My dad’s been sick for so long, it’s normal. I can’t recall how he walked before he became dependent on a cane, reliant on a walker. Though the sound of his voice hasn’t changed, I don’t remember how he spoke before the slurring and stuttering. Some days I think he sounds clearer. The words are more enunciated. Other days he has to repeat a himself three times before I can figure it out.
“You’re going to feeble hair play?” I guess.
He shakes his head, smiles, says it again.
“You’re going to Frisbee air pee. Wait, what the fuck is ‘Frisbee air pee’ and should I be concerned that you’re going there?”
He laughs, licks his lips and says it one more time. This time the movement of his mouth is deliberate, exaggerated.
“Ohhhhhhhhhh, you’re going to physical therapy. Got it. Have fun,” I say as I duck out of his office and return to my desk.
It’s normal that my dad can’t partake in conversations at loud restaurants, his vocal cords too tight for him to project his voice. He’ll still chime in. People rest their utensils on the edges of their plates. They lean closer. Some understand him, respond. The rest nod and smile.
It’s normal that my dad can’t tie his laces or button the cuff of his shirt. It’s normal that he can’t pick up something he’s dropped, the bending over process dangerously compromising his balance. It’s normal that he can’t carry a glass, regardless of it being filled with liquid. My dad lives in a world with different rules.
“So last night we went out with the Gilberts. Remember how he had been in the hospital and no one was sure what was wrong? Well, it turns he had a stroke,” my mom informs me as she opens a menu.
“That’s a shame,” I say, my tone flat.
It isn’t that I don’t care. Family friends since I was a tot, I don’t want to hear that he’s not doing well. That sometimes he loses his balance and falls. He’s forgetful. Memories are blurry, words are hard to find.
“It’s sad seeing him this way,” my mom continues.
And I’m sure it is. But it rolls right off me. I dismiss that emotion the same way I wave off a pesky mosquito or pluck a stray piece of lint from my black crepe skirt.
“Isn’t it sad, PJ?” I look up, see my mom waiting for an answer.
“Sure. But you know what, he lived a damn good life the last thirty-five years, skiing in the winter, swimming in the summer,” I explain, my voice calm and quiet.
She gets what I’m saying. She knows I’m not being bitter or keeping score. My mom nods her head, purses her lips, follows the movement of the maitre d’ as he seats a party across the room.
“Want share some dumplings?” I ask as I scan the menu.
“Fried or steamed?”
And like that, everything is back to normal.