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Memories of my Father 2

December 16, 2018

My later memories of my father are more complete and vivid.  Even after I moved away from home, I would visit my parents regularly.

My parents always had pets, usually a dog.  I only recall one instance where it was a cat.  It may have been a stray, or one that was given to me.  We didn’t have a litter box for it.  Instead, my father expected it to use the back yard, just like the dogs always did.  The cat had other ideas.  One day, my father discovered a series of mounds of cat poop behind a sheet of plywood in the basement.  He yelled at the cat, even though it was not there at the time.  He cleaned up the poop.  He didn’t punish the cat, at least not when I was around.  The cat disappeared somehow.  We got another dog to replace it.

My father bought a small car dealership, with the intention of getting a larger one later.  It was in a small town, adjacent to a military base.  We moved to a nearby small town.  I worked at the dealership part of one summer.  Business was pretty good.  Most of the customers were soldiers from the base.  I recall one customer telling my father how good it must be to own all of this and to be able to do whatever you wanted.  My father replied that he was the owner and sales manager, but that he was also the one who cleaned the toilet.  Another time, I pointed out that cold cokes from the machine cost ten cents a bottle, but he was buying them for twelve cents wholesale.  He replied that he was in the business of selling cars, and the cokes were just a convenience for customers.  Then, the military base closed.  Business disappeared.  He closed the place and eventually sold it.

After that venture, he bought a used car lot just outside the city where my father and mother lived.  It was a move to the low end of the market.  His main skill was in estimating.  He could quickly determine how much he could get for the customer’s trade-in, and how long it might take to sell.  When he ran out of good used cars, he’d buy more from dealers in the city.  I used to visit him at the car lot regularly.  While he was waiting for customers, he would read car advertisements in the newspaper.  He always knew how much people wanted for cars.  He eventually sold the used car lot and retired.

When he was 88, he had a stroke, losing the use of one arm and one leg.  He walked with a four-legged cane and a walker.  He was still driving, although not very far from home.  He used to park close to stores so he could get to the store with his cane.  He still lived at home with my mother.

One day he announced that they were moving into a retirement home at the end of the month.  He had gotten a good deal on a suite there.  My mother was in a panic because she had a house full of stuff that couldn’t fit into the new suite.  Somehow they moved.  I visited them many times in their suite.  I tried to set a good example for them by going to the exercise room down the hall to pedal on the stationary bicycles.  My father did that too, at least for a while.  Eventually, he stopped doing exercise.  He only wanted to sit in a recliner, watching TV, reading books and newspapers, and doing crossword puzzles.  Don’t old people need exercise too?

They took away his driver’s license after a stay in the hospital.  That was a hardship.  He had been driving all his life.  He spent the winter reading the driver’s handbook.  In the spring, he passed the test and got his license back.  He took one long drive in his car.  Then he listed the car for sale and gave up driving for good.  He told me that was the hardest thing he ever did, but he did it in his own way.

At the retirement home, he had several falls.  Each one meant another spell in the hospital.  After the last one, they told him he had to go into a nursing home.  The hospital kept him until a nursing home bed was available.  Shortly after he moved into the nursing home, I asked him how he liked it there.  He told me that he hated it there.  I don’t quite know how to interpret that statement.  The staff certainly treated him well.  I suppose it was his whole condition that he didn’t like.  In the nursing home, he had another stroke.  This was quite distressing for him.  After that, he was sleeping most of the time.  He only had short periods where he was more or less normal.  He lost interest in almost everything he had been doing.  One day, he had a heart attack.  He died shortly after that.  He was 99 years old.

 

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