The heart of every Tuesday belongs to Daddy.
Our visits begin with a stop in Norman to pickup my brother Jon. It helps to have a reality check for visits with Daddy; Jon is mine and I hope I’m his.
Even before we’re out of the Norman city limits, we begin to quiz one another about what lies ahead of us; which Daddy will we see at the end of today’s journey? Will today be a good day, or one not-so-good like last Tuesday?
On good days, Daddy knows we are there. On a bad day, who can say what Daddy knows? He sleeps through our visit, oblivious of worldly cares or visitors. But for our own peace of mind, we might as well not be there; I’m pretty sure Dad would be none the wiser. Of course, I realize that what I call bad days may not be from Daddy’s perspective. In reality, the bad days may be those when Dad’s totally alert to his surroundings and his own diminishment.
By all counts, today was a good day. So good that Daddy did not want it to end. Jon and I are ‘on’ to Dad’s delaying tactics — instead of a child who needs a drink of water at bedtime, Daddy’s ploy is that he needs to tell us something important. This can eat up quite a bit of time for one who can’t communicate. It took five long minutes to realize Dad was asking for an ink pen to write with. Thirty minutes later, after many false starts, we still had no idea of Daddy’s urgent message. All Dad could write was “How does….?”, “How does…?”
On days like today, Daddy is a scratched record stuck in a groove. So I reach out to pull Daddy and his message out of the dark oblivion. “How does what…. Daddy? Give us a noun please.” We never did get that noun out of Daddy; it never saw the light of day. Whether there was really a message in Dad’s mind or not, we’ll never really know.
However, this we know for sure: Tomorrow is Larry’s 79th birthday. Daddy and Larry share a room; and more than that, I learned today that Larry is Daddy’s ‘go-to’ person when we’re not there. Larry greeted us today with news that Daddy has been without his television remote for the last two days. Especially now, at this stage in Daddy’s life, television is everything to Daddy. I didn’t even sit down. I searched the room one last time; and as I wondered what we would have done without Larry’s help, I suddenly remembered Christi telling me about Larry’s birthday.“Larry, is there anything I can pick up for you at Wal-Mart?” “No, thank you.” “A book or magazine maybe?” “No, thank you.”
I had hoped Larry would voice some need; some small want that would fit into a Wal-Mart bag. But no; like Daddy, Larry is a man of few needs and wants. In the end, I settled for a nice birthday card; and after Daddy, Jon and I signed it, I handed it to Larry, wishing him a happy birthday tomorrow.
You’d think I’d done something wonderful. Larry smiled real big, said thank you and immediately opened the envelope to get to the prized card inside. As I looked on, I told Larry if he EVER needed anything from Wal-Mart on a Tuesday, he could count on me.
Someday I hope Larry will need to redeem my offer. Not because I can ever repay Larry for his kindness to Daddy. But just because I’d like to do something kind for this kind man who has been unable to walk for twenty years. Larry shares his voice with Daddy. I offer to share my legs with Larry. Not exactly quid pro quo. But the kind thing to do when, as the Rolling Stones sing, “life grows unkind.”
Happy Birthday Larry.