My father used to be 5’10”, now he’s 5’6″ or so. With my high heels on, I am as tall as he is. He’s got that hunched over Parkinsonian posture. I tried to fix it by putting my shin near his spine and pulling his shoulders back. He shouted at me. I couldn’t get him to extend his chest at all, his shoulders and pectorals have very little ‘give’.
At home, he has a regular exercise routine, but the day I saw him he and his generation opted to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant, rather than walk the block and a half to the grill and microbrewery. When we did walk together, I took his arm, hoping that a little support would encourage a more spirited pace. Usually it failed, but at least he could hear me. He stops when he talks. I acquired the habit of either not talking, or monopolizing all the words, so we could continue moving.
Apathy comes. He is content to read the paper all day, drinking black coffee. I hear he does little housework and does not help with chores. When these things are pointed out, he shrugs his shoulders. My Dad has always favored well-cooked meat. At the hotel restaurant, he requested well- done bacon; it looked like jerky, he was delighted. He ate his bacon with dry toast- also well- done. I informed him the protein in the meat would affect how well his medications worked. He has never been science – oriented, he is an English and History teacher. I told him about neurotransmitters and how dopamine and proteins compete for the same sites, but I don’t think he knew what I was saying, except that I thought the bacon was a bad choice.
Ages ago, I found a map of Wyoming or North Dakota with a town bearing our family surname. I showed it to him at the hotel breakfast.
“Yeah, I knew about that.” He wasn’t impressed.
On certain nights of the week when his wife works late, he cooks dinner. It can be a contentious event, apparently. Dad would not disclose what was for dinner on a recent night; he’d already had one argument about it. He likes meat and potatoes and tolerates a vegetable. How do the bowels of this man work? He lives primarily on bread and meat, and drinks no water, just black coffee during the day.
I am the delinquent one, the daughter who has never visited him, and he is nearing 78. At the end of our visit, I hug him and tell him I love him. He may have become apathetic, but he is teary to see his three daughters leave.