Straighten up and fly right

When I get to his room about five Dad registers my presence pretty quickly.  He is trying to say something, so I sit down beside him on the bed to read lips and listen to his whisper.  It's easy to get sucked into a no-win game of twenty questions, so I try to give him plenty of time to get some words out:

"You picked a hell."

"I picked a?  Can you say it a little louder, Dad?"  


"You would be louder if you were mad.  I know because I've heard you."

Dad gives me a flicker of a smile, but suddenly looks like he might sob.

"You picked a helluva time to be gone."

"I'm sorry.  Did something happen?"

"Picked a bad..."

"I had to go to work today.  It was the first day of summer school.  Are you worried?  Do you hurt?"

"Put me up."

I raise the head of his bed.  Dad keeps stroking his whiskers.

"She wanted to..."

"Shave you today?  You didn't have her do it.  Would you like to shave?"

Dad shaves.  I go ask the Lady In Red if something happened today, but she's not Dad's aide.  Still, she comes right in to say hello and get his attention.  She deserves a medal everyday.  She thinks maybe Dad got upset yesterday.  I agree, since I didn't recognize anybody on duty Sunday noon.  She says she has to do a "total reboot every Monday" with all the residents.

"Bad day."

"I'm sorry, Dad."

"Where were you last night?"

"I was at the condominium working on my worm presentation.  Was it a bad night?"

The person Dad thinks I am at this moment should have been with him at some time in the recent past.

"I was here at lunch time yesterday, but you didn't want to eat the kolache I brought."

Dad's supper arrives.  Mac & cheese, asparagus, ground chicken, milk, roll, brownie.  I feed him as much as he will allow.  He chews and chews, but forgets to swallow.

"...not worried about."

"I'm glad you aren't worried.  Then I don't have to worry so much."

"Don't worry.  Not worried."




I help him sit and adjust his pillow.

"Straighten up and fly right."

"Straighten ... fly... right."

Dad eyes are mostly closed.  I pat his arm. His skinny chest breathes more regularly.


I lower his head some, accidentally raising his feet.

"They don't let me drive."

Dad smiles at this, then dozes for awhile.  I move to the other side of his bed so I won't slide off onto the floor, and pat his other arm.  He rears up.

"How long do you have to teach?"  

"This was the first day of summer school.  I leave for work at 7:30, and get off at 5:00 for eight weeks."

Pat Dad's arm until he seems asleep, but he opens his eyes when I stand up.

"I love you, Dad.  I'll see you tomorrow.  Good night and good luck."

Buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air
Monkey thought that everything on the square
Buzzard tried to throw the monkey off of his back
But the monkey turned around and said, "Hey listen Jack!"

Straighten up and fly right
Straighten up and stay right
Straighten up and fly right
Cool down bubba don't you blow your top

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

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