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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Next Day

As Ben's journey on this fragile earth ended, and his new one began, the rest of us had to go on. Willie took Dad home. I wasn't up to driving the hour and a half drive. Alyssa and Shane had invited me to stay over at their house and see the grandkids. What better medicine could their be? I took her up on it.

Kelley decided I shouldn't be driving, she was right. She offered to drive me to Alyssa's. It sounded like an excellent idea to me, I didn't fight her on it.

We had to make a stop at a FedEx store. Stacey and I had some papers we had to sign and mail to the University of Iowa so they could do the autopsy. Stacey got them pulled up and printed off. She filled them out and I signed next to her signature. FedEx scanned the document, put it on a flash drive and we were able to head on our way.

Kelley got me to Alyssa's and Kahlen was waiting for me at the door. It truly was the best medicine. I picked her up and carried her around. She's getting pretty heavy to do that with, but I didn't care. It was exactly what I needed. We cuddled up on the couch. We read Snow White and I laid her on the love seat. She went to sleep as soon as her head hit her pillow. I mean she seriously did.

I watched TV for a while. I couldn't sleep. I was completely exhausted, but my mind kept chugging along. Stupid mind.

The next thing I knew my phone alarm was going off. I had forgotten to turn it off. Damm... Alyssa came down the stairs with Paxton in one arm holding him like a football. He had a huge grin on his face. What a wonderful way to start the day. Kahlen soon woke up and giggles started filling the room.

We had breakfast, got cleaned up and it was time to go get my car. I gave Kahlen and Paxton hugs and kisses as they sat in their carseats. I got in my car and headed out for home. On the way I stopped at Target and picked up a few things. I wandered around the store for a while. I was in my own world. I looked at things for Paxton's birthday, and bought a few. After I checked out, I stopped at the Starbucks counter and ordered a tea. I knew caffeine was necessary to get home.

I heard someone say my name. I looked up. It took  me a second, but I recognized one of my good friends from high school. "David!" I said. I hadn't seen him in years. He had aged well. I realized I looked like a train wreck, but I really didn't care. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes. He asked what was new and I told him about Ben. We talked a few more minute and he left.

Driving home I was wondering about Dad. How much of what happened yesterday had made it into long term memory? How much did he comprehend? How many times in the future was I going to have to break his heart by reminding him his son was dead? Willie told me Dad woke up with a really bad back ache. Seriously, what more? I felt bad for Dad. I had made him stay with Ben longer than he really wanted. He had wanted to leave before Ben had died. I didn't take him. I wanted it to be real for him. I wanted it to sink into his long term memory. I felt cruel, but in the long run I felt like it was best for him. Better for it to break his heart once, than to break it over and over again. At one point, a little while after Ben had slipped away, I had to take Dad down to the bathroom again. When I brought him back I purposely set his wheel chair on the side of the bed Ben was facing. I wanted him to see his face, to make the connection. To not believe it was his brother Don in that bed.

I got home. I sat down and talked to Dad for a while. I told him tomorrow we would go and buy him a suit for the funeral. He agreed. We talked about a few other things. I could tell he was sad. It felt like he knew what was going on. Then he said something. Something that made me know he knew. I was glad of that, but it also broke my heart and scared me a little.

"I just don't understand," he started. "Here Ben had so much in front of him. So much to do with his life. So much more, and here I sit, a broken up wreck."

It was the first time he said something that had put Ben first. He said Ben's name. He knew Ben wouldn't be around. He knew his son had gone before him. All of that was good. Heart breaking that he had to go through it, but good. It had clicked into his memory. He was OUR dad again. However briefly our dad was back.

It also scared me. Dad and Ben were so close. Dad has gone through so much change in the last few months. He had his gall bladder out and his whole world changed. Ben was in and out of hospitals. He wasn't doing well and could no longer be expected to take care of Dad. He could barely take care of himself. Dad stayed in the VA nursing facility for nearly three months. He worked hard in physical therapy, thinking he was going to go back home. Then instead of going home he came to live with Willie and me. I think deep in his heart, he never thought it was permanent. I think he may have thought that once Ben had his liver transplant and got healthy again he would get to go home. Ben would take care of him again and he would take care of Ben. It was how it had been for years. My friend Dawn had said they were  kind of like an old married couple. Sniping at each other, but couldn't imagine life without each other. I know that sounds kind of weird, but you know what I mean. Now Dad has to imagine that life. I don't think he likes the idea.

Dad was there. The dad I thought was lost to us was there. For how long though? Would he be like the little old man who just lost his wife who passes away within a few months? Would he be able to process his grief, let it out and get through it? I can't help but fear that we will be having another funeral before the end of the year.

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