What’s going on with my dad? Usually when I call him, he regales me with the fascinating tales of his latest dental work, how the dentist’s receptionist doesn’t like him and how he’s trying to negotiate a deal so he doesn’t have to pay (is it any wonder she hates him?). Not so the past few phone calls. Right now, my dad’s living an exciting life.
A couple of months ago, my dad told me he had a fall. He was up on a ladder, above a small stairwell, and got his foot stuck in the ladder. He couldn’t get his foot unstuck, so he decided to have a “controlled fall.” The only control he had was that it was his decision. So the ladder came crashing down, he fell onto the stairs and he hurt his back. He went to the doctor, who said he hadn’t broken anything. My father has the posture of a question mark because of osteoporosis and it was a good six-foot fall. How is it possible he didn’t break anything? I was worried. About fifteen years ago, his sister’s decline started with a broken tailbone.
My dad talked about the fall for weeks, until he had another piece of news. He was in a car accident. For once, he called me on the same day, after he got back from the hospital. Usually he calls me a week after something big happens.
Just like every other bad driver I know, someone hit him and he was not at fault. Weird how that happens, huh? He was driving along, didn’t remember which street he was on, when a young girl came sliding across the wet road. He stopped, and she hit him head-on. His airbag deployed, and hurt his chest, and the seat belt caused a bad bruise. At the hospital, they told him he’d broken a rib, and they’d found an enlarged aorta. They offered to pay for an ambulance to take him to another hospital to treat the aorta, but he refused because he’d have to pay for his own way home. He did visit a cardiologist shortly after the accident, and the doctor said his aorta’s size was normal for his age. So he’s got no heart issues right now.
The next time we talked, he told me he’d had quite an adventure. He was sitting in his car outside Wendy’s, enjoying the air conditioning, when a rattily-dressed young man approached him. He said, “I remember you. We used to work together.” My father has not worked in 22 years. He responded something like, “At IBM in Fishkill, for the little French guy?” and of course the guy said, “Yeah. How are you?” Then he explained that he lost his job and his son had just died and he was headed up to Rhinebeck to make funeral arrangements. He could use twenty bucks and a ride to the Peekskill train station, he said.
Once he’d made the request, he walked to the other side of my dad’s car and got in. My dad didn’t know what to do, so he let the guy make a few phone calls on his phone, and decided to give the guy what he wanted to get rid of him. He gave him the twenty bucks, and a ride to Peekskill – but not the train station, he told me proudly. “Best twenty dollars I ever spent,” he said. The guy did get out at Peekskill and did not ask for anything else, thank God.
My father is eighty-two years old, and I can’t help but get a picture in my mind of the Grim Reaper, swinging his scythe at him, an announcer declaring, “Swing and a miss! Swing and a miss! Strike three! He’s outta there!” How is he surviving all of these incidents? I don’t want to sound like a ghoul, it’s just that the last life-threatening incident, when he fell through the ice while skating, happened thirty years ago. And now he’s had all of these narrow escapes in a matter of months.
The only conclusion I can come to is that I don’t know what’s happening. I believe that when it’s your time, it’s your time, no matter what happens. I should have learned that with my mother. She always thought death was imminent. She was healthy, just paranoid. And she suffered from Alzheimer’s for thirteen years before she died. My dad is just luckier than most 82-year-olds. And I’m glad he is.