A week ago, I attended a funeral for my old friend’s father. I’m only just coming around to digesting it all. I felt loss too because when you grow up with friends, you gain extra parents who drop into your life and care for you whenever the moment arises. And of course, I imagined the loss of my own father and how I might feel.
I had a hard time holding back tears, sitting in the church with the increasing heated breath of mourners driving perspiration to my forehead and neck, and remembering bits and pieces over the years. I first met my friend through choir at a local cathedral. Another neighbor-friend had suggested I go with him to a practice one night — all I needed to do was sing and I would get paid. I wasn’t a church-going lad, but it beat getting up before light to deliver newspapers. However, this is another story for another time…
At the (real) wake, we took long draughts between delicate glasses of whisky and anchored the tone of our conversations in the living, the here, the now. The fog began to set in when my friend turned and revealed to me the background to a health-related event that hit his father over ten years ago. The story as I remember it goes something like this (forgive me, Jon):
Jon’s father was alone in the house. He felt ill effects and knew something was amiss — unbeknownst to him he was having a serious heart attack. He called a relative who is a physician. He tried to speak but his tongue sat donkey in his mouth. Dexterity diminished.
What did he do?
He pulled out his old Smith Corona and typed a note. He drove to the relative’s office, handed the note to the nurse without speaking (I believe she was the physician’s wife) and sat down to read a paper or magazine in the waiting room. The nurse read the note and immediately yelled for him to get into the back examination room. (He didn’t want to cut the line in front of all those nice people.)
After a visit to a proper hospital, tests conducted and health stabilized, the doc gave the OK for home. Jon, after ensuring his father was set up in bed and resting cozy, noticed numerous paper asteroids on the ground near a typewriter. Jon was not aware of what happened before visiting the hospital. When questioned, his father said he thought writing a note would be his best shot at communicating but he couldn’t get the right wording and needed to tone it down so a reader wouldn’t be overly alarmed.
That day, Death took a number. What I would do to read all those versions of the note.