from memory.]  The knock on the door came and he surprised everyone.

My dad couldn’t talk.  He just sat down next to me and needed to gather himself.  When my father does talk, people always listen.  He has a reputation for knowing how to handle most situations and has built a name for himself by being able to fix most things.

We’re alike in that manner.  Just people don’t fear him the way they do me.  He is smart in a way that keeps people calm.  He avoids conflict unless required, I welcome it.

For an hour he sat on that couch just looking at me.  That same look I saw as a boy was on his face.  My great-grandfather was a good man.  He helped people every day of his life, a pharmacist by professional.  I’ve seen the accounting from that time, he knew who could pay and who couldn’t, and he sometimes just gave medicine away.  He knew the right things in life.

I wish I had more of him in me than just a shared middle name.

By the time words did come out, it was about business stuff.  Sometimes he has questions and some times he’s just looking for conformation that he is doing the right thing.  Other times he wants to make sure he does the opposite of what I would do.

Eventually I needed to get in bed.  One of the fun parts lately has been keeping things straight with my own job and being hardly able to pick my own head up from the hospital visits.

As the sun rose, my dad was sitting in a chair in my room.  Just reading off his iPad.  He could have been there minutes or hours.  But one thing was clear he needed to say something that couldn’t be done over the phone or Skype.

“I have no idea if this will be the last time we will be in the same room.  All the times you tried to talk about Abby I couldn’t hear the words because I didn’t want to think about you that way.  You didn’t turn out the way we expected, stronger at times but weaker in ways we can’t protect you from.  I’m sorry for that.”

And that was all he had to say.  Nothing more came out.  He instantly went to talking about did I need something sent from my house.  Or was Kathy handling things since she was going to be facing another loss.  {I know he and Kathy talk, but they made sure to talk years ago when things got ugly for a while.  One parent trying to comfort another with their grief.}

Days go by when I don’t write in this format.  My mind isn’t so clear and I need to handle work related things because I have serious trust issues about others handling them for me.  So making choices, making priorities cuts through the daily chaos I crave.  Routine is just a reminder that the medicine makes my choices and I need to respect that.  Even when I don’t want to.

The lasting impression of my father will always remain this for me.  At my brother’s wedding he grabbed me by the shoulder and told me how proud he was.  I laughed it off because he had been drinking and his guard was way down.  But for a moment he could say something he normally wouldn’t have.

My dad turned out just like his grandfather.  There are times when I wonder if my daughter would have picked up those life skills from him.  Skipping a generation?

Thanks Dad, it was good seeing you.


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