Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Where authors and readers come together!
My Father, Albert I. Busch, DDS, Z'L passed away on October 16, 2008. I am currently working on a book tentatively entitled Stuff My Father Won't Tell Me, a memoir of our last weeks and conversations together. Please feel free to comment on this and other forthcoming chapters as I revise them.
Alan D. Busch
Difficult to Leave
My father makes it very difficult for me to leave sometimes. Another Friday has arrived. Erev Shabbos, the Eve of The Sabbath, is the time when he begins to reflect. You see … my father is fashioning his cheshbon ha nefesh, his life reckoning, and I am his witness. It affords me the opportunity to see things from his inside out, to look out upon the world and see it as he
does. My father and I sit down together. He paused for a moment or two.
“Dad, are you all right?”
“Do you remember what you said?” he asked me with an expression of concern.
“About …?” I wondered.
“How you thought I was going to die when Bobbie (my dad's wife) brought me
to the emergency room?”
“Yes, I remember that very clearly …”
It was almost 4:00 on a Friday afternoon. My father lay atop his bedcovers, his head scrunched up against what appeared to be four fluffy pillows. He has appeared worn out these last several days. The “recovered and spry” dad of two weeks ago, the dad about whom I fancied might beat his cancer, seems long gone. He hasn’t changed out of his bedclothes in several days.
“Well, I wasn’t ready to die that morning son.” I listened. What is the appropriate response when one’s father says that?
“In fact,” he continued “the thought never entered my head.”
“Well, I ‘gotta’ tell you Dad, you looked terrible. I mean your skin was yellow.
You were feverish, the diarrhea was unrelenting. I thought to myself …. I really
did: ‘This is the end.’ “
Speaking of death does not disturb my father. He accepts it because he can do nothing to prevent it. I never stop learning from my father. He grimaced.
“Pain in your gut, Dad?”
“Some yes.” It’s been coming more frequently, he noted.
“I took a couple of Vicadin.”
We had gone out earlier to take care of some business. Wore him out.
“Dad, what kind of pain is it? Sharp, dull, stabbing, throbbing?”
“No. None of those. It feels ‘sore’.”
“Sore?” I wondered.
“You know, how I felt as a kid when I had eaten too many green apples.”
Now whether my father is giving me a sanitized explanation of his pain, I’m not
sure, but his grimace does not suggest “sore” to me.
“Dad, you rest this weekend,’ I advised, immediately recognizing the
presumptuousness of my recommendation.
“I’m not sleeping so well these days, Son.”
“He sleeps very little at night,” Bobbie informed me several days before of how
little he sleeps and spends hours walking around the apartment. “He does not
want to stop moving.”
“Know what I prescribe Dad?” I asked only partly in jest.
“Take a half cup of wine, just wine, a half cup only and a book. Climb into bed
and I guarantee you’ll be asleep within minutes.”
“Son,” my father said sternly, “I don’t drink.”
“Dad, this is not drinking. Half a cup of wine,” I pled. It was getting close to 5:00. I would have to leave soon.
“Do you have several minutes yet? Have I told you that story?”
“About … ?”
“Why I don’t drink …”
I sat back down and listened as if I had plenty of time. After all, this was my dad. Perhaps traffic would be light on a late Friday afternoon.
“Your mom and I went out to a friend’s dinner party, and I got stupid drunk. I never did like the stuff but that night … well anyway we got home, but I couldn’t make it up the stairs. Your mother was livid. So there I lie so drunk I couldn’t help myself. Then your brother Ron came out.”
Dad’s face reddened at the recollection.
“Daddy, why are you sleeping on the stairs?”
“I’m conducting a comfort test of these stairs, Son, and I think it’s not a good
idea to sleep on the stairs.” My father did not like recalling this story.
“Go home Son. It’s getting late,” he counseled. I turned to leave. He looked so far away.
“Alan, thank you,” he said excitedly. He remained seated. “You know I was
thinking back when you were a baby. You were born with a club foot. Did you
know that?” His eyes became misty. “No Dad I didn’t,” I managed to choke out
those four words.
In truth, I had heard it untold times before, but for my father, each time seemed as if it were the very first time. “And I used to turn your foot and turn your foot, again and again” he said
painfully and tearfully, showing me how he did it by twisting his hands in the manner of one who is wringing out a wet towel.
“What time do you have?” he asked me.
“4.45! You better get going. I don’t want you to be late for ‘shul’.” I gathered my things.
“Have a great weekend,” I said.
“Good Shabbos,” he responded, as if correcting my salutation. He kissed me on
my cheek with the stubble of three days’ growth of beard.
Though traffic did run surprisingly quickly, it seemed as if it took me forever to get home.