- Wed Mar 15, 2017 11:22 am
I woke at 2:00 AM to the sound of him coughing, and dozed until I heard him rise at 5:00. When I heard the water running I knew that he was up for good. The act of washing his hands, face, and hair in the bathroom sink with cold water, every morning, was a habit he'd acquired long before I was born.
He managed to get dressed by himself, then came out of his room, walked past my cot, and went downstairs to feed his dogs. I rose a few minutes after he'd gone, threw on the clothes I'd worn the previous day, skipped the cold water bathing ritual, and followed after him.
I walked into the kitchen and was greeted by the sounds and images of the morning news at full volume, but there was no sign of the Old Man.
I'd boiled a ham shank the day before and let some beans soak overnight - he loved soup - so I now gathered some onions, carrots, and celery, and started chopping.
A few minutes later the Old Man hobbled in.
"Where have you been?" I asked.
"I hired a Mexican to cut up some of these trees and burn the brush. I was just showing him where the chainsaw is."
"Did you take your pills?"
"Yeah, I took my goddamn pills."
"Do you want some breakfast?"
"No, I had my banana and my orange juice."
I noticed that the package of sweet rolls I'd purchased was still unopened, so I said, "Do you want a sweet roll?"
I'd turned off the television when I'd entered the kitchen, and I watched as he now picked up the remote, turned it back on, cranked up the volume, and settled into one of the chairs scattered around the table.
A few minutes later he turned to me and said, "There's coffee over there if you want some."
I walked over to the pot and found this.
"When was the last time you cleaned this thing?"
"Never. I don't drink coffee."
I put the pot in the sink, then went to the fridge and grabbed a beer.
An hour later I had three different pots of soup simmering on the stove, and got ready to start on the pies.
"Where does your caretaker store the eggs?"
"I don't know, but the goddamn chickens have been yodeling all fucking morning, so you can probably find half a dozen in the hen house."
I grabbed a bowl and headed down the hill, past more lost trees.
I sliced up some onions, sauteed them in butter, mixed them with some eggs, sour cream, bacon, and cheese, ladled the whole mess into some pie crusts, and then threw them in the oven.
Onion pie is something my grandmother used to make, and one of my father's favorite dishes.
A proper baker would have covered the crusts with foil so they wouldn't get so brown, but you get what you pay for.
At 11:00 he picked up the remote, pointed it at the television, and started pressing buttons.
Nothing changed, so he pressed the buttons harder, jabbing the remote towards the television, looking as if he was trying to stab it with a knife.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to change the goddamn channel!"
"You need to point the remote at the box on top of the fridge, not at the television."
"You need to point the remote towards the box on top of the fridge."
I walked over to where he was standing and gently turned him towards the control box. When the channel changed, he threw the remote on the table and said, "I think it needs new batteries."
At 11:50 he grabbed the other half of the napkin he'd torn up the night before and said, "I'm ready for some lunch."
"What would you like?"
I gave him some bread, and took some ham and cheese out of the fridge.
"I need some mayonnaise."
I took out the mayonnaise and placed the jar in front of him.
"I need some lettuce."
"Do you want some red onion as well?"
"How about some tomatoes?"
"No. Just the lettuce and onion."
Once he finished his lunch he said, "I'm going upstairs and having a cigar."
"Aren't you going to have one?"
"Let me clean up first. I'll join you in a minute."
"That can wait."
I went upstairs and he handed me a cigar and a pack of matches.
"Where's the lighter I gave you?" I asked.
"Right here. It doesn't work."
I picked it up, held it to the light, and saw that it was empty.
I pulled a lighter I'd brought from home out of my pocket, lit the cigar, and then handed the lighter to my father.
"Here. Keep this one until I get yours fixed."
We sat there together for a little over an hour, smoking our cigars, and never exchanged a word.
Once we'd finished I said, "I think I'll take your Winchester out for a walk up the mountain."
"Do you need anything before I go?"
I filled the magazine of his old shotgun with buckshot and tried to get one of the dogs to join me, but they showed no interest...
... so I headed up the mountain by myself.
Everywhere I looked I saw downed trees.
When I returned, I found the Old Man snoozing in front of the television.
My father loves meatloaf, so that's what I later served him for dinner, along with some mashed potatoes and gravy, and a bit of Swiss chard from his garden.
After dinner I helped him into bed, and as I was cleaning up I mused about how much easier this day had been than the one before.
Once everything had been put away, I sat down, poured myself a drink and thought "It's actually no more difficult than hosting Mitch for a week."
(To be continued.)