Part One: Day

I was still laughing. I had to admit, even for me, with all my corny jokes, this was a good one. A friend of mine had text messaged me the joke. I just couldn’t stop laughing. It was quite tasteless, inappropriate, and very much offensive. But oh was it funny. I immediately picked up the phone to call Daddy.

“Hey Darlin’,” he said.

“I got a good one for you Daddy,” I was already smiling.

“I’m ready,” he said.

I laid my joke on him. Silence. A shuffle on the phone. BOOM! I got him. He couldn’t contain himself. He erupted in laughter. Bad; dirty; inappropriate; clean; it didn’t matter. If it was funny, we shared it. Jokes . . . that was our “thing”.

We didn’t talk as much as Mama and I did on the phone. She was a talker. He was the strong silent type. I had lived away from home, out of state, for over ten years. So, my parents and I always made sure we spoke regularly – everyday with Mama; every week with Daddy.

My parents had reached the age of having us (their kids) check up on their doctor visits. This was a shared responsibility. It was our “thing”. Asking my parents about their doctor visits was a regular song and dance. Mama’s response was always, “Same ole’-same ole’. Nothing’s changed.” And Daddy’s response was always, “Healthy as a horse. Didn’t find nothin’.” My response was always, “Mmm-hm.”

After I’d pressed them a bit, Mama’s response would change to, “I gotta take some new medication for something. Who knows?” And Daddy’s response would change to, “Well, they found a lil’ somethin’. But nothin’ to worry about.” My response remained the same . . . “Mmm-hm.”

I was driving home from work one day. There was an overcast. It was cold. We had been experiencing some snow flurries. Februaries were like that in Indiana. My cell phone rang. I knew it was Mama.

“Call your father!” she was using her reprimanding voice, so I figured it wasn’t too serious.

“Why? What’s going on?” I asked. I was so tired from working a long day that day.

“Something’s wrong with his eye and he won’t go to the doctor.”

“Well what’s wrong?” She described his eye condition. Now I was concerned too. I tried not to let her hear the concern in my voice. I didn’t want her to worry. “Okay Mama. I’ll call him later.” We hung up.

I had his number programmed in my phone. Half way through the automatic dial I started thinking. I knew my Dad. If something was visibly wrong with him, then everyone was already getting on him about having it checked out. Between my mom, six adult children, and a million grand children, I was sure he was getting his ear chewed off from all angles. If I called him now, in the midst of everyone else calling him, he would just tell me what I wanted to hear and get me off of the phone. I knew him. I disconnected the call before it finished dialing. He would call me when he was ready to talk about it. It was our “thing”.