Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Who You Know

As we sat by my father in law's bedside, we wondered if he could hear us. He has been suffering through the ravages of Alzheimer's for the past decade. We knew that we were no longer names he could recall. I had become "that girl" and my mother in law was "his best friend". "Do I know you?" was often the question he reserved for his grandchildren and his great grandchildren were twinkles in his eyes but little more.

None of that really mattered, though, since we all knew him. We knew the fisherman who would rather be on a boat fishing than any place else on the planet. Unless it was working out his frustrations on the dents on a car. We knew the man who went to church each Sunday and McDonald's to chat with old friends every morning. The woman behind the counter at Taco Time knew his order, since he had been coming in for almost 20 years. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn't know him. We often laughed that we had never been anywhere that someone didn't know Orville.

We sat by his bedside knowing that the time was near. He had cheated death so many times in the last couple of years, I suppose there was a piece of us that wondered if he wouldn't open his eyes. His signature remark when asked how he felt, was "with my fingers". We wanted nothing more than to hear him say it one more time.

Yet here I am filling out an obituary form, filled with facts, dates, timelines that seem devoid of the essence of the man we have lost. Though we never know the exact moment of our earthly departure, even if we have the luxury of knowing it is close, it is still a shock when that life exits this mortal coil. Within a half hour of his release, the life force that we knew was gone. From his skin color to the texture of his hair, there was no hint of his presence.

Through the tears, the paperwork, the phone calls and all the little details that follow in the next few hours and days, it is comforting to know that somewhere Orville is baiting a hook.

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