This is the first part of a short story I wrote earlier this year. Nothing profound, just for fun. As they say in the movies, it’s “inspired by actual events”, as if any story that’s told is not inspired by real life. This one is loosely based on a story a friend told me about his family. It’s presented in three parts for suspense… and because it makes more posts that way.
Dad’s ring tone roused me from the stupor I had slipped into while watching TV. His was the most abrasive tone I could find. It prepared me for the inevitably annoying conversation that it announced. I answered it almost against my will. That’s how it is with my parents. I wonder if I’d feel the same way if I had children of my own.
Though they’d shared living space for decades, they stopped talking to each other long ago. I’d become their only sounding board. With Dad, it was sports and politics, often overlapping. Mom was all about dead relatives and food, the only things that stuck in her mind.
“Do you know where your mother is?”
It was an ominous beginning. I had no idea where he was, never mind where she was.
“Is she lost again?”
“No, I am.”
Bad to worse.
“I’m at the hospital for a routine appointment.” Nothing was routine with my father. He had every ailment known to man. Irregular heartbeat, diabetes, gout, glaucoma, bad knees, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, migraines, and more. The latest malady was failing kidneys. He was a funeral waiting to happen. There wasn’t a doctor within 50 miles of Syracuse who hadn’t treated at least one of his conditions.
“She was supposed to pick me up when it was over. She’s not here yet.”
“How long has it been?”, I asked him.
“She’s been missing for six hours? Why didn’t you call me sooner? And why is she driving at all?”
Is there some law of nature that says at least one parent can’t be healthy both physically and mentally? As feeble as Dad’s body was, Mom’s mind was worse. Dad had the mental acuity of a 20-year-old, but the physical health of a cadaver. Mom was very much the reverse. They’d make one great person. Unfortunately, they were two. Often they felt like a lot more.
Dad was apologetic. “I thought she could handle it. We’re only a few blocks away.”
I was unsympathetic. “It might as well be the Northwest Passage. Have you called home?”
“There’s no need to shout at your father, Peter. Of course I have. There was no answer.”
The old adage says that repeating an action expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. By repeating my father’s action, I questioned his. Mom answered on the second ring.
“Mom, are you alright?”
“Of course I am, Peter. It’s your father I’m worried about. He isn’t home and I have no idea where he is.”
“Stay where you are. Don’t move. I’ll be right home with Dad.”
It was worth the risk to drive above the speed limit, run stop signs, and pass illegally. The safety of my parents was at stake. Besides, no policeman with a beating heart would cite me with such a great excuse.
Dad and I arrived home in short order. The lights were on. A good sign. Neither of us recognized the shiny new Lexus in the driveway. A bad sign.
Mom was right where she always was, settled in her easy chair watching TV. On the side of her forehead was a nasty cut and bruise.
“Mom, where have you been all afternoon?”
“I took a little ride. It was a beautiful day for a drive, wasn’t it? I’m quite tuckered out now.”
I cleaned and bandaged her cut. “How did that happen?” It seemed like a reasonable question.
“I have no idea. At this age, we’re always getting cuts and bruises everywhere. Darned if we know where they come from. Why don’t you stay over, Peter? I’ll make eggs for breakfast. How do you like yours?”
That was the signal to retire for the evening.
To be continued…