- Armchair coaching sessions
- Phone calls
- Christmas morning
- Hearing every detail about my day
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Happy Feet (SOL19 #3)
Disclaimer: This is a heavy one. But a story that has been in my heart for a long time that I do need to get down on “paper.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I sat in the room with all the medical equipment with my mom and my dad. I had just finished my junior year of high school, enjoyed all the end of the year activities, and yet here we are. I sat in the uncomfortable chair thinking about the words that the doctor had just spoken. “It won’t be much longer.” I had heard those words for a week now, but here we sat. This time, it seemed like it might be true. My dad was lying motionless in the hospital bed with lots of wires attached to him. The wires that let us know his heart rate, oxygen levels, and whatever else the doctors needed to know.
“Do you think he could hear us?”
My mom sighed and said, “I really don’t know. Maybe? I’ve heard sometimes that people who are in a coma can hear things, but we can’t be sure.”
We sat there quiet for a while, but the silence was becoming deafening. I couldn't handle sitting in the quiet anymore so I started to talk to my mom about the required summer reading before senior year. “I’m going to have to buy the books soon. Do you have cash for them?” His foot moved. Not just moved, wagged back and forth, like a dogs tail would. It was slight, but it happened. Just as quickly as it happened, it stopped.
My dad had a spot in the house. A prized spot. A reddish brownish drab-ish (in my opinion) Lazy Boy that had a prominent spot in the living room. It was positioned in perfect spot to hear all the goings on in the house, while also in a direct sightline of the tv. He loved that Lazy Boy and spent more time in the reclined position than I care to think about. His feet would hang off the edge of the foot rest in the perfect position for peak comfort. Now in order to understand Tom Hull (my Dad), you need to know a few things. He loved his family. I know he did. He did not like to outwardly show that. He was serious, a little grumpy, and didn’t say too much unless it was lecturing us on how to play sports better or how that “B” was not an “A.” He was a tough guy to please, and he liked it that way. He prided himself on being a before his time grumpy old man.
There was one thing that he could not control. His feet. It was especially evident in the recliner. When he was talking to someone that he was fond of (in person or one the phone) his feet would wag back and forth. I remember calling him on it after he got off a “dreaded” phone call with a gentleman that he used to work with. “What with the feet Dad? You excited to talk to Wayne?” “Oh come off it!” (A famous Tom Hull line) After I noticed it, I couldn’t unsee it. It would happen all the time.
He couldn’t help it. The feet would go back and forth. Sometimes it was slight, but other times it was undeniable. That small movement showed that he was enjoying the conversation with that person, no matter was his face or voice was telling us. We would call them his happy feet. When his “happy feet” were pointed out to him he would try his best to make it stop, but he couldn’t do it.
I stared at the edge of the bed hoping it would happen again. It didn’t. So I continued my conversation with my mom. Senior pictures coming. What package should we get?
The feet started up again. This time wagging pretty fiercely. I motioned for my mom to look. She smiled. She mouthed to me, maybe he is listening.
“Dad, don’t be so cheap. I need to have senior pictures.”
There went his feet again. Maybe he didn't like being called cheap.
“Are you really hearing this?”
The feet stopped.
“One shake if you love us.”
The blankets moved with that one strong shake of his feet.
Now I don’t remember if he responded with his feet more times that night, but he had already said everything that he needed to say with that one shake. Also, I had heard everything I needed to hear from him. That was my last memory with my Dad. He passed away before we made it to the hospital the next morning.
A couple years after he passed I got a tattoo on my ankle of two footprints. Those footprints remind me of my last memory of my Dad, but also of all the conversations we had with his feet wagging back and forth, despite his best efforts to stop it. I miss him immensely, but am glad to have a small reminder of him whenever I need it.