My mind makes pictures of my father and I look at them ever so hesitantly. For example, the last day I remember having a normal day with him (or rather, what had become “the new normal” these last nine months) was Saturday, August 31, 2013. “The new normal” means that we went somewhere together, ate some food, saw some cool things. I did the driving, and he labored in and out of the car using the walker.
It was a gorgeous late summer day and we drove up to Sturgeon Bay to see three of his medium-sized feather pieces in a show in a new gallery up there called Creative Studios. In order to get good views of the lake, we took the long, scenic route up through Algoma. I was happy to hear him say how impressed he was by the vistas and to remark, “we’ll have to do this more often.” I realize now that he said that a lot his last few weeks.
On the radio that day, we heard a piece of music that, if I remember correctly, had something to do with the notion of “what the birds see when they fly.” I wish I could remember the name of the piece and the composer. The composition was minimal and lovely. It was appropriate for Georg because so many of his works are about birds and the concept of flight. A good example is this piece called Blue Jay.
We had a great time listening to the music, looking at art, enjoying the scenery. I drove him through Fish Creek and he marveled at all the hubbub. I could tell that in another life, he would have wanted to explore all the little shops and galleries along the way, maybe stop and get a mid-afternoon coffee. But, it was too hard for him to get in and out of the car, so we did none of that.
I decided we should go to a fish boil since he had never been to one, and true to his inquisitive nature, he was up for the adventure. We ended up at the restaurant called the Old Post Office way up in Ephraim. Halfway through dinner, his chest started hurting him. I thought he was having a heart attack, though he insisted he was not. We left the restaurant in a hurry. The kind waitress wrapped up our cherry pie slices in aluminum foil and I threw them into my purse to eat later. She also suggested we head back down on the Baileys Harbor side, because there would be less traffic.
She was right. We bought aspirin at the Citgo station in Baileys and then we started the long trek home. He refused to go to the hospital in Sturgeon Bay. I was scared to death that my dad would die in the car, but he seemed calm enough and I decided to believe him. Many hours later, back in Sheboygan, we learned he was suffering with “costochondritis.” Chest wall pain. Not a heart attack. He had been correct about that.
Still, I will never forget the look on his face when I was getting ready to leave him at the hospital that night. It was a look of intense questioning. His eyes seemed to be saying, “Lisa, why is this terrible pain happening to me?”
I certainly did not have an answer. At that moment, I was just happy that he was safe in the care of the nurses and that I would not need to worry about him through the night.
Later that evening when I stood alone in my kitchen enjoying my slice of mashed cherry pie with a glass of cold milk, I could not forecast that less than a month later, my wise and inquisitive father would be dead.
There is so much we do not know and cannot even begin to fathom until it happens.