My Best Friend Is Denial

Denial is such a wonderful thing.

Dad's been doing so well the past few weeks...Even better since we'd discovered the allure of the fragrant crockpot. He was eating. He was alert. We could even leave for an hour or so without worrying that he'd have a crisis.

And then came August 24th.

Back in March, Dad told Mom he thought Aug. 24th would be a good day to die as it was St. Bartholomew's Day. But, he added, he didn't think he'd last that long.

As the day grew closer, none of us could quite forget what he'd said...But he was doing so well.

I told him the boys went back to school on the 25th and for some unknown reason, he penciled that in his appointment book. That scared me.

But on the evening of the 22nd he was doing so well. I didn't feel bad about leaving him to return to Greensboro for three days. After all, my sister would be with him.

Becky called me the next afternoon...Ironically, just as I was about to see a new patient whose mother was dying.

"His heartrate's up to 105. He's very, very weak. The hospice nurse doesn't think he'll pull out," she said. I could hear the slight crack in her voice and feel the fear radiating through the phone line.

He got on the phone. "I'm fine, really, I'm getting better. There's no need for you to come."

That cinched it. I was going.

Becky said, "Wait til we get the 4:30 report from the nurse. You know, he's done this before and we've been wrong. Besides," she added. "It's only the 23rd."

So I finished out the day. I went to the nursing home and saw my people. Cookie said "This is a different day. It's not like any other. I don't know what's going on."

As I held her hand and reassured her, I thought, me either.

I stopped at the house, threw some clothes into a suitcase and made an early dinner for the guys. Part of me feels guilty at not being able to be in two places at once. I miss them...But I miss him too.

When I reached New Bern, there he was, sitting up in bed watching a CNN special. But he was different, weaker, his voice almost a whisper, his skin a blanched white against the beige sheets.

I stopped by in the morning and he was even better. So I drove back to Greensboro to prepare a Last Night Before School Starts dinner. We all laughed and carried on. The boys were hilarious. It seems Adam had noticed a new ice cream sandwich, a huge thing called "Fat Boys."
He and his brother spent dinner coming up with new, politically and tastefully incorrect ad slogans, pitching them to Adam's girl, Amanda, competing unconsciously for the best laugh.

I called to check on Dad. "I decided the 24th wasn't such a good day to die after all," he said. "I'm gonna wait for Santa Claus."

"I'm trying to convince him to wait until March," Becky added. "So he'd be 80."

"Hell, I'm pulling for the Easter Bunny...Or maybe the Second Coming," I said.

I hopped in the car this morning, drove the long trip back to New Bern and arrived to find him so soundly asleep I had to check to see if he was still breathing.

He was...But he's weaker now. He's lost a little ground.

He tells me now he was having terrible dreams about needing to divide his house into thirds and having poor help from the carpenters...All while bad bugs swarmed around them. "We were trying to get it done so we could go swimming," he said.

There are three of us kids. Jesus was a carpenter. Illnesses are sometimes called bugs, and swimming symbolizes rebirth or transformation. Was he having another pre-death dream?

Nah, I'm just over-analyzing things again, huh?

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