Sad events bring Stuart back to Pittsburgh where his life will change.
Edited by Lady Cibelle with my thanks.
My thoughts were put on hold when I pulled into the driveway of the two story frame house that would always be part of my memory of my dad. I had grown up here and I had nothing but fond memories of my childhood. Mom and dad were the center of my universe and they were always there for me. I learned early on growing up that it was always best to confide in them with anything that bothered me. They seemed to be full of good advice and could make the best of times better and the worst of times bearable. The only bad memory was mom getting sick. She fought to stay with us for three years after the doctors diagnosed her cancer but finally died. I was twenty three at the time and while I was devastated, dad was almost destroyed. It took him several years to recover and I believe that since then, he was just marking time till he could join her. But she would be furious at him if he had just given up. He knew it too so he stayed.
Now it seemed that his time had come fair and square. He had cancer and the doctors had tried everything but couldn’t stop it from metastasizing. He was classed as terminal about fifteen months ago and fought the good fight since then. I had visited him on several occasions during my trips to Pittsburgh and we had made our peace with each other. Now he was ready to go and wanted to join my mother. I didn’t blame him and gave him my blessing to let go when he felt it was time. I just asked him to let me be there. Mary called when he told her it was time.
I went into the house to find dad sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me. Mary was nowhere to be found and when I asked, he told me he sent her home to be with her husband. She knew I was on the way so she went willingly. But I was shocked at his appearance. He was pale, thin and his face showed shadows around the mouth and eyes. He was wasting away and I was taken by surprise. It had only been two months since I had seen him last. The change was remarkable.
“Hi son. How’re you doing? I think Mary left something to eat in the fridge. Want me to heat something up?”
“I’m fine Dad. I ate on the plane and it will take a while to get that out of my system. You look. . . . well, different. I’m glad Mary called. Do you really think it might be almost time?”
“I think so son. I’m ready to go find your momma. I know she’ll be waiting for me and I know she’ll forgive me if I go pretty soon.”
An outsider might be surprised by our conversation to this point, but since we had had this conversation before, it was not surprising to me that he went right to the heart of the matter. Dad was not one for political correctness. He told it like it was and it was his time. He knew it and so did I. We just wanted to be sure we both were ready for it and comfortable with it. I was heartbroken at the possibility of losing my father, my best friend and my confidant. He had been with me during all of my tragedies including the death of my first wife. He had been there during my breakup with Billy and he was especially upset by that one. He was fond of my first wife but he really loved Billy and the feeling was mutual.
“Let’s just wait till we have some time to talk. It’s late and you should be getting to bed. I’m still on Denver time so I think I’ll make a couple of calls and then hit the sack myself. Can you make it to bed or do you want some help?”
“When I can’t get myself in and out of bed, I’ll just stay there. I’m fine and welcome home son.”
With that, he walked down the hall to his bedroom and I watched him go with a heavy heart. It was one thing not to be surprised or shocked by his weakness but quite another to accept it without sadness. I just promised him I wouldn’t embarrass him by showing it.
The first person I called was Mary, to let her know I was here and that I would be for the next few days at least. We chatted for awhile and I hung up, thinking that she had been a good friend to all of us. I wanted to make a couple more calls but realized the time difference and finally put my phone away and went into the small living room to sit on the couch and just unwind. I was exhausted by everything and just wanted some quiet time. I was more exhausted than I realized when the next thing I noticed was the sun coming in the window and the sound of the tea kettle in the kitchen.
I found dad in the kitchen making coffee. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking it but since Mary wasn’t there to check on him, he took advantage of me and my jet lag sleeping to have himself a cup. He just grinned at me when I came in.
“Don’t bother boy. I’m old enough to have myself a cup of coffee. After all it ain’t gonna kill me. Cancer’s gonna do that. Fix yourself a cup and sit down.”
“I’m not going to yell at you pop. And you’re right. It isn’t going to make any difference now anyway.”
So we sat there casino oyna in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking. Talking about things we hadn’t talked about in years. It was catch up time and we both knew it was going to be the last time for us. It was bittersweet but precious to me. As I watched him talk, I wondered how he could be so calm, knowing the pain he was in. The doctor had given him morphine but he wouldn’t use it until the pain finally drove him to it. This morning was no exception.
“So, tell me about your life there in Denver. You met anyone yet? It’s been almost five years for you now ain’t it? Man can’t go that long without wantin a good woman.”
“It’s been just over five years for me and no, I haven’t found a good woman. Met a lot of women, and dated quite a few more but none were what I might call ‘good women’ if you know what I mean. I’m not looking for a permanent relationship right now so casual is good enough for me.”
“Don’t make no sense to me. You’re a good looking man if I do say so and you need a good woman to help you in your work and in your bed. Don’t know why you can’t find one. Damn shame if you ask me.”
“Don’t worry about that now, pop. You just worry about taking care of yourself. You aren’t going to die tomorrow so you just relax and enjoy the time we have together. Any thing you want to do while I’m here?”
“Nothing I want to do but die in peace. Something you and Mary won’t let me do.”
We just sat there for a few minutes, the only sound the ticking of the wall clock that I gave mom one year for Christmas. Still worked.
“She stops in to see me at least once a week you know.”
“I thought Mary was in every day. Have you been making her life miserable so she’ll stay away?”
“Don’t mean Mary. I mean Billy. Billy stops in at least once a week to see me. Has for the last two, three years. Always brings me something sweet to eat like chocolate or sugar candies of some kind. Mary don’t know she brings it.”
It was like a jolt of electricity going through me. The mention of her name was all it took to make me react. After all these years, I never thought of her here with my dad. I never thought of her or her new life at all. I fought for years to drive any thought of her out of my life. Memories of our past, things we did and places we had been. Never!
“Why would you let her in here? Why would she come to see you? I don’t understand that at all. You know what she did to me. Why would you do that?”
“Didn’t do anything to me. I always liked that girl. And she liked me. So she comes to keep me company. That’s more than you do. Just visit once in a while. Sometimes only a phone call when you’re in town. Billy comes without fail, every week. Brings me sweets too.”
I had no answer to that. Of course it was his business. She was coming to see him and I knew that she always had a fondness for dad. She loved him more that her own dad. I knew that. Why hadn’t I considered that she would visit him? I guess it never crossed my mind that Billy had a life of her own after our divorce. I really never thought of her at all in those terms.
Mark had mentioned her only once to me after I moved to Denver. That was on a trip back for business. We had been working together in the conference room when we stopped for a while to get some drinks and sandwiches. We were not friends anymore but we did work well together and that was all I permitted. But we had been getting along better so he must have felt he could take the chance.
“Have you spoken to Billy since your divorce?”
The mention of her name from his mouth caused my stomach to burn and my blood to boil. I tried with success to keep my mouth shut but I couldn’t stand to look at him just then. So, controlling my anger, I walked out of the room and went down the hall to the restroom. I leaned over the sink and splashed cold water on my face until I calmed. I let my breathing slow and my anger cool.
I walked back into the room and without any reference to his comment started back on the subject we had been discussing. Mark was smart enough to keep his mouth shut and we continued on as if the whole thing hadn’t happened. He never mentioned her again in my presence.
I slowly sipped my coffee while I tried to get some control over my emotions. I looked over at dad and he was smiling. He knew what he had done to me and it gave him some pleasure. So fine, it was good for him and I could take it.
“I didn’t know she was coming over. I’m glad then. She always did like you, a whole lot more than she liked me. It’s good then and I’m glad.”
“I didn’t need your permission anyway but I’m glad to see you can be calm about it. Want to know anything about her life here?”
“Not really. It’s none of my business. She must have her own life now. I wish her nothing but the best. But it’s none of my business.”
Dad laughed at that. He knew I was dying to know what she was doing and how she was getting along. I don’t know slot oyna what I wanted to hear. Was she happy? Was she miserable? After five years she had to have a whole new life. Was it better than mine?
“Well then. She’s workin now you know. She teaches fifth graders at that school over in Bridgeville. Been there going on four years now. Got her credits after the divorce and went back to teaching. Says she loves it.”
I knew she had a degree and a teaching certificate but all she wanted to do when we were married was stay at home and go to her stupid meetings. Anything for attention. In the divorce, I had left her well off. Well enough not to have to work. I left her the house and paid it off so she wouldn’t have a mortgage. And I set up generous alimony payments even though my lawyer had a fit about it. But I did it anyway.
“She told me she had a place close to where you used to live. It’s a townhouse, a one bedroom townhouse. She sold the big house you know. Since you left it to her, she sold it: moved out almost right after you left. She rented the townhouse for a while until the big house sold and then she bought it.”
That was news to me. I left it to her in the divorce because she always loved that house, and I had no desire to ever see it again. My lawyer told me that there were no further obligations on the house so I assumed she would stay there. Live there with her new lover or even Mark for that matter. I just didn’t want to know.
“I guess she got married? Mark maybe? After the divorce, she would have been free to date whoever she wanted and someone as beautiful as her had to hook someone right away. Anyone I know?”
Dad just grinned at me. He knew he had me hooked now and he was enjoying it immensely. Actually, I was happy to give him this perverse pleasure.
“No husband, no boyfriend, no lovers. After you left, she never dated anyone. At least that’s what Mary tells me. Seems Mary knows her mom and dad pretty good and she tells me they worry about her. Won’t date and won’t see any men. Has a few women friends but no men friends at all.”
I was becoming agitated and I wanted this conversation to end. It gave me too much information, information I didn’t want or need, information that I soaked up like a sponge. I took my coffee, got up and went outside to get away without giving dad the satisfaction of seeing the turmoil roiling in my chest. Billy working, living simply, not dating and coming to visit like a typical daughter in law. Too much too fast and nothing like I expected. It was all wrong! This isn’t how it was supposed to be!
It was almost lunch time when I finally went back in. I had walked around the neighborhood for hours, just wandering without purpose while my head simply refused to forget again: refused to go back to that blessed ignorance. Billy was back in my head and she wouldn’t go away. She wouldn’t go back into that corner of my mind that she had occupied for the past five years. The fact was that I never stopped loving her. In spite of what she did, the love didn’t die: it just retreated in the face of the possibility of her hurting me again. That I couldn’t take. That was enough to force the love into the background.
Dad was sleeping when I looked in on him. I didn’t like the color of his skin or the way he was breathing. I checked his supply of morphine and found he hadn’t used any since yesterday. He had to be in pain and I suffered for him. When he woke, we would have to talk. He couldn’t go on this way. The pain was stressing his heart and he needed the relief.
I fixed a light lunch for us and had it ready when he woke. I took a tray in to him but he pushed it away.
“I’ll eat at my own table like always. If I can’t, I’ll stop eating!”
So I helped him in and let him sit down in has usual place. I sat the sandwich in front of him and a glass of his favorite iced tea. He took some tea but hardly touched the sandwich. After watching him pick at the fool, I spoke.
“Dad you have to let me give you an injection. You’re in pain and it’s too much for your heart. Please, if you don’t want to take it for yourself, do it for me. I need more time with you. I don’t want to see you go and mom wouldn’t like it either, and you know it.”
“Your mother understands. She’s waitin for me, but you’re right. We need more time. There’s something her and me still want from you. So, get the damn needle and let’s do it. Just half the dosage, understand? Just 15 ccs and no more.”
I rose and got the syringe and filled it to the mark he indicated, then added a little more. It was about half the amount recommended by his doctor, but at least it was something. I took it to the kitchen, wiped his arm with the alcohol pad and gave him the shot. I had been instructed on the procedure some time ago by Mary in case she was unable to come. I watched the pain ease slightly from his face as the drug took immediate effect. Some color came back into his face and he visibly relaxed. As did I. Soon after canlı casino siteleri he asked me to help him to bed since the medicine made him so tired. He slept for the best part of the afternoon.
It had been three days since I arrived and dad was getting weaker by the day. As we talked, it was clear that he was loosing his will to live. After that one conversation, he didn’t mention Billy again for which I was both glad and a little disappointed. But it was clear to me that he was waiting for something. I didn’t know if I was supposed to do something for him or what. I asked him on several occasions what it was he wanted me to do but he just shook his head and refused to talk.
Mary had stopped several times but saw that I had things under control so she stayed only a short time. Once or twice she brought over something to eat but dad ate little and I found my appetite lacking. The strain was becoming heavy and I had to do something to get my mind off of him. I decided to drive into town and check with Mark on some things that I had implemented some time ago. While I was technically on vacation, it wouldn’t hurt. I asked Mary to cover for me and she came over to let me go. That was the only time I left his side.
As I was preparing his lunch a day later, I heard a knock on the door and expecting Mary, I hollered for her to come in. I heard the door open and then nothing more. I spoke without turning.
“I’m just fixing lunch Mary. Want anything?”
“It’s not Mary. I’m sorry; I didn’t realize you were here. I’ll leave.”
The sound of that voice brought so much back so quickly that the shock was almost enough to give me a heart attack. It was Billy! I had never forgotten her voice and I would have recognized it anyplace. I remained with my back to her while I caught my breath. I finally felt enough in control to turn and face her.
“No, please. He’ll want to see you. He’s spoken of your visits often. Please, stay.”
She was more beautiful than I remembered. She had cut her long blond hair to almost a cap on her head. It seemed to bring out her deep blue eyes and her firm lips. She had strong cheekbones and an oval face that gave her a pixie-like appearance. She had on a plain white blouse tucked into a pair of jeans that fit rather loosely on her frame. She appeared to have lost some weight and it looked good on her. The expression on her face was one of apology and embarrassment.
“Thank you. I’ll not stay long. I just want to see him and give him something.”
As she walked around me to go into the small family room, I followed her with my eyes. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. This was the first time I had seen or spoken to her since the day I left for Denver. I wasn’t sure of my reaction. I searched for the anger and the pain but found it gone. It had disappeared over the last five years and the past was just that: forgotten and put to rest. I didn’t know how to take that. As I stood there confused and trying to understand my reaction, she came out of the room.
She walked over to the table and leaned on the back of one of the chairs. She looked shaken.
“He was asleep so I just left his gift. To see him this way almost breaks my heart. He’s going fast isn’t he? Has he been taking his morphine? He looks in pain.”
“He won’t take it. It makes him so tired and he just wants to stay awake for the time he has left. I have given him a couple close to bed time and he sleeps good. That’s all he’ll accept. He’s ready to go and it’s what he wants.
“It has to be hard on you to watch him this way. Isn’t Mary coming over? She could give you some relief.”
“I’m fine. This is what I want. What we both want. I knew what I would find when I came home. It’s his time and he knows it. He wants to go to my mother. That’s what he’s looking toward.”
For some reason I broke down at that point. I don’t know why it happened with Billy there but for some reason, her presence let me pour it all out. I just sank down onto the chair, my head between my arms on the table and cried. Deep breath catching sobs. I felt like a baby, unable to stop and unable to catch my breath. My shoulders were heaving and the pain of his impending death was almost more than I thought I could bear. I didn’t remember when she put her arms around me but as I calmed down and the sobs subsided, I felt her cheek pressed against my head and her arms around my shoulders.
I raised my head and she immediately let me go. I saw that she had been crying as well. Her eyes were red and unshed tears made her eyes glisten. The grief was real as was the compassion I saw in her eyes. For some reason it embarrassed me. She must have seen that on my face and mistaken it for anger or disgust.
“I’m sorry. I have to go. Please give Edward my love when he wakes.”
Before I could say anything, she was gone.
For a long time after she left, I sat there trying to get some idea of what I was feeling. It had been a shock to see her after all this time and a greater shock for the feeling of security she gave me to let myself go that way. Whatever it was, I was taken completely by surprise. I needed time to think but these conditions were not conducive to objectivity.