"Nigel, come over here and give me a hand."
I barely heard this over the stereo, but I set my tools down and climbed to my feet to help Dad out of whatever mess he was about to get himself into.
"What's up, Pop?"
"Wanna give me a hand with this? It's too damn heavy."
"Ok, where do you want me?"
"Over the fender. We'll pull it out and see if we can get it on the bench."
"Lift. Damn, this is heavy! Ok, up on the bench so I can look at it."
Dad was always top notch when it came to cars; it didn't matter what make it was, even though he was partial to the early American muscle cars.
He started this business when I was a kid, and it's grown alot from when it was a one stall garage. Now, we have 4 bays, with a hoist in each one. and we've got more tools than we know what to do with. I loved working with my dad. We got along great, especially when I came on full time after I graduated school.
I was watching my dad examine the cylinder head I'd just helped him remove, impressed but not surprised when he found the problem right away.
"Come here, I want to show you something."
"What am I looking at?" Curious, I walked over to the bench where he was sitting.
"Look between those valves - y'see the crack?" Pop pointed out the tiny fissure with his pen.
"Yup, no wonder it was using coolant."
"You got it. Now, do me a favor?"
"Pull the other head." He grinned as he asked me.
"Gee, thanks Pop." I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Yup, Dad -1, me-0... as usual.
I gathered the tools I'd need to get the other head off the truck we were working on, while Pop headed back to the office to relax some. He hadn't been up to par in the last few weeks; said he was feeling kind of weak, and sick. But do you think he'd go see a doctor? NO. Bullheaded. At least I knew I came by it honestly.
Finally done for the day, we hopped in the truck for the trek home, and dinner. Once settled in front of the TV for the evening, Dad settled on a nature show and leaned back on his recliner while I sprawled on the couch.
"Son?" Son? He rarely called me that.
"Are you ever going to be happy inside?"
"What do you mean?" I cocked my head and looked at him blankly.
"When are you going to find someone and make yourself happy?"
"Someone?" I still don't know where he's going with this.
"Yes, someone. You can fool most everyone else, but you can't fool me." He smiled.
"I'm not trying to fool anyone. I am who I am." Just your average 20 year old, going-nowhere mechanic.
"Precisely the point I'm trying to make: you're going through the motions, but you're getting nowhere with it."
"What are you getting at, Pop?" I was getting tired of this cat and mouse routine.
"I've had an idea which side of the fence you sit on for some time, but that don't matter to me. What I want for you is for you to be happy. Totally. Inside and out. When you find him, hold on tight. And you have my blessing when the time comes."
"Was I THAT obvious? I would like someone I can be with, but they're not exactly popping out the woodwork." I don't know how I had the courage to just up and say that. My mouth was running before my brain engaged, I guess.
"No, you aren't obvious - just a father's intuition, I guess. But you never know what's around the next corner. It could be tomorrow, or years down the road, but you WILL find your someone, I promise you." He said this with a look that said not to doubt him.
"Thank you, Dad. That means a lot to me." My eyes got that smarting feeling that they get when you're about to cry, but I managed to choke it back.
The rest of the night was a haze to me. The only thing going through my mind was what Dad said. I'd had certian feelings, but I'd walled them off. Now that Dad had brought it all to the front of my mind again, I might have to do something about it, someday. Maybe. But definitely later.
The next day was Saturday, and a nice one by the looks of things when I peeped out the window to check. I had nothing planned, but it seemed that Pop did.
"Nigel!" Pop yelled from the kitchen.
"Yeah?" I said as I was walking in his direction.
"Dust the car off, we're going to a show. NOW, boy." With that, he started guiding me out to the barn.
"Geesh, bossy bugger, aren't you?" I chuckled over my shoulder.
"Yes," he said, with the biggest grin I'd seen in a long time.
I had to laugh at that - Dad was being goofy again. I got the car out and cleaned it up.
We hopped in the mighty 'Vette, and I'd swear Pop was 18 again. As we turned out of the driveway and onto the road, he stood on the gas, kicking the car sideways and smoking the tires for a good 100 yards, then grabbed second gear, and continued the assault. I was whooping and holding on tight. Hah! And the neighbors think I'm the problem. He could always drive that car, make it do whatever he wanted it to do, just like that morning. He was a big kid, and I loved it.
Once Pop got his pride and joy parked on the show grounds, I cleaned anything I'd missed the first time, then we went to talk with some friends there. Pop ran into a couple guys he knew, so I went off by myself to look things over. Then, through a break in the crowd, I saw someone familier.
"Mollie!" I shouted over a few people's heads.
"Nigel, is that you?" Big grin on her pretty face.
"'Fraid so. What brings you to a car show?" I was genuinely glad to see her. She'd been my best friend since grade school.
"My dad. He wanted to do some bonding, so he brought me here." She smiled warmly at me.
"Cool, isn't it? Want to bond for a while?" I grinned back at her.
"Oh yeah, let's bond. At least I'll have someone to walk with - it seems my dad got cought up with friends." She wrapped her arm around my waist.
"Yup, mine too. Wanna walk?" I put my arm across her shoulders.
"Lead the way." We wandered off together in the general direction of the concession stand.
Mollie and I were always friends, and sometimes close friends, but I could never love her like I wanted to. Whoever won her hand would be the luckiest man alive. We were talking about everything and nothing when Pop's conversation from last night came up.
"I couldn't believe Dad figured me out. I mean, I haven't really figured me out yet," I said to her, still wide-eyed. Mollie was the only person I was "out" to.
"I can't wait until I meet the man that wins your heart; you deserve it." She held me at arms length, looked me over, then batted her eyelashes.
"You know, I was just thinking that about you. You're the best friend I have, and a girl to boot." I smiled, then kissed her cheek.
"Well, you had to TELL me. I wouldn't have thought that about you, but it changes nothing with us. Except that we get to compare boyfriends someday."
"Let's say that they would both be lucky."
After a sound hug, we found the concession stand where I bought her lunch as we discussed our future. It still looked uncertian, on my part.
After finding our respective fathers, the four of us wandered the show, pointing out different things: paint schemes, cool tires and rims, and the typical car guy - and gal - stuff.
The show was winding down, when the award presentation was going to start. So, we walked to where they'd set up a podium for that to take place.
The MC was announcing names for various classes, with a cheer going up for each one. Then, the GM stock class was announced.
"And the winner is... Albert Scribb!"
"Damn Dad, you won!! Go get your trophy."
He walked to the podium for his trophy, raising it for all to see, and the applause came. He returned, showing me his prize. He was glowing, he was so happy.
The day had to end, but at least it was a happy ending. We got the car parked in the barn and covered up, then went inside for dinner.
"It was a great day, Dad," I said as I hugged him.
"It sure was, the trophy was just the icing on the cake." He was glowing.
"Oh yeah. I even talked with Mollie for a while too."
"I kinda figured that. It go well?"
"Of course." I didn't go into detail, but gave him the general run down.
After dinner, we got settled by the TV again. It didn't take long, and Pop was snoring. I'm going to miss that sound someday.
"Damn, what a dream," I thought to myself as I woke up.
It started with a older red BMW that kept popping in my head; the car looked good. All I could see of the driver was the back of his head. When the driver stopped and got out, his face was fuzzy when he turned my way. This was not making any sense to me. I did like BMW's and all, but to have a certain one in my dreams? The driver, from what I could see, looked good. But, how did this fit in?
I kept having that dream, in different variations, for weeks. Sometimes it was quick and not a lot happened, but other times it felt like it went on for days. I would see this guy in my dad's house, laying on the couch, but the room looked different. DAMMIT! This could drive a man to drink, if I did drink. I never really aquired the taste for it.
"Nigel, snap out of it! Your going to hurt yourself if you keep daydreaming like that," Pop said out of nowhere.
I blinked a couple times, and Pop came into focus.
"Oh, sorry Pop, I don't know what's going on in my head, but I keep having this one dream, and I can't figure it out." We had been talking more about personal matters lately.
"What's the dream about, if I may ask?" As he wiped his hands with a clean rag.
"Nothing bad. It's kinda cool. It's about this guy in a red BMW 3 series. I can never make his face out though." It was getting frustrating at times too.
"Well, I hear that dreams can tell your future, if you pay attention to them. To me, it sounds like something in the future that could happen, but what do I know?" he said as he shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, I know enough not to doubt you, but this is just weird."
"From what you could make out, did this guy look familier?"
"Nope. Never got a clear look, though - it was blurred."
"Did he look good, like someone you might like to be with someday, if it should happen?" he asked, going into full "Dad" mode.
"Dang, you don't make this easy, but yes, he does look likeable." I almost wanted to wipe my chin.
"Don't ashamed about it, it's a part of you. And, if that dream becomes reality for you someday, I want you to know that you have my blessing. Just listen to your dreams."
"Geesh, you went and got mushy on me again. Thanks, Dad."
"One more thing, my son........." Uh oh, here it comes.
"Yeah?" I cocked an eyebrow at him.
"That car your leaning on needs a tune up." He grinned.
"Bugger." I walked away, laughing.
That was one of Pop's better days. He hasn't been feeling well for months now, and had been steadly getting worse. Stubborn bastard wouldn't see a doctor.
Weeks passed, with me having that dream more often, but not in any better detail. Pop isn't doing any better either. He's not holding much down, and he's losing weight.
One day, he wasn't feeling well and told me to go to work, 'cause everything was set there anyway. Just after lunch, I get a call from pop, saying he wasn't feeling well, and to close up and take him to the doctor. 'It's about time,' I thought to myself. I told him I'd be there in a little bit, and to get ready.
When I got home and walked inside, Pop looked like 10 miles of bad road. I helped him to the car, and we drove to the hospital.
Once there, we got him registered, and took a seat for a while. His name was finally called, and we went to the exam room where the doc asked several questions, and we filled him in on what had been happening. Pop was asked to get undressed and into a robe so he could get his vitals taken and other things. In the meantime, I was pacing in the hall outside the exam room, waiting to see Pop and find out what was happening. Finally, I was called went to the room where pop was, only to find him on a bed with an IV in his arm. The doctor was there also, and I was told that pop was severly dehydrated, and they were giving him fluids to get him re-hydrated until he could tolerate something on his stomach.
After several hours, and many tests, it was decided that this little regional hospital couldn't handle what was happening with Pop, and he would need to be transported to the hospital in the city for further testing. Pop pulled me aside before the orderlies could put him on the gurney for the ambulance ride to the city.
"Don't worry about me - you go home and get some rest, then come see me tomorrow. I'll be fine."
"I don't believe you, but I'll go home, and drive down in the morning."
"I love you, Son."
"I love you too, Dad."
When I got home, I remembered that there were a couple cars that needed to be fixed, and I couldn't leave those customers hanging. Seeing that I wasn't going to get any sleep tonight anyway, I went to work on those cars.
It was about 9am when I finally finished the cars. I called the customers, telling them I would leave their keys and the bill in the car, and to drop their checks in the dropbox. I went home, got cleaned up and ate something, and then went to the city to see what was going on with Pop.
I finally arrived, found a parking spot, and headed inside to see where they had him parked. It took some time, but I finally found him sleepingin a two-bed room. At least he was looking a little better now. I had his doctor in charge paged, and got the message that he would be with me soon.
"Nigel Scribb?" A guy in a white lab coat asked, looking at me.
"I'm Dr. Gates. I'm in charge of your father's care while he's here." He held his hand out, and we shook.
"Great! How is he doing?" I asked while we were still in the hallway.
"Lets go to my office so we can talk."
OH SHIT! I felt a cold shiver of worry go down my spine.
We went to his office, he closed the door, and we sat at his desk.
"After numerous tests and CT scans, we found that your father has cancer of the pancreas." I'd heard of this, but I wasn't sure what it entailed.
"Is there anything that can be done to fix him?" I asked. After a minute of silence, I got my answer. Pop wasn't coming home.
"There is no cure for this type of cancer, and it has started to spread to other parts of his body. I'm sorry, but at this point, there is nothing that we can do to cure him. Our job now will be to keep him comfortable and out of pain." My heart just fell right into my shoes.
'C'mon Darren, keep it together,' I thought to myself.
"How long does he have?" I asked, trying to keep my composure.
"Two weeks, maybe three at best. I have to make some calls, to see if I can get him in at a nursing home where he can get more personalised care for his final days." His voice showed compassion.
"Whatever it costs, do it. I don't want my dad hurting."
"Cost isn't an issue - his insurance includes a hospice benefit. The hospise team from the hospital will see that he is taken care of at the nursing home. Any type of medication he needs will be provided under that hopice benefit on his insurance."
"Thank you, doctor. Does he know what is happening?"
"Yes. I told him what was going on, and what I am trying to set up." He gave me several papers, asking me to read them so I'd know more of what he was planning.
"Let me give you some phone numbers for contact info, when things are finalised."
I gave him the numbers, and then I went to Dad's room, and watched him sleep for a while.
I woke to someone poking my arm. I opened my eyes, and Pop was looking at me with a sad look on his face.
"How are ya feeling, Pop?" I asked, my voice betraying me.
"Like shit. I take it you know now?" He asked with a sad look on his face.
"Yes." A sob escaped me.
"Buck up, Son. Don't be like that, 'cause nothing can be done about it." He held my face and looked me in the eye.
"It still sucks. You're not old enough to be leaving me yet." *sniff sniff*
"Just remember what I told you: follow your dreams. I'll be watching you."
I couldn't take it anymore, and started crying. My head falling on his bed. After an hour or so, I calmed down, and Dad was still holding my arm the best he could.
"All right Son, no more crying for me. I've had a great life: a loving wife until we lost her, then we moved to America and we set up a place here. I got the best boy a man could ask for. You're my pride and joy. I would do nothing different." He said, full of conviction.
"What am I going to do? I'll be alone, and I won't know what to do." I needed my dad.
"You sell yourself short. I've seen to it that you will be taken care of: the house, the property and the shop are yours. Take care of them. But, if you break my car..." He chuckled.
"Dad?" I asked, scrubbing at my eyes with the back of my hand.
"Go home, and get some sleep this time. I'll still be here. I'll make sure that when I get moved, you'll know." He pulled me into as loose hug.
"I love you dad."
"I love you more than life itself, Son. Now get on home. You look like hell." He gave my backside a swat as I stood back up.
I gave him a kiss on his forehead, then left. I don't remember the drive home, but nothing was damaged so I guess it was ok. I made something to eat and went to bed.
When I woke up the sun was out; I realised I hadn't set my alarm. I got moving ready quick, then drove to the garage, finding a couple cars there. At least my mind would be occupied for a while.
A week passed, and pop was transferred to a private room in a nursing home. Between his friends and me, he didn't have much time to himself, but that was good. Pop was getting worse by the day, but the nurse from hospice was taking very good care of him, and he wasn't hurting at all. His mind was been slipping; sometimes he didn't know who people were or where he was, and it was killing everyone he knew. He was having good and bad days, just not enough of the former. We talked about life, about work, and cars.
About two weeks after he was admitted, I got a call on the cell phone that I carry with me. It was the one I'd been dreading from the nursing home, telling me that I needed to get there as soon as possible. I closed the shop and tore ass to the nursing home as fast as I could, knowing that this could be it. When I get there and walked into Pop's room, I saw that he was still with us. I talked to the charge nurse, and was told that he'd been having problems breathing, but that was taken care of, and pop was comfortable now. I went back to his room and sat with him until he woke up.
"Nigel?" Pop whispered. His voice was raspy and weak.
"Dad, how are you feeling?" I croaked out.
"I've been better. I know I never said this enough, but I do love you. Make me happy, by making yourself happy." He gave me a weak smile.
"I know you do. I see it every day, and I love you very much, Dad. And I will try to make myself happy," I said, holding his hand.
"I know you won't let me down; it will happen when you least expect it."
"Get some rest dad, I'll be back tomorrow." I stook back up and kissed him on his forehead.
"Bye, son." He said as his hand rubbed my cheek.
I visited Pop every day, and the cancer was eating up more of him every time I saw him. I had a hard time being in the room with him at times, knowing that time was getting short, and that he was hardly himself anymore. His mind was almost a blank - be it people or things, nothing really registered anymore.
About a week after this first scare I get another call, this time from Alice, who was the hospice nurse assigned to Dad.
"Hello, is this Nigel?" she asked. She'd told me that she was originally from Montgomery, Alabama. With her accent, I could well believe it.
"Yes, this is Nigel."
"Your father is transitioning, dear. He's having an extremely difficult time breathing, and is unconcious. I think you should come down to the home as quickly as you can." Alice's voice was gentle and compassionate.
"I'm on my way." I told her. "See you in a few minutes."
I closed the shop up and jumped into the truck, said a small prayer, then stood on the throttle. It took me ten minutes to go thirty miles. I squealed into a parking spot, slammed the truck into 'park' and then took a deep breath before jumping out.
I ran into the home and Alice was there, waiting for me at the reception desk. She gave me a big hug, and then we rode the elevator up to the second floor, where Dad's room was. She walked down the hall with me and into the room, taking a chair against the wall and letting me approach Dad's bed alone.
I looked down at my father, unconscious and looking like he was breathing through his chest, not his lungs. I knelt beside his bed, took hold of his hand and stroked his hair, telling him that I was there and he doesn't have to hurt any longer, and that it was ok to let go, to be free.
A few seconds later, I felt a light squeeze on my hand, and then he sighed as he breathed out his final breath. The pillow sank slightly and it was over. Dad was free now.Next Chapter Previous Chapter