A young man becomes worried when he learns of his father's illness and the tragic night.
|I heard a door slam.
"Dad," I called, but to no avail.
Being eighty, he had started losing his hearing.
I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes, then glanced at the digital clock on my dresser, flashing 2:00 AM.
"Oh dad, why do you do this to me?"
I threw off the blankets and planted my feet on the hard, cold floor.
My brother is right. Dad would be safer in a nursing home. Since he got dementia, he became difficult to handle, but I can't leave him with strangers. I promised Mom before she died that I would take of him. If I did put him in a nursing home, I would at least get a good night's sleep.
I stood up, put on a pair of slacks, and slipped my cold feet into my slippers. I kept calling out to him, hoping he would answer so we can both get some shut-eye. It was only a few nights ago, and he decided to make popcorn at one in the morning and nearly burned the house down.
The nursing home may be a good idea after all.
I walked down the dark hall to his bedroom. I reached his door and turned the knob. Specks of moonlight filtered through the Venetian blinds as the door slowly creaked open.
"Dad," I whispered, as I peeked my head into the room, hoping he was asleep.
Light sprinkled across the room as I pressed the button to the lamp with the stained glass shade that he made at the senior center. After being diagnosed, he never went back to the place. He couldn't remember names and a few times lost his way. The police brought him home too many times to count that they referred themselves as dad's own Uber driver.
His bed was empty. He was giving me gray hairs, as I once gave him, especially when I took the family car for the first time and went past curfew. I remembered him rolling his blue eyes when I told him that I got stuck by a couple of freight trains. After a few times of taking the bus, I learned to keep my eye on the traffic and my wristwatch.
I went to the den. Dad enjoyed sitting in his rocking chair, flipping through the pages of Sports Illustrated, especially the golfing section. He told me a zillion times that he once beat Jack Nicholson. Being a teenager when he said to me, I was amazed at his athletic ability. Later in life, I discovered that Mr. Nicholson let twenty guys beat him in the name of charity.
I found the den to be dark and began feeling the hammering in my head, and my blood pressure rising.
"Dad!" I turned back into the hall and saw light streaming under the basement door. I dashed down the stairs.
Could he be working on a jigsaw puzzle? His doctor prescribed it to help him with his memory. If only my dad would take his medication that the doctor prescribed.
He wasn't anywhere in the basement.
Before going upstairs, I walked to the table where dad had been working on a jigsaw puzzle. I saw pieces of puzzles were torn and scattered on the floor.
He enjoyed this hobby. Why would he do this?
Then, I saw a photo album on his workbench. The first page had a picture of mom on her wedding day. She was a tall brunette with brown eyes and olive skin. Dad told everyone that she was his gift from God. They were married for fifty-nine years and acted at times like their honeymoon never ended.
I turned the page to the next photo. My mom was stuffing a piece of wedding cake into my dad's mouth. I saw the date, written in blue icing on the cake. I looked up at the calendar on the wall. Today would have been their sixtieth anniversary, but I knew my dad wouldn't remember it. He had enough trouble remembering where he put his teeth.
I ran upstairs, resuming my search when I noticed a speck of light in the kitchen.
A smile crossed my face. He might be making more popcorn, which means I should have the hose ready, just in case the flames go higher than they should.
My smile, however, faded, as I walked into the room. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the back door opened.
I grabbed a flashlight from the kitchen cabinet and ran out the door. I sprayed a cone a light upon each section of the yard, calling out his name. My hands started shaking as sad thoughts clouded my mind.
Has he been a victim of a hit and run? Robbery? Fell into a manhole?
"Where are you?" I felt a pain stabbing me in the stomach.
"Mike," a voice called.
"Paul?" I asked surprisingly.
I directed the light to the sound of his voice. My neighbor's face peeked between two branches of his Lilac bush. His hand in front of his big wire-rimmed glasses blocking the light from his eyes.
"I'm sorry." I pointed the flashlight to the ground.
He walked to the picket fence. He wore a white bathrobe and black slippers.
"What are you doing out here at this time of morning?" I asked.
"Diamond had one bowl of water too many." He laughed.
I turned the light on his Beagle who was sniffing the grass as she walked.
"Why are you out here?"
I explained as a lump formed in my throat.
"I looked everywhere in the house."
"Shouldn't you call the police?"
"I better. I was hoping he might be in the yard, drinking a glass of wine. He calls it relax therapy."
Paul then became serious. "Your father was so sad yesterday when he talked about his wedding anniversary."
I started thinking of the scattering pieces of the puzzle and my dad's disappearance. "Excuse me, Paul, there's some place that I need to go."
I turned and ran into the house. I retrieved my keys from the kitchen table and ran to my car.
"Do you need my help?" Paul hollered.
"No thank you. Everything will be okay."
I back out of the driveway and drove a few blocks where I parked the car under a streetlamp.
I took my flashlight out of the glove compartment and stepped out of the car. Since the gates to the cemetery were closed, I squeezed my way between the loose pickets of the wrought iron fence.
I saw my dad under a sprawling oak tree standing at my mother's gravesite. A candle flickered in his hand.
He was safe.
I walked toward him and wrapped my arms around him.
"She was so special to me," he cried.
I gently laid his head on my shoulder as we shed tears.
The anger and frustration had dissolved along with my blood pressure getting back to normal. I felt at peace, knowing I was hugging the man I loved.
There will be many sleepless nights and plenty of stomach pains, but I'll always know that he will be cared for by someone who will never stop loving him even the day when he no longer remembers my name.