Courage at Twilight: Not Feeling Well

“I’m not feeling well this morning,” Dad muttered, and Mom cried out, “Oh, Nelson! Again? What are we going to do?” She tossed her needlepoint in sudden tears and shuffled to the kitchen, making herself busy with her morning herbal tea and granola breakfast, leaving Dad on his bedroom couch to contemplate the ever more difficult daily ordeal of shoving off to the shower and dressing.  I hoped he would feel better after swallowing his medicine with a glass of water.  And I hoped Mom could let go of her terrible fear for his welfare.  His noon breakfast over, we left in the Mighty V8 for the grocery store.  Grill fixings were in order with my son Brian visiting for his 32nd  After finishing with produce and meat, I told Dad I would get the dill pickle hamburger chips, and rushed off down the aisle.  I put the pickle jar in my cart, and he asked me as he rolled up if I had seen anything else we needed or that looked good to me as I had walked down that aisle.  I looked at him, then down the aisle, unsure of what it contained.  Focused on the pickle job, I had not seen anything else on the aisle, and reported as much.  “I saw everything,” he asserted. “And I wanted everything I saw.”  His unbounded enthusiasm became evident as we reached Luana’s check-out counter with three full shopping carts in tow.  Home by 3:30 p.m., Dad announced lunch time, and set to work building his onion sandwich.  Knowing the strain of walking and bending to retrieve the makings from the fridge, I tossed on the counter baggies with leftover onion and tomato, the mustard and mayonnaise, the sliced ham and cheese, and the multi-grain bread, then ascended stairs to my home office to finish remotely the afternoon’s work.  Descending later for a cold water bottle (refilled now at least 400 times), I looked upon the familiar after-lunch scene: a half onion generously deodorizing the house, spiked with the protruding fork Dad used to hold the onion in place while he safely sliced it; the rubber scraper slathered with warm mayonnaise soiling the counter; slices of Swiss cheese exposed and drying in the package because he had scissored off the zipper his fumbling fingers no longer pulled.  I have allowed this scene to annoy me a hundred times, and I am tired of being annoyed, and am choosing instead to incorporate into my afternoon routine the washing of a knife and a rubber scraper and the restocking of ham, cheese, mayo, mustard, potato chips, and the wiping down of the countertop with Lysol bleach.  One day I will look at the empty, sterile countertop and miss the mess, all those things that will mean he was here with us then.  Who else in this world will prepare every day an onion sandwich for lunch at 5:00 pm?  There is no one, I am sure.  From my desk, pondering the empty countertop, sudden quick shadows passed over the front lawn, shadows of Canada geese flying over the house with their honks and blares and gray feathers.

(Pictured above, two of Mom’s exquisite needlepoints.)

4 thoughts on “Courage at Twilight: Not Feeling Well

    1. Roger Baker-Utah Post author

      For months he put nothing on the bread but a thick slice of sweet vidalia onion, with mayo and mustard. Now his typical fare includes ham and Swiss with the onion. I still can’t bring myself to try the straight onion sandwich!

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