Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The friend I was worried about passed away last Friday. Dean was actually my dad's friend but he became mine. My dad moved back to his small hometown after my mom died. He bought a big old house on main street and collected a motley crew of friends. Dean was one of the crew. My dad and he had been friends in their younger days and he had graduated high school with my mom in an even smaller nearby town. Every member of the crew kept a jug of their favorite poison in the liquor cabinet and when their work day was done they would come in the backdoor without knocking and fix themselves a drink and sit down at the kitchen table and talk, and argue, and play cards, and sometimes get drunk. My brothers and sister didn't much care for the crew (my brothers and sister don't drink). They saw them as unsophisticated old drunks. I loved those guys. I saw them as friends.
In later years, my dad had several health setbacks and I went to stay with him for several months on a couple of occasions. I was the nurse, I was close, and I was convenient. That's how my brothers and sister saw it. I saw it as an opportunity to help my dad, my best friend besides the cap'n. It wasn't always easy, but it was a privilege. Through all the ups and downs, the crew still came by and broke up the monotony of my and dad's day. When I needed a walker or rails put on the back porch stairs after dad's stroke it was his crew that I called. And they always answered. When we needed comic relief they were there with their small town gossip and petty squabbles. When dad was able, we'd head down to the VFW where the same five old men were always hunkered around the bar. Rounds were bought and cards were shuffled. I'm sure my brothers and sister were concerned about the care that dad was getting but I wonder if they are lucky enough to have friends like these. I am.
The day before my dad died was a football Saturday. Dad was frail but he sat at his usual place at the kitchen table and all the other chairs were full as the crew watched the game on the big screen TV. We talked, and squabbled, and laughed and got a little drunk. That night Dad went to sleep and didn't wake up. I can't imagine a better send off.
The crew talked about buying the house just so they'd still have their favorite place. Joe's place.
P.S. Not all drinking memories are bad memories.