Every morning since our arrival I'd asked the Old Man if he wanted me to cook him breakfast.
Every morning he'd said, "No."
Saturday morning was different, for not long after I followed him down the stairs he said, "I could go for some eggs. Over easy."
Then he headed up to the caretaker's place.
I fried up some bacon, sausage, and hash browns, made some toast, buttered it, and put everything in the oven so it would stay warm.
When he got back I fried up his eggs and made him a plate.
He ate in silence for a minute or so and then said, "This bacon is tough. I can't eat it."
"Do you want some more sausage instead?"
"I'll eat it then."
"No. I'll give it to the dogs."
After breakfast I took one last walk with the Winchester.
When I got back to the house, I unloaded it, wiped it down with Hoppes No. 9, and put it back in the cabinet.
I'd never fired it, so the bore was still clean.
I jumped in the shower and then got dressed and started packing.
When I went back downstairs he was sitting outside.
"The Mexican is nearly finished cutting up those trees," I said.
"Come take a look."
I helped him out of his chair and handed him his cane, and we started walking.
"That's the bar," he said, pointing at one of the buildings on the property. "I built that around a big oak tree."
"Yes you did."
We walked a bit farther and he said, "There's the barbecue you gave me. And there's the lawnmower. You didn't give me the lawnmower. I think I bought that."
We stood at the edge of the hill and looked down at a big pile of rounds and a smoldering burn pile. Nothing else remained other than the stumps, some roots, and a handful of holes.
"I used to hang my hammock on those trees," he said. "Every summer afternoon I'd lie in my hammock and look up at the trees. And now they're gone."
"We can find another spot to hang your hammock."
"It won't be the same."
We continued walking, and he said, "There's the pizza oven I built. Your uncle use to make pizzas in it. He's dead now."
A few steps later he said, "There's the horseshoe pit. My friend George helped me put that in. Do you remember George?"
"I do. He was a really nice guy."
"Yeah. He's dead now too."
We continued walking, past the Bocce ball court, and the tipi, and the fire pit. They all conjured up the names of people we both once knew, and all of those people were now dead.
He'd outlived all of his friends.
He walked up to a tree, leaned against it and said, "I need to piss."
For the next couple of minutes I stood behind him and watched as intermittent droplets of urine landed on his moccasins, and when he turned around the knees of his pants were wet.
"We used to have a lot of big parties up here," he said. "Sometimes we'd have forty or fifty people up here. Now the only time anyone comes up is Fourth of July, and even then, who comes? You and your sister and my brother Jim."
We made our way back to the kitchen and had a drink.
Once he'd drained his glass he said, "Let's go eat."
We pulled up in front of the restaurant and saw that the handicap spot by the front door was empty, and I heard him say, "Park there."
We went inside, and I noticed that the dining room was packed.
There were two couples standing next to the podium ahead of us, and the hostess was on the phone. I heard her say, "I'm sorry, but we don't take reservations," before hanging up the phone and then informing the people in front of us that there was a half hour wait if they wanted a table.
When my father approached her she said, "Hi Joe."
He said, "I need a table for two. But first I'm going to get a drink at the bar."
The bar and lounge were packed as well.
I spotted one empty stool, but there was a full drink and some cash in front of it, so I assumed whoever had been sitting there had gone to the restroom and would soon be back.
The Old Man saw it as well. He sat down on the stool, pushed the drink and money aside with his left forearm and yelled, "Give me a brandy!"
The bartender brought him his drink, and after the Old Man paid him he took a healthy sip, turned to me and said, "Let's go eat."
I followed him back to the hostess, and when she saw him she picked up a pair of menus, gave them to her assistant and said, "She'll take you to your table."
This place had a big open kitchen, and all of the meat was cooked over oak.
As we were walking past the counter that separated us from the cooks, two of them saw the Old Man and said, "Hey Joe. What are you having tonight?"
"Prime rib. Medium rare."
"You got it."
Not long after we were seated a very young waitress came by, turned to my father and said, "Are you ready to order?"
"I think she's off tonight."
"I like Mary."
"Um... OK. Can I take your order, or do you need a few more minutes?"
"The cooks know what I want."
"I always give my order to the cooks. I want Thousand Island on my salad."
She appeared to be new and didn't know what to make of this, so I said, "He'd like the prime rib medium rare, with a baked potato. I'd like the lamb chops, medium rare, with fries, and please put the house dressing on my salad. Thank you.
Then the Old Man said, "Wait. Bring me a bottle of the house red."
After we ate our salads she brought us our plates.
His cut of prime rib was the size of a small roast, and I thought, "There's no way he's going to be able to eat all of that."
"Can I get you anything else?"
"Bring me a box," he said.
He ate all of his potato, took a couple bites of meat, and then pushed the plate away.
When she returned with the box he said, "Bring me the bill."
He scrapped everything off of his plate into the box, and put the leftover bread and butter on top.
I was still eating when the waitress put the bill on the table.
She turned to leave and he said, "Wait."
He gave her a hundred and said, "Bring me my change."
Once she returned he threw a ten dollar bill on the table and said, "Let's go."
Once his back was turned I threw another ten spot on top of that and followed him through the restaurant.
He went back to see the cooks and gave them some money, and slipped some cash to the hostess on his way out.
When we got in the truck he said, "I always grease the hostess so I don't have to wait, and I always grease the cooks so they give me a nice cut of meat."
On the drive home I quipped, "Well that was probably the best meal I've had all week."
The next morning we were both up at 4:00.
I cleaned up his room, emptied the fridge and then loaded the truck while he sat and watched television, and we were on the road by 5:30.
Three hours later we pulled up in front of the house, and he said, "Help me out. I need to piss."
Once I got him inside, I unloaded the truck and then went upstairs to see my mother.
"How was he?" she asked.
"Not bad," I replied. "He didn't do much, and he dozes a lot. He probably shouldn't be driving anymore."
She nodded solemnly and said, "How's the ranch?"
"In a state of decay. The roads are bad, the buildings all need maintenance, the garden is full of weeds... I don't know what type of arrangement you have with your caretaker, but he sure doesn't do much."
Again she nodded, and said, "Well thank you so much for doing this."
"It was nothing. How are you doing?"
"Oh I'm fine. My sister is going to stay with me another week, and by then I should be back on my feet."
"Well I'll be at home next week as well. Call me if you need anything, OK?"
"Yes. OK. Thanks again honey."
When I arrived home, I found this awesome assortment of gifts waiting for me on the dining room table, compliments of ironman.
It arrived with a box of chocolates that was addressed to my wife.
I understand the chocolates were quite good.
The next morning as I was taking a shower I felt a lump on my left arm and said, "Shit."
I got dressed, went and found my wife and said, "I've got a tick. You need to pull it."
My wife was not pleased.
She went at it with a pair of tweezers, all the time muttering, "I can't believe this thing was in my bed last night."
She ended up breaking it, and spent another minute or so trying to remove the parts that were left behind before saying, "I can't get the rest of it."
Then she handed me the tweezers and started stripping the bed.
I sent an email to Hogleg, apprising him of what had happened and informing him as to what I planned to do next.
His reply read, "Sorry man, but I cannot condone that course of action," which in my mind implied, "Go for it."
I sampled some of the antiseptic ironman had sent me in order to insure it was suitable for the job at hand.
I am no connoisseur, but it was some of the smoothest and most flavorful whiskey I've ever tasted.
I drained the glass, poured myself another, and got to work.
Later that evening, after I'd polished off the rest what ironman had sent me, my wife said, "Let me look at your arm."
She ripped off the bandage and said, "Jesus Christ. What did you do?"
"I got it out."
My wife was not pleased.
The next day my mother called and said, "Your father has decided to sell the ranch."
"I think that's for the best," I replied.
I spent that afternoon sitting on the patio, thinking about all of the good times I'd spent there throughout the years.
The next day I received an incredibly generous and unexpected gift from fatman, and it immediately brightened my mood.
The Drake is dead.
Long live The Drake.
The kindness of the people here always overwhelms me, and I truly relish having this little spot on the internet where I can type shit out and share it with people I'm proud to call friends.
On Monday I go back to work.
My mother is recovering much better than expected, and going forward we'll deal with the Old Man as best we can.
Thanks for all the encouraging sentiments.