A Sad End

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.

 

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A Dawning Realization

My dad’s best friend, Jim, is coming for A Friendly Visit in January. He’ll be here for three months.

Earlier today, my dad called me to let me know that Jim will need to have a doctor when he comes down, because he needs, among other things I’m sure, to have his blood drawn every month.

No problem. I can get our doctor’s information to Jim.

Hours pass.

I sit down to prepare my writing plan for this week, and it dawns on me that I am now going to have to take care of–at least in part–Jim’s medical needs, too. It’ll be like having two dads to care for.

I truly don’t mind overseeing these two’s medical care. I’d rather know what’s going on with them than not, so I can make certain they’re not doing anything to harm themselves–which they will. Fifty-three years of experience assures me of that.

It’s just that I also realized that it’s not going to stop at medical oversight. Jim will have a vehicle. The two of them will want to go on road trips. Neither know where to go around here, so it’s going to be up to me to be their human GPS, since neither has a smart phone.

Is it harsh to say I don’t have the time to play travel guide? In truth, I don’t have the time. I have writing and editing and consulting to do. I have my own ailments to deal with.

Neither do I have the inclination. Dad, as you know, was never around when my brother and I were growing up. He wasn’t a part of our lives as we grew into adulthood, because he was busy being a drunk, getting into trouble (read: sitting in jail), and going through wives and girlfriends (sometimes simultaneously). We didn’t want to be around him.

Now, I’m faced with these two. Who, together, will get into trouble. They will act like little boys, as they have done for as long as I can remember. Will giggle when they’re caught.

And I find myself unable to see the humor in everything that’s going to come next.

 

A Friendly Visit

My dad’s best friend, Jim, is going to come down from Wisconsin in January to spend the winter months here in Florida. I like Jim. Love the guy. He’s happy-go-lucky, kind-hearted, and any other happy hyphenate you want to apply to him. He’s just an all-around good egg.

But.

Jim’s always been a drinker. Even though he assured me that it’s been four years since he’s had a drink, something inside me just doesn’t believe him. He lives with a much younger guy who I know does drink, and I can’t see Jim not joining in.

I have reason to be skeptical. The last time Jim came down for a visit, dad had just been released from the hospital after having a quadruple bypass. Dad had a zipper of staples up and down his chest. He was taking medication that contraindicated alcohol. I told Jim before he came down that there’d be no drinking. Period. The end. If there was drinking, I’d have to ask him to leave–and take dad with him.

Well, the first evening I left the two alone, they called a cab to go out for dinner–and drinks. A lot of drinks.

When I returned from wherever I’d been, I was frantic. I had no idea where the two had gone off to–they left no note, of course. I canvassed the neighborhood to see if anyone knew anything, and no one did. By the time I got back to the house, a cab pulled up and out stumbled my dad. Jim at least kept his feet.

I was furious. I was cool, but I was furious.

As dad stumbled next door to relieve himself in my neighbor’s flowers, I approached Jim and reminded him that he knew the rules. I was sorry, but he’d have to leave. And he was going to have to take dad with him.

He didn’t believe me.

Jim packed and ordered up a rental car. While he did that, I packed a bag for dad. When Jim left, I poured dad into my car and followed. When Jim checked into his hotel room, I left dad at his door.

Jim called and called and tried to convince me to pick up dad, because by that time, dad’s happy drunk self turned dark. I finally convinced Jim that when I laid out the rules, I meant what I said, and Jim took dad up to Wisconsin with him.

In short order, Jim called my brother, who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to see if he would take dad off his hands.

My brother said no. He didn’t want dad around his young children.

Jim called other friends of dad in Michigan and tried to pawn him off, but they didn’t want him. Dad had burned too many bridges.

Finally, I relented and agreed to take dad back, but only because he had to get his staples removed and had follow-up doctor appointments.

I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get dad flown back to Jacksonville with no ID or wallet (this was pre-9/11). He arrived. Drunk.

Things were never the same between us after that. I moved him out of my house and into an apartment. We barely spoke for a year.

I don’t need to go through that again. I hope Jim’s telling me the truth.