The Journal: A Father’s Day Story

My dad toughed it out in North Dakota for two years after my mother died. But finally, even walking three blocks to the post office on Main Street became difficult.

“Dad,” I said, “It’s time to come and live with us in Colorado.”

He hired the auctioneer, and kept a stiff upper lip as the possessions and memories of a lifetime slipped away in a matter of hours.

We drove the U-Haul with his remaining belongings to our Colorado home and moved him into the downstairs bedroom. Though he still grieved the loss of his partner of fifty years and the community of friends he left behind, his sense of humor remained intact. My husband and our two teenagers loved his funny stories delivered in deadpan style with a telltale twinkle in his eye.

One Sunday afternoon, while we were watching the Bronco game, I looked over at Dad and noticed he was slumped to one side. Running over to him, I saw that his left side was limp.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yup, fine,” he slurred out of the side of his mouth.

I mouthed to my husband, “I think it’s a stroke.”

In our panic, instead of calling 911, we wasted valuable time trying to get the dead left arm into the sleeve of his jacket. Finally we wrapped a blanket around him, got him into the car and sped to the emergency room.

In spite of our delay, we got him there in time. Prompt treatment followed by rehabilitation resulted in a complete recovery.

The therapy at the rehab hospital was state-of-the-art. Dad’s schedule, packed with physical, occupational and speech therapy, made it possible for him to return home in six weeks. Even the dog went along to pick him up for the happy trip home.

After unpacking and having supper, Dad went to his room to get ready for bed.

I stopped by to see if he needed anything.

He stood gazing around the room with a perplexed look. “I can’t find my journal.”

“Your journal?” I asked, trying not to look surprised. Dad was an avid reader, with large print Louis L’Amour westerns topping his list of favorites, but I never knew him to be a writer.

“Yeah,” he answered. “The one they gave me at the hospital.  I might need it tonight.”

I visualized it—an 83-year-old man propped up on his pillows writing the account of his first night home from the hospital. How great to begin journal writing at his age! I’d have to call the therapists tomorrow to let them know how much I appreciated this surprise.

“Well, I’ll look for it more later,” he mused. “It’s got to be here someplace.”

I settled down to watch TV, when a few minutes later I heard Dad call, “Found it!  Found my journal!”

Curious to see the missing treasure, I hurried to his room. He stood in his pajamas proudly holding up the large-mouthed plastic bottle the nurses had provided. Not versed in medical terminology and a little hard of hearing, he slightly misunderstood their name for his . . . urinal.

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Lucy BellLucy Bell is a retired teacher and writing consultant. She is a certified Native Plant Master and Interpretive Guide at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. She founded Friends of Emerson in Colorado Springs, now in its thirteenth year.