Best Men, part 3

Friday, December 12

Paul called us Thursday evening with word that he’d completed the staging, if we wanted to check it out. I took Friday afternoon off and we drove to Lancaster, stopping first at the rehab facility to collect Jack. He’d said he wanted to see the place once more before he left town.

Physically, Jack seemed to be doing well. He was walking all over the rehab center and had been on a couple of excursions – once to see his doctor and once to buy some new clothes. He’d lost some weight and would probably gain it back, but until then he needed pants that wouldn’t fall down around his ankles.

Both Pete and I were concerned about Jack’s psychological state. He’d been passive since the heart attack, letting his kids make the decisions, agreeing to whatever they recommended. Jack was the strong, silent type, but he’d always had opinions. He hadn’t been expressing any lately.

When we drove up to the facility he was waiting for us, sitting on one of the benches outside the front door, wearing a pair of his new pants. An aide was with him, but Jack pushed himself to his feet without assistance and walked to the Jeep. I hopped out of the front seat and he got in. Pete said, “Hey, Dad, how’s it going?”

“Fine.” Jack fastened his seatbelt. “Feeling pretty good today.”

I closed his door and climbed into the back seat. “What did you have for lunch?”

“Some kind of soup. Had lentils in it.”

Pete grinned. “Had you ever eaten lentils before?”

“Not on purpose.”

By Beachboys5500 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Beachboys5500 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

We made the brief drive to Jack’s house and parked in the driveway. The front porch was newly painted, with a seating area arranged by Paul’s crew, and our friend Ali had done some desert-friendly landscaping.

Jack whistled softly. “Place didn’t look this good when I bought it.”

Pete said, “It’s the prettiest house on the block now.”

We raised the garage door and entered. The garage was sparkling clean and without Jack’s battered shelving and workbenches looked enormous, even with his pickup truck parked there. Jack chuckled. “Didn’t know the garage was this big.”

Pete said, “Neither did I.”

We entered the house and stopped, each of us making sounds of amazement at the transformation. Paul had worked magic. Jack had always kept the place clean, but it had still appeared to be exactly what it was: a run-down, sixties-style ranch house. Now it looked – classy. But comfortable. Exactly as Paul had said.

We moved from room to room, oohing and aahing over the changes. The bright yellow and orange accents in the kitchen made the wood of the cabinets glow. The tired den was transformed into a family-friendly entertainment room. The bedrooms were decked out as havens of rest, and Pete’s former bedroom was perfect as an office.

Jack stood in the doorway of what had been his bedroom and shook his head. “Sure doesn’t look like my place any more.”

Pete asked softly, “Will you miss it?”

Jack considered that. “Nah. Chris’s place is better’n this.”

Pete and I looked at each other, but didn’t say anything.

 

Jack had a couple of errands to run before we returned him to the rehab center. We stopped at the post office so he could fill out a change of address card, then took him to Target for new socks and underwear. By the time we were finished it seemed to me that Jack was tired, although he hadn’t complained. When we were back in the Jeep and underway he held up his Target bag. “New skivvies for my new life.”

I said, “Never travel without clean skivvies.”

He nodded at me sharply, then grinned.

Pete walked Jack into the building, where he was greeted by an aide. I switched to the driver’s seat, expecting that Pete would be in a contemplative mood. I was right. When he got back to the Jeep he slid into the passenger seat without commenting. I said, “Do you want to go back to the house for anything?”

“No.” Pete looked back through the doors of the center. “That wore him out.”

“He did seem tired to me. The doctor thinks he’s ready to travel, though?”

“That’s what he said.”

Chris and her husband Andy were renting an RV and driving up on Tuesday, leaving the girls at home with Andy’s parents. They’d spend Wednesday getting Jack discharged and packed and sorting out any last-minute things, then they’d start back to Arizona on Thursday, taking two days to make the trip, stopping every hour to let Jack walk around. In the RV he’d be able to sit in comfort and to lie down whenever he wanted, and they’d also have room to take most of his clothing and other personal items. Pete and I would follow on Sunday, bringing his truck and the rest of his things from the storage unit.

I said, “He seems pretty good-humored about it.”

“Yeah.”

I glanced at Pete, who was gazing off into the distance. “Does it bother you that he’s good-humored about it?”

He gave me a sharp look. “Why would it?”

“Because he’s leaving you and doesn’t seem concerned about it.”

Pete smiled, but it was a weak effort. “You’re becoming awfully perceptive.”

“Living with you is having an influence.”

He grinned. “Thank God for that.”

“Smartass. Am I right?”

His grin faded. “Yeah. You’re right.”

“Could you use a dose of my dad? We’re meeting Lisa at the house tomorrow morning; we could drive to Oceanside from here and spend the night.”

He liked that idea.

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2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

2 responses to “Best Men, part 3

  1. Sharon Cox

    I’m really enjoying this so thanks for writing it.

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