Thanksgiving week in 2018 started out normally. Well, as normally as it could without Mama. Holidays naturally revolved around her where our extended family was concerned, until her cancers bore her quietly away from us in early 2012. Let me start again.
Thanksgiving week in 2018 began somewhat normally. But then, Daddy said that thing.
“When are we going home?”
I tell you, the man’s humor has always out-humored anyone else’s in the family, paternally or maternally, to date. None of us are anywhere close. He’d even had the gall to be born on April Fools’ Day. I glanced up from the book I was reading. From my bed, I could see through my open door to where my father, Mr. Lifelong Practical Joker, stood in his bedroom door down the hall.
He gazed at me, serious, no nonsense. “Baby girl. We’re going back to the house soon?”
I grinned at him. “We are home, Dad.”
He didn’t grin back. Nor did my younger brother as he stuck his head out of his bedroom door, confused.
My mind hitched up at Daddy’s stone face, scrambled around, tried to regain its balance. We were in his house, his and Mama’s house, on the land they’d bought in 1962 for $8,000. Where we’d come back to settle after he retired from the military. My childhood home, still in the family after all these years. They’d never lived anywhere but here since 1974.
I didn’t know what to say, much less what the hell to do. So, I said, “Yeah. We’ll be going home soon.”
“Good.” He nodded and gave me a thumbs up. “Love you.”
“Love you, too… ”
Daddy withdrew to his room.
My six-foot-tall brother crept past Daddy’s door and towards me as I got up, his face a mixture of panic and disorientation. Fear lined his whisper. “What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know!”
“Has it ever happened before?”
“No!” I leaned against my bedroom door. My throat burned.
Memory glitches were the norm with our 84-year-old dad these days, sure. And, everyday things — paying bills, maintaining groceries, minor repairs, driving to his doctor appointments — were hard for him, the reason we’d moved in in the first place, to take over that stuff and ease his anxieties. He more than deserved that from us. He hadn’t been a perfect father and husband, but a damned good one. He was a man of his word who hadn’t told us to be strong, understanding, compassionate, and without hate — he’d shown us, by example.
I shook off my stupor. “We really shouldn’t panic, bro. He’s almost pushing 90, for Pete’s sake.”
“I’ll look up his neurologist and make an appointment in the morning, get him checked out.”
“Sounds good. I’m gonna go see what he’s doing now, sis. You know… talk to him.”
“There’s a James Bond movie marathon on. Good luck getting him out of it.” I laughed. That got a funny snort out of my brother as our fear and panic dissipated like a fog cut through with sun. Everything would be okay. Hell, it would probably never even happen again.
Daddy popped his head out of his bedroom door right then, stone-faced, before Bro could take a step.
“When are we going home?”