The first time I noticed that something was amiss with Dad was about 12 years ago, right after I decided to move to New York State. He was 75 then, still driving and working a part-time job at a local golf range. I had started making frequent trips up to my new house prior to moving in and on this occasion, Dad decided to come with me to help out getting things ready. I also had an appointment scheduled to see a customer, so he planned to paint one of the bedrooms while I was gone.
Dad was always busy doing all sorts of projects over the years. He had tremendous focus and discipline and could build or fix just about anything. As a kid I remember we always had the nicest lawn in the neighborhood. Dad would spend hours fertilizing, weeding and meticulously cutting every blade of grass. He would continuously work on manicuring the landscaping, which he had planted with a close landscaper, family friend back in the early 1960’s. It wasn’t a particularly large property, but you could see the sense of pride that Dad had when neighbors or passerby’s commented on how lovely everything always looked. So it wasn’t unusual to think that Dad would have the bedroom scrubbed down, caulked, primed and painted in the time it would take me to travel out to my appointment and back.
That morning I left the house early in the day after we had some breakfast together and got everything organized to paint. Between the hour and a half drive each way and my customer appointment, I didn’t arrive back to the house until sometime in the late afternoon. I was excited about seeing his progress and fully expected to see the room looking brilliant with the new color. When I walked into the house I called out to him, but heard nothing. Hmm I thought, maybe he’s upstairs? I headed up the staircase and called out again – still nothing. I peeked around the corner and arrived down in the bedroom. What I saw surprised me, the walls had only received a white coat of primer. Where was Dad? After looking around further, I found him in the backyard wandering around picking up sticks. He had started a small pile (there weren’t too many) and seemed somewhat vacant, for lack of a better description. It was early spring and the weather was still a bit damp and chilly, but I thought maybe he was bored or simply getting tired.
We continued on together that evening without anything else seeming out of the ordinary. He never did fully explain what went on that day. Maybe he was just having an off day or merely starting to show his age. Or, perhaps we had just seen a glimpse of what was yet to come. I suppose we will never know for sure, but I do wonder. Back then and even today, I still think of Dad as that active, bright, magnificent guy who could do anything. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to accept his current situation and declining health. He will always be my hero.