Recently I blogged about the time my father as a boy threw an gold ring into a pile of green beans, where it was lost forever. I realize there is a sequel, also involving gold.
Fast forward 60+ years. My mother has just died of lung cancer and I’m helping my father clean out the sick room. It should be mentioned that despite a promising start, the last decades of their marriage were trying for him. Still, he was a devoted nurse in the months of her rapid decline. It’s also significant that he was a research scientist, given to unsentimental rationalism (like tossing an outgrown ring into green beans).
Back to the sick room. My mother’s gold watch sat on the night table. “What about this?” I asked.
“It isn’t running,” he observed. Before I could suggest a new battery, winding, or giving it to somebody, he added: “No point keeping a watch that doesn’t run.” I can still hear the ping in the bottom of the trash can.
“I guess not,” is all I could add.
That afternoon, we visited friends who were miffed that they’d called during the day and couldn’t leave a message. (My mother hated answering machines.) “That’s a problem,” my father said, pulling a notepad from his shirt pocket and jotting down: “Get answering machine.”
“And new clothes,” I added, since his wardrobe was decades old, chosen by my mother for thrift and easy-care. “Get new clothes,” he added to the list. “Will you help me tomorrow?” Yes I would.
He wasn’t finished with the to-do list. “I need a vice,” he announced.
“A vise?” I wondered why, since he’d long ago given away his wood working tools.
“No,” he said, reading my mind. “A vice. I think my vice will be a Jack Daniels every day at five o’clock. Let’s get some on the way home.” I should note that in the decades of my mother’s alcoholism, he hadn’t kept liquor in the house.
“OK,” I said. “Anything else? Scotch, mixers?”
“No, I’ll take it straight, on the rocks.” He checked his list: “Answering machine, new clothes, a vice. That’s enough for one day.”