Memories for me are triggered by many things. Music in particular, sometimes specific smells or meals, and of course particular days during the calendar year. I think most people can relate to having memories invade their consciousness during Christmas, but it being June. The approach of Father’s Day–has my mind turned to my dad and I’ve found myself reliving memories of dad events over the course of my life. It’s not a bad thing. Most of the memories are pretty good and usually relate to something positive. One memory seems to be coming up more often than the rest this year. It was something that occurred just before he passed away.
During the last few years of his life, he questioned whether he was being affected by CTE. Over the course of his life, he suffered several concussions. As he mentally deteriorated toward the end of his life, I came to believe he was probably right. As his issues grew, I tried to help with his care, so the burden didn’t fall solely on my brother. It was during one of my many trips to help that this event occurred.
Because of a recent fall, he was staying in a rehabilitation facility; I met him at the doctor’s office. The visit was unrelated, but because he was in rehab he was delivered by med transport. It was late in the day, and I’d spent a frustrating morning dealing with the Georgia VA and taking care of some other details.
Because his was the last appointment of the day, the accumulation of all the day’s delays had put the doctor almost an hour behind, which added to my frustration. The appointment itself was fast, and soon we were ushered out of the doctor’s offices and into a hallway that served as a waiting room. Because of the delay, the med transport that was supposed to return him to the rehab facility had left, and we now had to wait for it to return. I plopped down into a chair and stared silently at the wall in front of me. Because he was in a wheelchair, dad sat a few feet down from me and stared at the wall mounted TV which was showing local news or something.
We sat together without speaking. I was mentally going over the events of the day, trying to make sure I had accomplished everything on my list of things that needed doing. He was silent for several minutes and then he spoke without shifting his view from the TV. “Well, tell me something I don’t know.”
I didn’t appreciate the interruption. In fact, I was hoping the ambulance would show up quickly so that I could move on to the many things that still needed handling. I did not want a conversation. I thought for half a minute before responding, or maybe I didn’t think at all before responding with a smartass answer. Without even looking toward him, I said in a flat voice. “The cheetah is the fastest land animal. It’s able to run up to 70 miles an hour.”
As soon as I the words came out, I knew I was wrong and regretted it. I was taking my frustration out on him. None of this was his fault. But that occurred to me. I braced myself for whatever deserved angry response might come back to me. When he hadn’t spoken for a minute, I looked over at him, and he continued to stare silently at the TV. Then, his expression changed and I could tell he was pondering some sort of response and I gripped the arms of the chair I was in. Finally, he relaxed, shrugged, and without looking toward me said, “Okay, I didn’t know that,” then laughed.
The tension having been broken, I laughed too. We then had a brief conversation about what was going on in the news.
This event is the one I cling to as the last cognizant conversation we had before he passed away.
I miss you, dad.