It’s interesting to see dad’s friendships in his later years. Most of his friends are either dead or not talking to him–a result of how he lived his life, i.e. drinking too much, getting into trouble, making a nuisance of himself. His constant friend has been one of his oldest friends, Big Jim. Jim and dad talk every day, several times a day now that dad is living under my care, not drinking, not getting into trouble. Jim, himself, stopped drinking almost five years ago, so their friendship is one that I encouraged.
When Jim asked to come down to stay with dad this January through March to escape the harshest part of what a Wisconsin winter had to offer–well, part of me was hesitant, because I didn’t know if I could believe Jim when he told me he’d stopped drinking so long ago, and the other part of me thought it would be a great idea. Dad’s lonely. He has no one down here. All his family’s dead, save for my brother and me. My brother, long ago, told me dad was my responsibility as he’d already done his duty taking care of grandma, dad’s mom. Other than a once-every-few-years visit, my brother and his family would not be a source of entertainment. I’d made it known after dad’s last round of drinking that I wouldn’t be a source of entertainment, either. I’d take care of him every other way, but he’s spent his last dime of pity with me. So, this visit by Jim, well, that sparked some life into dad. I was glad for it. Glad for him.
Big Jim arrived ahead of schedule, December 28th. Dad was giddy. He called me several times every day to tell me what they were doing: going to Wal-Mart and riding the carts around the store, going to Target and Publix and Winn-Dixie to do the same. Jim’s about 400 pounds. Dad’s short and about 250 pounds. I can only imagine what they looked like tooling down the aisleways.
They went to DXL to buy some new clothes for Jim (he’s about 400 pounds, dad’s about 250 pounds). They went to Batteries+ to get a new phone battery for dad’s phone. They’d go out to breakfast every morning to different delis as well as iHop and Denny’s and Golden Corral. Sometimes they’d also go out for lunch or dinner, too. Jim cooked dinner. Dad says he doesn’t know how to cook, though I know he does. He makes chili and vegetable soup and he can make a roast in a Crock Pot.
They’d do laundry every few days and wash bedding every week. They’d go sight-seeing. Historic St. Augustine, The Alligator Farm, driving up and down US 1 to see the remnants of Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. They’d sit out at the pool, (yes, in February), and get sunburns.
I have to admit, I didn’t go over any more than was necessary. My other half and I went over early on because they couldn’t set up the flat screen Jim gave dad. I’d go over to put minutes on dad’s and Jim’s phones. I brought them Girl Scout cookies. I’d pick dad up for his medical appointments.
Dad’s last appointment was with an oral surgeon to have five teeth extracted. I dropped dad off at his apartment and left to get his prescriptions for pain and antibiotics, and in that short amount of time, Jim let dad know that he was going to head back north, a month early. He said his roommate was in an accident and he had no transportation. My immediate reaction was, he’s never heard of Uber, Lyft or a plain ol’ cab? He’s a much younger man, I think he’s my age, mid-fifties, didn’t he have friends who could run errands for him?
I’ve known Big Jim my whole life. This this the first time I think he lied to me. I don’t believe his friend was in an accident. And if he was, I don’t believe he had no other resources he could tap for four weeks than Jim. I think Jim wanted to leave. I think the thought of playing nursemaid to dad for a couple of his remaining weeks here was the kicker. Knowing my dad, I know dad let Jim do all the cooking and cleaning, let Jim instigate it all. Dad’s not clean, not tidy. He doesn’t clean up after himself well. God love grandma, she didn’t either, so he comes by the bad habits honestly. Jim is very clean, nearly a germaphobe. He’s able to take care of himself–I believe he as at least two pensions, if not three, and he saved (an inherited). Dad’s lost everything he has three times and now I control what funds he has. I think Jim just saw a different dad, and he wasn’t having the fun with an old friend he thought he would.
So, I come back from getting dad’s prescriptions. Dad tells me he’s losing his roommate. He’s pale. His voice is choked. In the same breath, he tells me he’d like to go up to Wisconsin for a few months in the summer. Jim tells me his excuse. I honestly felt bad for dad. He’d had so much fun every single day for two months, and now he knew it would all come to a halt. He’d be alone every day and night. I’d see him every other week, and maybe a couple times in-between, to get groceries, and that would be it. He would have nothing to look forward to except watching television every day.
My better half and I plan to take him out, if he’ll come out, to try to lift his spirits. I don’t know that I’ll sanction dad going North. I don’t know Jim’s roommate, and now, I don’t trust Jim.