Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Wait

Paula and I parked in front of the large house on the corner and I turned the car off.  We got out and I took her hand and we started up the winding sidewalk and passed between two large azealias that squeezed against you as you walked through.  A few more steps and we were standing in front of the door.  It was locked so Paula pressed the doorbell and we could hear the chimes ringing as someone approached.  The door opened and a tall man with sandy red hair opened the door and Paula hugged him and said “hi Daddy” and kissed him.  He extended his hand and I took it and as we shook, I told him it was nice to meet him.  A woman then walked out of the kitchen in her apron covering a nice Nordstrom outfit, her dark black hair up on her head and a beautiful smile and walked across the room.  She hugged and kissed Paula and looked me over with eyes that were evaluating me. It was Thanksgiving weekend and my girlfriend had invited me home to meet her parents.

That was the first time I met a man and a woman who were to become more than just a father-in-law and mother-in-law to me.  Over the next 29 years, they would become closer to me than my own parents.  Strong Pentecostal Christians, they had strong moral convictions and a strict lifestyle.  They attended church three times a week and prayed at every meal.  Paula and I spent every Christmas and Thanksgiving in their home throughout our marriage.   We watched Paula’s son Jason play basketball nearly every weekend with them for his high school and college career.  We were there when Dad’s mom died and then his father.  We spent time in the hospital with them when their son Doug and Jason were in a bad car accident and we weren’t sure if Doug would survive…trading time between Jason’s and Doug’s hospital rooms.  They drove to Sandpoint and supported my mom and our family when my dad died. 

The last time I saw either of them was at Christmas in 2003.  We spent the holidays together in their Walla Walla home.  As always, the food was delicious and the gifts abundant.  Two of our kids and several of our grandkids laughing and playing…always the center of attention.  When I got in legal trouble a couple of months later, and Paula and I divorced, the relationship ended.  Before I went into prison, I talked with both of them and they told me they loved me.  Tears burned in my eyes as I hung up the phone.

I received a phone call from Paula yesterday.  I’d called earlier in the day as I often do.  She rarely answers the phone and I had left a message.  A smile crept over my face as I answered and heard her voice.  She seemed in good spirits and we talked for most of an hour.  Most of the conversation was about Mom and Dad.  They put Dad in hospice this week and they are not going to force him to eat or receive hydration.  He’s refusing to eat most days and the doctors don’t believe he has much time left.  Doug is flying up from Palm Springs to be with him this next week in case it’s time for him to pass.  It was hard for Paula to agree to sign the form putting him in hospice, knowing that he could be gone soon…and hard to tell me.  I got quiet as she told me about Mom and Dad’s health and how they are both failing.  Mom has cancer and is in severe pain, but she keeps fighting…both with Paula and against the pain.  She’s ready to give up and probably will when Dad is gone.

Although it’s been more than 11 years since I last saw them, I can still picture them clearly and feel the love and caring they showed me.  They both still love me, but the pain I caused Paula was too strong for them to overcome.  I often thought about showing up on their doorstep to visit Paula, but I respected them and their wishes too much to do that.

I expect to receive a phone call or text any day now.  I know what it will say and I’ll call to offer my comfort and support to Paula and the family.  I’ll ask to come to the funeral, not knowing what the answer will be.  It would be hard to be with the family again after an eleven year absence, and I’m sure that my shame and guilt will try to overwhelm me…but it will be harder for me if I’m not there.  For now, all I can do is wait like the rest of the family, not for the death announcement…but for what comes next.

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