I arrived nearly a week earlier not planning to be there but a a day or so. But I never found an opportunity to leave. As it turns out that was a good thing. By now he was even more weak than before if that was possible. But one thing never changed no matter how sick he became; if he was conscious he was in charge.
Although the phrase is bandied about with abandon these days, he was truly old school, in every sense of those words. He never owned a computer in his life, nor did he have any desire to own one. He had gotten this far in life without one and damn if he'd be changing his style just because Bill Gates and Steve Jobs needed to make another billion dollars.
When I bought my first car, it was with my own money and I was a full grown adult; but I was honor and duty bound to let him make the deal. Just as I was bound to be at his side now.
Old school rules dictated that whenever he purchased a vehicle he don his finest Sunday-go-to-meeting suit and his good jewelry including the diamond ring he decided he needed for just this type of occasion. I had picked out a Honda Accord hatchback and knew the ins and outs of the deal backwards and forwards and had an offer to buy it at sticker price. Now this was in the days when Honda had the hot hand before everybody else figured out how to make cars that people wanted. Units were in short supply and you were lucky to even find one on the lot at all, much less avoid paying the premium over sticker price they demanded and usually received. But that Sunday-go-to-meeting suit must have overwhelmed them and the sparkling brilliance of that diamond ring must have hypnotized them because damn if he didn't talk them into a two hundred dollar discount. I figured out much later that all the dealer had done was taken the two hundred dollar factory installed floor mats out and left me with bare carpet. But two hundred dollars is two hundred dollars. Old school indeed, the art of the deal.
Tuesday morning he was up and directing traffic as usual. Over the course of the day everybody who should have come to visit actually showed up, at least for a few minutes. It wasn't planned it just happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen. Everybody visited as in the verb to visit (there are rules to this type thing). It was just like the old days, except he was tired and weak and his eyes were blood red from the drugs or exhaustion or crying about his own condition. I kept a close watch over him as he sat upright but said very little.
People came and went and all day and no one was missing. Everybody who needed to say goodbye said goodbye. By dark he had begun to sink. The next day he was barely conscious. We cleaned and bathed him and put him to bed that night but there were no instructions from the boss just eery silence. Right before midnight we gave him his medicine. But something was different, very different.
A week of sleeping in 3 hour increments on a recliner had left me exhausted so I curled up on the sofa and passed out.
My brother who was taking his turn in the recliner that night woke me at about two am with words that pierced me, "I think daddy is gone".
By four am family and friends had literally descended on the house. I didn't count but there must have been 30 or 40 people who just showed up in the middle of the night in the middle of the week. There was absolutely nothing they could do but they came anyway because it was all they could do.
The undertaker arrived around six am. We all held hands and commended his soul to the God he had served his entire life and prayed him on in to heaven.