“How much more will it cost to rent a convertible?”
The woman at the control desk lit up with anticipation on my behalf. Her animated fingers pummeled the keyboard and I thought I heard a note of triumph in her voice.
“We can get you into a Mitsubishi for another ten dollars a day. It is a really cool car.”
I am not on the leading edge of cool. Considering the reason for my visit though, I thought a rental car with a convertible top would help me balance my impending mood. After all, what do I say to someone who has terminal cancer? For all I knew it would be the last time I get to see him alive.
“Okay, I’ll go for the cool factor. I like being in the sun and having the wind blow in my face.”
After ten minutes of fidgeting with latches and discerning which buttons to push in which order, I blew out of the airport topless and cruised the seven mile bridge over the bay. The questions in my mind were as intense as the overhead sun. What am I going to say? Why didn’t it get diagnosed sooner? Is this how my life will finish? Why can’t I see God heal my dad while I am here?
This was my third trip down here this year and the first one after Dad decided to quit taking chemotherapy. Truth be told, the chemo almost killed him. He fell in the shower last week and had to be rushed to the emergency room. His brief description of what it was like confirmed for the rest of us that he was making the right choice for the quality of life.
“I didn’t have enough strength to lift a cornflake.”
That said it all. No more chemo. He had taken his best shot and it didn’t work out. He had no regrets. After my sister called me in tears about Dad’s trauma and Dad’s paleness and Dad’s impending last breath, I still couldn’t bring myself to come down on the next flight. I had to wait several days to get out of my obligations with grace but I was fully committed here now.
As I pulled into the condo complex, I couldn’t help notice the extra effort that was made to enhance the place. I was amazed at myself for noting the little details that people did to fight back the blandness. The fountain in front of unit eleven infringed on public space but attracted the green geckos who eyed me suspiciously as I passed. The patio tomatoes near unit twenty-seven were beginning to wilt like many of the residents here. The roses next to unit thirty two surprised me. I didn’t know they grew in Florida but they definitely drew your eye away from the beige wall.
My parent’s condo was on the second floor and had no noticeable adornment. Its one redeeming feature was that it was right next to the laundry room so mom could go out the back door and do her wash. My parents are practical people and such amenities were foremost in their mind when choosing this place.
I knocked and didn’t wait to go in. Dad sat in his chair and arose as quickly as his taut skinned body would allow. Mom came out of the kitchen to balance him out of the chair.
“I am so glad you could make it. It is always so good to see you.” These were more than just polite words. Dad gave me an intense hug to back them up. He was not normally the hugging type but we both knew we could not afford to be normal anymore.
There were many years where we were not close. There were many times in our lives where things went unsaid. There were potential memories that were lost to the busyness of life and pride. All of that is of little consequence when the right hug comes along. Dad and I are men of few words. We are both intense introverts. Nonetheless, we have both learned that there is so much that can be said without words. You just have to learn how to listen.
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