It was important for dad to go to the gym today. He was the navigator as I drove through unfamiliar streets – despite their proximity to the town where I grew up. I asked why he chose this gym (it’s about 25 minutes from the house – on the other side of the tracks) over something closer. He described the trees. “I can swim and look out the big windows and watch the trees. It’s like I’m outside.”
So we got there and dad asked if he could please cancel his membership. The giant twentysomething (muscles far too big for his size “M” shirt) had to get the manager, and the manager asked why. “I’m moving to California and I’ve enjoyed my time here very much. I’ve been a member for years and I thank you so much for the great experiences I’ve had here. It’s been great.” Butch (not-his-real-name) nodded kindly. He must have wondered how this tiny man – barely 100 lbs – with a shuffling gait – could exercise at all. “After the 30 day required cancellation period, your membership will end on September 6th. We’ll still need to charge you for August and the first six days of September.” I could see dad think about responding with displeasure about the 30 day window that’s probably in some fine print in the membership agreement. “Thank you very much,” He said .. with a kind smile. As we walked into the parking lot, he remarked that there’s no reason to waste any energy on complaining about little things. I agreed.
We took the long way home through Waltham. Stopped at a light, three young women walked in front of the car in the crosswalk. One was walking in front of the other two. She was a bit taller, in shorts and flip-flops and dad asked me if I remembered the John Updike story A&P. I nodded. “Queenie?” He asked and nodded toward the leader. I smiled. Green light. Go.
So long as he’s stable, mom and dad are going to San Francisco tomorrow. I called the hospice there and the hospice here and the palliative care doc there .. to get things lined up for a hospice-to-hospice handoff. I think it’ll work well. Hospice people “get it.” They’re nice. But not salesperson nice. They’re “real” nice.
Dr S, the oncologist in San Francisco is salesperson nice.
My daughter M joined us for dinner at the Chinese restaurant that they used to go to all of the time. He had a bowl of egg drop soup. The couple behind him were on their first date. Dad enjoyed listening to their conversation and then re-telling it after they left. “No second date” he predicted.
Dinner was surreal. As dad went to the rest room – mom had a look on her face. “It’s so hard to sit here – and be normal – have a normal meal – and know that we’ll never have this again. This is our last dinner at this place. We must have eaten here a hundred times in the last forty years. Our last night here in Boston together. The last .. ”
We’re “last-ing” now.
Of course we are. I agreed with mom. And yet I’m still trying to let the moments be what they are, without trying too hard to record them. Or regret them, or lament them. I’m not feeling much sadness. Happiness to be here. Serenity. Understanding. Maybe that’s a way to push back the sadness for me. I don’t want to waste the good time on it.
Back at the house, M had brought a game in from her car and dad won. It was fun and engaging and happy. And then it was over.
And it’s ok for things to end. Even good things.
Dad said goodnight. My sister will catch them at the airport tomorrow in San Francisco. Not sure when I’ll follow. Soon.