November 05, 2000

"The lion killed the tiger.
Which one it is dead?"

He was standing uncomfortably close to me while I finished one box of cereal and opened a new one.

"We leave at 8:30 when Mom, Kathy takes me."

"Right. But my watch says its 8:15, so I still have time for breakfast."

"8:15 is what my watch says, too." A pause. "Will you come in with me?"

"No. I'll drop you off at church, and then I'll be back to pick you up at noon." I'm fishing for a spoon out of the dish drainer because he's leaning on the silverware drawer.

"Oh." His voice is mostly flat, a little whiney. He wanders between the kitchen, the bathroom, and his office, not quite watching me eat. Strangely, I remember that Grandma told me last night that he has lost the word "weeds."

He is waiting when I come down from brushing my teeth. In the car, I remind him where his seat belt is, and we drive in silence. I flip between 4 pop stations, singing along with what I know, switching when I don't. He stares at the station frequency number.

"It sounds just like K-LOVE."

"Not to me. I can hear a difference." I can't discuss with him that this music has variety, these artists are trying new sounds, these lyrics are about things besides God's great power and love and how we'll all be happy now. These are songs about heartache, about loving difficult people, about believing yourself damaged goods.

There is no more conversation until I stop at church. And that is only me telling him I'll be back at noon and him saying thank you.

I should be grateful for that. I don't think Mom gets a thank-you when she takes him to church.

I want to flip open his head and see what thoughts might be in there. Does it frustrate him to take all week studying for a Tuesday night Bible study group? What goes through his mind when he tries to tell someone he pulled weeds at the church work day but can't find the word "weeds"? What does he hear when he mistunes his radio and gets the Spanish station or the urban station instead of K-LOVE? What does he think when I tell him I'm not going to church?

While I pass the time in this coffee shop, I think about lunch since he'll want it the moment I get him home. There is the laundry to finish and his room to air out. Perhaps I'll stare at the fridge and try to start dinner so it's an easy thing to do when Mom comes home.

And I think further ahead. The doctors say we should start thinking seriously about residential care. I wonder when his obsession with bathrooms will become incontinence, when he'll decide that he doesn't need a shower at all. If he's lost the relationship between the words "killed" and "dead," how much longer will it be before he can't even form the simple sentences he did this morning? When will his body finally admit the loss of his mind?

Will I be ready when it's time to bury this shell that was my dad?

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