I don’t know when my husband began to make our daily lunches, but I do love it. The sandwich reminded me of my dad and an incident that happened two years ago.
My father lied to me on the day he died.
That day was cannibalized by chores. Chores, which I unenthusiastically ticked off one right after another. Chores, which included emptying the urinal, tending to his bills, running errands. Chores requiring me to deal with the bureaucracy of the Vets, wasting precious time trying get someone, ANYONE please, to listen to me. And this was all before noon. Any caretaker understands the patience required to help a loved one who is ill. I would not make a good nurse.
I did feel useful cooking, however, although getting my dad to eat proved challenging, but I persisted.
This particular Thursday, I made my dad an egg salad sandwich for lunch. Naturally, he wasn’t hungry and wouldn’t touch it. I tried to coax him to eat, telling him I loaded it up with salt, but he couldn’t be bothered. Imagine feeding an ailing man with hypertension, salt! His standard response, “I’ll eat it later”. My reply, “The eggs are fresh, dad.” Again he repeated for me to put it in the cooler by his bed and he would eat it along with the fruit platter for dinner. I continued with the chores.
That day it was my brother’s turn to stay with dad. So, I wrote a note to my brother instructing him what had been done and what still needed to be done including a directive on getting dad to eat the sandwich. I reluctantly left with the image of dad lying on his bed, egg salad sandwich an arms length away. After a two-hour drive, I came home to a family who welcomed me home, concerned about grandpa. I carried on at home, doing all the things moms do on any given day.
It is amazing to me that my dad mustered the strength to call me soon after I returned home, but I was thrilled and encouraged. He asked about my drive, Gary, the girls. I asked him if he ate the sandwich. Yes, the fruit and the sandwich was eaten, thank you very much. Good, I felt better and useful, end of subject.
Dad’s voice sounded pretty strong, better than when I left him hours earlier. We talked for a few minutes more and ended that memorable conversation with an I love you.
The next call came at two in the morning. In a rare moment of tears and panic, my brother told me dad had just died and he didn’t know what to do. After calming him down, I promised him to do nothing and I would be there in two hours. I threw my luggage, still unpacked, back in the car and with the blessing of my family made the 2-hour trek back to my dads.
It was now four in the morning and I had time in the car to revisit the events of the day: the urinal, Vets, progress with Meals on Wheels, the sound of dad’s voice when he told me he loved me.
I was pleased to see dad’s house aglow with lights when I pulled into the parking slot in front of his house. Entering his room, there he was peacefully positioned on his bed by my brother. With candles lit and the house quiet, I noticed the cooler still within reach. This time near an arm that would never again reach out for it. I walked over to the cooler and lifted the lid. There in all of its tasty, salty glory was the egg salad sandwich and the fruit platter. At least dad didn’t lie to me about his love. The egg salad was proof of that.