They’re saying he has Alzheimer’s
Or maybe Parkinson’s.
They tried to take his license away
But he passed his driving test.
He showed them, the “sons o’ bitches.”
Grandma’s still afraid of his driving
Always telling him to slow down,
Only letting him get up to 40, on a good day.
He used to drive a school bus for a living
Responsible for fifty kids on any given day.
They were all afraid of him,
Called him “The Bear” behind his back.
Now his own wife’s afraid
He won’t make it home from the store
And when he does she whispers into the phone
About what he brings home.
Because if he brings home anything
That wasn’t on the list
She won’t ask him why
She’ll only whisper “It’s the Alzheimer’s”
While she thinks he’s asleep.
But what she doesn’t know is
He never really sleeps, anymore.
He worries he’ll forget to wake up
Or that he’ll turn the oven on, in his sleep
Like he did once
When he was dreaming
About making someone a fried-egg sandwich.
When she’s asleep
He hunkers down, and whispers to me
That if she goes before he does
He’s going for a long, long ride
Down to Pennsylvania
To see his family.
In black and white snapshots
From the forties and fifties
He wore double-breasted suits,
Fedoras and long trench coats
He stands unbelievably tall
And his eyes shine
Like he has a new story to tell.
He told all the best stories
Before he started forgetting
And everyone stopped listening.
When it’s all over
I see him in the suits he used to wear
Looking like an Untouchable
He’s driving a cherry red, ’57 Chevy convertible
The top down
The wind in his hair
Driving at least 55
Down the Pennsylvania turnpike
To visit his brothers and sisters
And I’m riding shotgun
Holding his fedora in my lap.
He’s telling me about the time
He caught a fish the size of a shark
“I shit you not!”
Laughing his good ol’ boy laugh
Slapping his knee
Holding his pipe in one hand
The sweet smell of it dancing on the breeze.
I inhale deeply
Then take a drink
Of the delicious kitty cocktail
He has prepared for me.
I slide across the seat,
Kiss the rough skin of his cheek,
And we laugh