And HE called ME a clubhouse lawyer.

I didn’t want him to go.

When Mom died, after things had settled a little, I asked him if he knew about that six months statistic where one spouse goes and the other follows.  He said he did.

Listen to me, Dad. We’re not going to put up with that bullshit.  We can’t take anymore of this, you hear me?

I hear ya.

Then promise me.

I promise.  I won’t die in the next six months.

We were both smiling.

So many things happened between then and the early frozen morning he died.  He was hospitalized.  Lost more of his leg.  Went into kidney failure when he didn’t receive proper care at his first nursing home.  Developed a horrible decubitus, along with 4 major infections.

I was sitting with him in the hospital on one of these unhappy occasions.  He wouldn’t sign a DNR yet , but my siblings and I were all on the same page about what was best for him.  We told him that we’d be all right if he left.  We told him it was okay to feel better, even if feeling better meant letting go.

I thought I meant it.  But, then, while I was trying to get him to eat, he closed his eyes.

Hey, Dad. His eyes opened.  What’s a matter?  You just don’t feel good? His nod was barely perceptible.  And I knew.  He was going.  Dad?  Dad!  I don’t want you to go! came out in great choking sobs that I had no control over and that seemed to belong to someone else.

He opened his eyes in alarm, and nodded again.  We just sat there and stared at each other for awhile.  Then, when it was time, he took his medication and tried to eat a little.  I wasn’t proud of my catastrophic response, but I felt strongly that it wasn’t really his time.  These crises were manufactured for him by inattentive caregivers.  Besides.  It bought us 2 more months with him.

He’d moved to a different nursing home by then.  A better one, where one of my friends worked and where two others could see him almost daily.  He’d been there a couple of months and seemed to be improving.  His wounds were bad, but the amputation site was healing.  Diabetes will kick a tough guy’s ass.  My sisters, a brother and I, saw him pretty regularly, and he and I continued to talk almost every day.

I was driving up to see him the day of the night he died.  I was meeting my sister there.  I got a late start and there were traffic delays, but Dad and I talked while I drove.  I told him about the letter I was bringing him from a high school friend of mine.  They’d been in the same division, the 7th Infantry, decades apart.  Gregg said some beautiful things, like that Dad was thought of as a hero by men who knew what he’d gone through in Korea.  His initial response, Bullshit, was followed by Well, I’ll be.

I was past St. Louis when Dad called to check on me. 

Listen.  I want you to stop by here as soon as you get to town.

Might be pretty late, Dad.  You’ll be sleeping.

No, I won’t be, either.

Okay.  If you’re sleeping, I won’t wake you, but, I’ll come there first.

You see that you do.

I was about an hour away when Amy called.  She’s superstitious and he’d had a remarkable day.  He’d been up, smoked one of the hand rolled cigars I’d sent him, asked her to have lunch with him, and spent the afternoon listening to Johnny Cash.   She wanted to tell me that his oxygen stats weren’t quite right and he’d had some blood sugar issues.  She thought maybe I should stop there as soon as I got to town.

My sister, Mary, was there when I arrived.  They were monitoring his oxygen, but he was awake, talking, glad to see us.  Around one or so (AM), he kept closing his eyes and I kept saying Hey, Dad and putting my hand on his chest to wake him.  After the sixth or seventh Hey, Dad he said WHAT?!, which got us all tickled, even him.

Do you want me to let you go to sleep?

Well, yes!

You know what, Dad?  I’m afraid if you go to sleep you won’t ever wake back up again.

Well.  That’d be all right.  I’m very tired.

Later, he was trying to take off his oxygen.

Hey, Dad.  You reckon you better leave that on?

Ha!  I can’t wear this outside.

Whatcha going outside for? It was 3 in the morning and freezing cold.

Well, I’m gonna collect some night crawlers and put in this can. He shows me the can he’s holding.  He alone can see it.

Oh…  Whatcha need night crawlers for?

I wanna take you fishin’.

It was the last thing he said to me.

The three of us—me, Amy and Mary—had a beer with him, after.  But not before my sister and I walked through the darkened hall way to a back foyer and hanged onto each other.  Like he’d told us a thousand times, we told him to call when he got there.  The chime that rang like crazy, when we wondered aloud if he’d made it, could have been a coincidence.  As could have the porch light that blinked on and off three times in a row, each time we talked about him coming back around.

When I was a kid, and even later on, he called me a Clubhouse Lawyer.  I looked for loopholes.  I obeyed the letter of the law but not the spirit.  I was, and am, my father’s daughter.

I was thinking about that when my sister and I were counting up how long it had been since Mom died.  Dad kept his Clubhouse Lawyer promise.  She’d been gone seven months.

6 Responses to “And HE called ME a clubhouse lawyer.”

  1. I don’t even know how to comment on this except to say that it is beautiful and gut wrenching.

    Through it, I learn about Frank. I learn about you.

  2. Crying my eyes out right now.

    In the best possible way.

  3. Cushla Says:

    I went to the doctor today, had to see about getting this lump removed from my throat…

  4. maryfrank Says:

    required–after reading–a sidebar in chambers

  5. ida allis Says:

    you touch my heart!

  6. I understand all of this so much more clearly now. In his final weeks, Dad couldn’t eat, except very rarely, and even then, it was in teaspoons and unlikely to be kept down. For some strange and happy reason, about all he could take and keep down was beer. Last week while trying to finish up finding/moving his things, I found a six pack in the garage that my dear Aunts and cousins had brought him down on their way down to visit. I’m having one of them now. Such a blessing that he found comfort in my words; I only regret not making it down to meet him in time, but as previously discussed, Lord willing, one day I will.

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