“Why wouldn’t he just go see a doctor?”
Twenty-three year old Owen was beside himself with grief, his head in his hands as he sobbed.
His sister, Sandy sat next to him on the bottom step of the stairs that led up, looked forlornly around the small apartment.
“I don’t know,” she said equally as affected. “But it was his choice. If he didn’t want to go see a doctor, no one could make him.”
Her words did little to ease the loss Owen felt.
“He was only fifty-two!” Owen wailed. “Why couldn’t he just stop eating Kentucky Fried Chicken all the time?”
That was all it took. In her own grief, Sandy couldn’t help but laugh. After all, it sounded so much like something their dad would've said. And whether Owen wanted to accept it or not, he was very much like the man he was now mourning.
“I’m fairly certain it took more than Kentucky Fried Chicken to spur on a massive heart attack,” she told him. “And that’s what he had.”
At six foot six, their dad was a giant to most. Owen was six three but quite a bit heavier. This realization hit him hard after his last comment.
“I’m going to stop eating at fast food restaurants. I’m never going to eat at one again.”
Humor had always been their dad’s way of comforting others. Everyone in the family had adapted his style to some degree. “Yes,” Sandy said. “They’re of the devil.”
For the moment, they went back to their thoughts.
Owen’s thoughts put him back at the hospital, waiting for the ambulance. He began sobbing all over again. “He was so pale, Sandy! Why wouldn’t he go see a doctor?”
No answer this time.
“He called Judy of all people!”
Sandy understood his pointing this out. Their sister Judy did not handle emotional situations well. “He asked her what a heart attack felt like because he thought he was having one.”
"Well, she was studying to be a nurse at one time. At least she got a hold of you.”
Sandy looked over to the couch. “They say he was gone before he even hit the floor.”
Owen once again succumbed to tears. “Why wouldn’t he go see a doctor?”
* * *
Despite his grief over the matter, Sandy knew that Owen and their dad fought more than they got along. Yet it was a healthy fighting, silly things really. Owen brought some of them up at the eulogy he gave.
“I got Electronic Talking Football for Christmas once. You know, the game with the little records you place in a plastic player to find the play you’d want.”
Confirming nods all around.
“Well, I hated to lose. So I put nitches in all the little plastic records. That way I’d know exactly which play to choose. I’d also know what the opposing player chose. Needless to say I always won.”
Owen paused then, looked almost regretful. “But you know, Dad never gave up. He’d lose a dozen times, would end up leaving the room mad, claimed I was cheating but he always came back for more.”
I remembered this. Owen cheated at every game we played. He cheated so much that the game became trying to figure out just how Owen was cheating. It did seem to bother Dad more than the rest of us though and while many were laughing at Owen’s antics, I couldn’t help but wonder.
After a few more stories, Owen brought it all home.
“My father always called me his son, no matter what I did. He was always proud of me and would do whatever he could to help me. The other thing I did,” Owen confessed, “which started in my youth, was I’d call him father or Dan instead of dad. He hated this.”
Owen took a moment, cleared his throat, and wiped a stray tear aside.
“So as we drive out to the cemetery today and stand beside the grave of the man whose body we’re about to bury, I just want you to keep this in mind. We won’t be there to bury Dan Steele the radio personality. And we won’t be there to lay to rest one of the funniest men I’ve ever come to know. Nor will we be there to bury a great father who tolerated better than most. As we stand beside that open grave today, I want you to know we’ll be there to bury my Dad.”
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