Another Story EndsSunday, 1:30 pm, back to the apartment for some rest. Yesterday's fun river tubing ended with a call from the office about a problem that had not solved itself, a restless night, an early morning four hour drive, and a few hours in the bus yards fixing mistakes others had made. Time out, recenter, relax ... vacation is coming up on Friday, everything is under control ... when the cell phone rings.
It's my sister, and I know what she's going to say before a single word is spoken. "Hi, Jean, how are you?"
"Hi, brother, pretty good un .. under the circ ... circumstances" and she breaks down.
"The doctor says 24 to 36 hours."
"I'll get the next plane." Advantage of military experience -- one hour later, bag packed, apartment closed down, work responsibilities passed off to coworkers, driving into rain squalls and headed for the airport, running late. So is the plane, fortunately.
Like many (most?) of us, my father and I parted in anger when I left the family home. The details hardly matter; we reconciled some time ago, and I still mention the old saw about him getting smarter as I grew older. Told him that myself, also, and thanked him for it.
My son joins me in the waiting lounge. "Should I get a plane and come out, too?" he asks. He's great about that, always there for people.
"You'd be welcome -- but there won't be much happening other than closing out the paperwork. The road trip you guys did last year to be with him while he could enjoy your company, that was what he wanted. Thanks again for arranging that, by the way."
He nods, shakes his head and grins. "That was an exercise in catherding, all right, never thought it would be so hard to get people to one place at one time. It was good, though."
I notice several passers-by in the terminal glancing at us, and realize that we are something of a sight -- no one would doubt that we are related, and his paramedic uniform draws attention any time. "You wouldn't want to miss that barbeque party that your wife is setting up for this weekend."
"Yeah." He lets a brief smile slip out. "I guess. Okay if I call Aunt Jean to check?"
"No problem here -- but you might call Uncle Hal instead, Aunt Jean's pretty broken up."
My fiancee calls. "Are you okay?"
"I am. Sean is here with me ... yeah, he's good. I'm looking to take care of things there and fly back on Friday morning -- pick up the car and drive down to meet you, get on the plane for Costa Rica Saturday morning, back on track."
"If you get a chance -- tell him that I am with him, too," she says, and -- recalling the night I leaned over next to my wife's ear, not knowing if she could hear me, and told her she could leave, that I would take care of the things she wanted done for her children -- I promise to do so.
Napping on the plane, five hours to Phoenix, arrival delayed two hours by the storms. Will he still be there -- do I really want him to be there, to go through the heartache of witnessing once again the frailty of a loved one's body at the end? One more time. I can do it. One more time.
Jean calls while I am picking up the rental car. "Hey, brother. Dad left us at 6:17." 9:30 in the evening -- near midnight on my biological clock -- and still two hours drive north of the home.
Not even close. Nothing left to do but thank Jean and Hal again for being there when I could not, and then get on with the paperwork.
Well -- thank you, God, you are wiser and kinder than I am. But I still want some "why?" questions answered when I come home.