Saturday morning I left the hotel in search of more flowers for Dad. Kroger hadn’t put out the new stuff yet. I didn’t have time to wait, so I picked out the best of what was there. On the way out I noticed pots of black-eyed Susan’s. They were nearly four foot tall and covered with bright yellow flowers. So I bought one of them, too, adding a big pink phlox at the last minute just because.
Toodles and I got to Dad’s before our appointed time. The garage door was open, so I set up shop at the utility sink and helped myself to two of Dad’s vases. He’s got dozens of them arranged three and four deep on a high shelf that extends across two walls. For most of my life, when we went to someone’s house in the summer, Dad put together a flower arrangement for them. These arrangements came to be highly treasured within our family–so much so that my sister had Dad do the flowers for her wedding.
I found an empty popcorn tin for the giant black-eyed Susan and carried it into the living room where Dad spends most of his time. Toodles scampered ahead, knowing the way now. She ran straight to Dad’s chair and put her front paws up on it, looking at him and wagging her tail. Those of you who’ve met Toodles know this is not how she generally rolls. He didn’t notice and had no appreciation for the gesture, which in no way diminished the overall cuteness of the scene.
I brought in the rest of the flowers. He said they really cheered him up. I knew they would. Getting them made me feel like I was doing something.
My goal was to get a picture of us together. He wasn’t too keen on the idea, so I told him “they” wanted pictures of him holding the award the mayor brought out to the house. He put up with the process long enough for me to get one of us together and two of him with his wife. Then he had me go downstairs and pack up the receipts for every faucet, doorknob, and bucket of paint he ever bought for the house, “for the new owners,” he said.
After a lovely get-together with the cousins on my mother’s side of the family, marred only by Toodle’s determination that one of my cousin’s children was a threat (a child named after my Aunt Toodles…coincidence???), I went back to see Dad for the last time. Before I could sit down, he had me move the flowers so they were all in one place. Then he had me go downstairs again, this time, to retrieve two copies of a book the mayor had admired on his visit to the house. I found one copy but not the other. He’s sending the book, “Great Estates of the Bluegrass,” to the mayor.
As he started to drift off, I told him it was time for me to say good bye. Dad clasped my hands in his and squeezed. I told him I was glad I’d come, that I thought we’d had a great visit, and that I loved him. He told me he loved me, too. I bent to kiss his head, but he pushed me away. I’m not sure why–whether the intimacy was too much (I’ve barely hugged him since I was five) or perhaps it startled him. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t hurt or offended. He’s never been a touchy-feely kind of guy.
I had dinner with three great friends of mine. One of them, the woman who took me to a gay bar for the very first time, I had not seen since the late 1980s. We fell out…I don’t even remember why. She and the hostess of our dinner party (who our mutual friend had actually introduced me to) have remained close. When I found out we were having dinner at her house, I told her to invite my old friend.
She came. We stood in the doorway, hugging and crying for probably five full minutes. Neither of us said a word–we didn’t have to. We just cried and squeezed each other harder. Then we sat down and caught each other up on everything that’s happened in the last three decades. The years vanished, and miraculously, we picked up right where we left off.
I’m glad I went to see my father. Things turned out better than I ever would have imagined. For now, I’m at peace, here in…
My Glass House