Not much had changed; that alone was amazing. Sure, things were fuller, greener, a trifle larger; but everything still looked like home. My memory’s fullness was enhanced by the fullness of years.
My car paused at the foot of the driveway as I scanned the entire property and recalled fond memories of growing up while playing basketball in the garage, baseball in the street, and bike-riding endless loops around the neighborhood till my butt was raw. I sat here in the middle of the street because traffic was not heavy; residential was an apt description.
Duty called, and I pressed the accelerator, guiding the car up the slope and past the side of the house to the back door. Mom had passed some years ago, and Dad lived a solitary life waiting for his time, I guess. That bothered me and my brother. Neither of us lived in state, and work did not allow many opportunities to travel.
Eighty-two years is a goodly number of years, and my feeling was that he needed a downsizing for reasons of finances and health. Look at the yard! I got out of the car and looked at the overgrown backyard. Mom’s once pristine gardens were wild and woolly! She’s probably marching around heaven slamming cupboard doors just as she did in life when upset and unable to do anything about it. Yes, Dad needed some downsizing. I can only guess what the inside looks like!
“Well if it isn’t the prodigal son! Come on in, Jimmy! Good to see you, son.” Dad was standing there with the door pulled open. I smiled and stepped into the breakfast room. We exchanged a man-hug with the requisite manly slaps on the back. Machismo, you know!
Looking over his back to the table beyond I saw a cluttered mess of breakfast dishes, legal pad, pens, and newspapers. The bloated Cheerios sitting in a dry bowl concerned me most. There was no way of knowing how long the bowl had been there.
“To what do I owe the honor of your visit?”
I’ve been in New York for a few days on business and thought I would stop in for a day to see what’s happening on the home-front.”
“Same-ol’ same ‘ol! You’re looking fit!”
“Thanks, Dad. I thought we might go out for lunch and ah, talk.”
“Now that’s a preamble if I ever heard one.”
“Come on, Pop! I just wanted to make our visit a little special, you know-”
The phone rang, and Dad scrambled to the breakfast counter and the handset.
“Hello?” Dad turned to the window and walked to it talking on the phone. “Yeah. That bad? My son is visiting, but I’ll just bring him with me… Yeah, on the way.” He hung up the phone.
“Gotta bad accident down by Don and Bob’s. Three cars and request for a jaws of death. Come on, you can take me.”
Before I could say anything, Dad started for the door, and then did an about-face causing a collision in the vestibule.
“Sorry, almost forgot my cards.” He hustled into the house and returned moments later stuffing cards in his pocket.”
“What cards are those?”
“Come on, son! We’re burning daylight.” Before I could respond he was out the door and into my car.”
I smiled. “Sure thing, JOHN!”
At my Dad’s insistence, we barreled down Bay Road to Lake Road. “You remember Don and Bob’s I assume?”
“Dad!” Mikey, my brother, and I grew up at Don and Bob’s. They had the best hot sauce for their hamburgers, bar none! And the french fries were simply heaven.
“Well step on it! I gotta do the jaws thingy.”
Jaws thingy? I couldn’t bring myself to question it, so I sped out of the driveway and drove out to Bay Road while also trying to make some headway with my goal of downsizing Dad.
“I’ve been thinking, Dad. The yard may not be huge, but it does require some care -”
“I’ll get to it, son. Jeez, just like your mother! I ain’t hiring some no-account Guinea pizza boy to manicure my lawn! I’ll get to it.”
“You need help with housekeeping, too. There’s no telling how many days those bloated Cheerios have been on the table. And your clothes! Did you put them through a wrinkle machine!”
“This morning! I poured the Cheerios this morning! And, these are my work clothes. Excuse me GQ! Now step on it, son. Lives are at stake.”
Approaching the divided highway at Don and Bob’s, I saw several police cars, lights flashing frantically. “This is an accident, Dad!”
“What do you think I’m talking about?”
I pulled behind the last cop car. “But what are you-”
“Volunteer rescue squad!” He didn’t close the door but broke into a run. That’s what I said, a run at eighty-two years of age!”
I watched in amazement as he jumped among a group of men half his age and taking the jaws of death cut open the door in a matter of moments. Doctors scrambled into the car and removed the man and women, placing them in an ambulance.
Dad removed himself from the crush of excitement and was talking to a group of people. I got out of the car and started walking to the crowd while my father talked with a mature woman, wrote something on the back of the card, and gave it to her.
I finally caught up to him as he headed back to the car. He pulled out his phone and answered it.
“Dad! Over he-”
“Excuse me, sir.” A uniformed cop stepped in my path. “Please stand back; this is an accident scene.”
“That’s my father.”
The cop turned around.
Johnny! Ol’ Johnny Rogue Johnston?”
“Johnny What Johnston?”
Dad swept past me, grabbing my arm. “Come on, son. Gotta run.” His other arm shot up to the sky in a wave. “Hey, Fred! How are them rug rats? Grown up any?”
Dad didn’t wait for a reply from anyone. Ever. Despite the situation. This was all too familiar.
He was now rapping on the windshield urging me to move my ass in a New York moment!
I got in and turned on the car, exhausted from watching and trying to figure out Dad!
“Home!” he trumpeted. Gotta change clothes and get some more cards. Needed at the Thompson Funeral Home tonight-”
“Funeral Home? What the hel-”
“I work there. They need greeters and folks to play host during funerals. A guy’s gotta make a living! And it beats Wal•Mart all to hell!”
“But a funeral home! Daaaaaad!”
“You ever taken a close look at the women in Walmart?”
“This is ridiculous. You’re 82 years old, and you need to step it down-”
“Step what down? Life? The hell with that! I’m 82, and at my age the only way I meet females, suitable females, is at accidents and funerals. Why do you think I have these cards?”
He handed me a card: “Johnny ‘Extra-Innings’ Johnston, retired, widowed, self-sufficient, and far from finished.”
…Ok… I was wrong, OK. I was stupidly wrong. Damn. Coming face to face with your own failure is devastating!