The drive up is therapeutic, despite the cold that I am fighting. In my head–while listening to various tunes–I replay the conversation I had with my stepmother. “I think you’re father needs to see you.” I think back to a conversation that I shared with him a few months back. He divulged to me issues with his health then avoided any follow-up questions I asked. That conversation, mixed with my stepmother’s words hold a knot in the pit of my stomach.
He seems okay, I tell myself. His tone of voice sounds fine and overall he seems happy. I decide not to take any chances and hop in my car; destination: Wilmington, North Carolina. On the drive, I receive several calls from Bryan, where we cover the same mindless drivel that has become obligatory in our one-on-ones. I also get a call from Debbie. I decide to take it. We talk for an hour. It’s a decent conversation, and we clear the bad air between us. No discussion of getting back together, no misconceptions about pursuing a friendship now that the dust has cleared. Just a conversation that says, “It happened, it sucks, but we’re okay.” The conversation leaves me feeling good.
After the 9+ hour drive, I arrive at my destination. My father looks older, moves slower. My stepmother is the same. My stepsister is fatter. This pleases me.
First chance I get, I ask him how he’s been doing, how he’s feeling. He assures me that everything is fine, and I have nothing to worry about. Something in his tone leaves me skeptical. I decide I should talk it over with my stepmother. That night, before he goes to bed, he downs a dozen different pills. This secures my need to have the conversation. It takes another day for the opportunity to present itself.
At the Melting Pot (thumbs down), my father excuses himself and goes to the bathroom. I ask my stepmother about how he’s been feeling. She tells me that in the past few months, he has become slower. His movements, his actions, his responses, everything is lagging. His pace is down. She tells me that his back has been giving him problems, his bladder, his cholesterol, blood pressure, the works. She adds that he has been showing early signs of dymentia. It runs in the family on his side. My grandfather had no idea who anyone was before his passing. This makes me worry. She says that it has been slowly but gradually getting worse. I immediately wish my brothers were with me, and I wish I wasn’t terrified to talk to my father about it. He returns to the table before we can finish the conversation.
I have yet to be able to pick up where we left off.
The nights so far have allowed my father and I to bond, to discuss things past, present, and future. He pressures me to go back to school. I’m honest with him and tell him that I have no desire to go back, but know deep down that it is seemingly the only viable option at this point. I want to bring up the dymentia, but I opt against it. I simply enjoy the conversation with him, happy that at this point in our lives, we seem to be bonding–the men who we truly are–for the first time.
I don’t want to ruin it.
I am happy that I have driven up, that I have seen him. For all of his faults, he is my father, and half of me is him. I am reminded of how funny he is, and we laugh a lot.
Through it, I wish that I could step away and call Walt, talk things over with him. Talk about the dymentia, get his perspective. Tell him about the bonding and what it means to me. I sense in the near future, I will be having that conversation, and I look forward to it.
In the meantime, I will enjoy these conversations, knowing that the number of them that are in my future are finite.