Months To Years Winter 2019 Months To Years Winter 2019 - Page 13

watched his weight sink steadily until he weighed I finally understood how serious things were when less than 100 pounds. distant relatives, my father’s aunt and uncle, arrived suddenly one Sunday from San Diego. My One day a small statue of St. Jude, the Patron of father was back in the hospital--a minor setback, Lost Causes, appeared on my mother’s bureau. I’d been told, but in fact he would never return It was a cheap plaster figurine with an indistinct home. I was at the house alone when Aunt Hester face and a garish green robe. and Uncle Ralph arrived. “Pray for a miracle,” my mother told me. “He’s doing okay. The doctor said he’d be fine,” I promised. “They’re treating it with drugs.” They I nodded but told myself that she was making didn’t react to the good news. They just looked no sense. I knew what the doctor had said: “He’ll at each other and refused to meet my eyes. They be fine.” So, I didn’t pray. I did my homework, I knew what I did not, and their silence told me attended junior high dances, and I played ball what my father, my mother and the doctor had with my buddies. The only real change in my hidden. My father had less than a week left. routine was that now my dad wasn’t at work. Each day, instead of my waiting for him to return home, There was a final awkward conversation with my he waited for me. When I arrived from school I’d dad alone in the hospital room. His voice was stop by his bedroom and ask him how he was weak and raspy, and he couldn’t raise his head feeling. from the pillow.  He seemed to know he had to say something to me, but he didn’t know what. “Okay,” he’d say with whatever enthusiasm he could muster. “I might not be coming home,” he said. “Be good and take care of your mom.” That was all. My father had spent the last day before his My memories of the funeral are of sweet-smelling diagnostic surgery, the weekend before his last flowers and my mother’s tears. A week later, a birthday and Thanksgiving, finishing a fence well-meaning priest came to our house to see around our brand-new tract home in Anaheim. how we were doing. He sat in my dad’s easy chair The fence was seven feet tall with tongue-and- wearing a cassock and a Roman collar and sipped groove slats held by sturdy redwood four-by-four coffee from our best china. posts sunk into concrete. I wonder now if my father felt the fence would defend us from the “You know that your father became a Catholic on death he already sensed was growing inside him. his last day,” he said. “Now he is with Our Lord. I know he was trying to protect both of us when There’s no question about that. He is a very lucky he looked at me weeks later with his thin face and man. I would change places with him in a second. said he was fine, even though it took an effort for You should be happy for him.” him to stand. His words worked. I continued to see what he wanted me to see: the leader of my I tried to be happy for my dad, to think he was Cub Scout troop, the man who took me fishing for lucky, but I couldn’t take denial that far. What I bass on our family’s leaky little boat, and the boss knew was that he was suddenly gone, and my life who ordered truck drivers and forklift operators would never be the same. Overnight I had become around the Kraft Foods shipping dock in Buena a kid who was different, who had only one parent, Park. whose family wasn’t what it was supposed to be. 13