Twelve years ago, June 17 fell on a Saturday and was the day before Father’s Day. I woke up on the hide-a-bed in my brother’s living room in Sparks, Nevada. The back ache I’d left home with was miraculously cured: who would have thought a bad mattress would work in lieu of a chiropractor? I was glad to be pain free physically: the day was going to be rough emotionally.
The reason I was in Reno was my mom’s health. She’d been hospitalized several times due to complication with emphysema, but this time my brother told me to come down. My dad was staying in a motel close to Washoe Medical Center.
We visited my mom off and on throughout the morning, making life changing decisions for (and with) her. She could no longer talk because of the damage done to her larynx by the oxygen tubes, but she was aware of everything – or as aware as someone who is heavily sedated on morphine can be. She kept pulling the oxygen tubes out and the nurses would replace them. She did not pull or tug at the morphine feed. Each of us: my dad, my brother, and myself, told the nurses to no longer replace the oxygen tube. We understood the look Mary Lou had in her eyes: she was tired of it all and angry that they kept replacing the tubes. My mom could be stubborn.
We had to take frequent breaks from the hospital because he couldn’t force himself to do a death watch. And that was what it was now: a death watch. Mom died on the 17th, peacefully. My dad didn’t take it so well. I’m not sure any of us took it well.
On Father’s Day, my brother, my dad and I went for a long drive. And laughed a lot. I managed to be the butt of a few family jokes that day, some of which will go down into the family history. I blogged about the Nevada Guys and “What’s the blue stuff?” on the 29th of April so I will not repeat that story. Later in the day, my brother got an emergency call and had to make a trip to Gerlach with lights. There was a semi roll-over and my bro, as a deputy, was on call. But he let my dad and I ride shotgun since neither one of us had ever been to Gerlach.
The drive up to the wreck was in the dark. We were excited about seeing Gerlach, but we nearly missed it for the black night. It snowed. It rained. It was clear. My brother played with his siren in the silence of the desert just for us. Our return was in the early morning. We never did really “see” the country around Gerlach and all we saw of the community were the night lights. It’s one of those “don’t-blink-you’ll-miss-it” places located on a flat two-lane highway over several low mountain passes. When I say “flat”, I mean the corners are flat and you don’t want to take them faster than the recommended speed because you’ll roll over. Which is what the poor truck driver did: took a corner too fast in the middle of the night and rolled his semi.
My mom would have appreciated the laughs we had that day. She loved word plays, palindromes, personal family jokes, and adventures in the middle of the night. Dad and I joked that we were really undercover cops from another jurisdiction learning how Nevada cops investigated.
This Father’s Day marks my brother’s retirement from law enforcement. My dad is still getting around and he still misses my mom. And the weather is about as nice today as it was then, except we’re not likely to get snow in Portland. Maybe on the mountain passes in Nevada they will today.
Well that wasn’t a terribly cheerful post, but it will have to do. If my mom was here, she’d insist I add something to make people laugh. She’d be really angry with me if I wrote “Don’t Smoke Cigarettes” somewhere in my blog because it was the only thing she and I ever argued about: her smoking habit. I’m not terribly afraid of her ghost.
DON’T SMOKE CIGARETTES. And if your dad smokes, make him quit.