MY FATHER: (on the phone) What are you doing?
ME: Driving home.
MY FATHER: … you? You’re driving?
ME: Yah. I got my license when I was 30.
MY FATHER: (big, wheezy, man-giggle) I have never seen you drive. Ever.
ME: Huh … I never drive when I come to Alabama. I’ll have to drive you somewhere next time I come. NOW CALM DOWN AND STOP YELLING AT PEOPLE AND WORKING ON HOUSES OR I’M GOING TO TELL YOUR SISTER ON YOU.
That was the last conversation I had with your grandfather.
If I am not careful, my conversations with you could be an unbroken stream of maternal horror and directives. “OH MY GOD! GET OUT OF YOUR NOSE! NO! NO! NO! SIT OWN! STAND UP! PUT THAT DOWN! DO. NOT. HIT. THAT. BUTTON. DON’T THROW THAT OUT THE WINDOW! WASH YOUR HANDS! LAWD HAVE MERCY JESUS I DO NOT NEED HELP TAKING A BATH.”
I always make sure to calm down and tip the day’s conversation ratio toward the positive. I have turned into your own personal Oprah. I ask what you’re doing. How you feel? I tell you things that you did so very well today. I ask if you remember things. I ask what you want to do tomorrow. We make plans. I tell you jokes. You tell me jokes. We read. I ask your opinion.
Because with you, I am hyper aware. No matter how right I am, I would hate for our last conversation to to be “DO NOT PEE ON THE PLUNGER. IT IS NOT THE URINE BEACON."
But you never know when that last conversation will be.
My last talk with my dad was pretty good.
Your Great Aunt ‘Nette told me later that your grandfather thought it was the funniest thing ever, that I was going to "tell” on him.
I was going to tell on him, too. When your grandfather got too worked up, 'Nette would send their other sister, your Great Aunt Pat over to his house to pray over him ALL DAY.
Your grandfather used to complain that if Pat ran out of annointing oil, she would use up all his Crisco. So he would simmer down and behave.
I know that my heart was light afterwards, because I had decided that the next time I came to Alabama I was going to rent a Mercedes and go drive him around.
Just so he could see me drive.