Last Moments With Grady

When Grady’s life was almost done he told me once he hit a home run.
One of the last few times I saw my father–he was in his eighties and sinking into his final spiral of one illness after another–he told me how he hit the game winning home run in high school. This was significant because he only had one eye, and he played baseball better than I did with two.
I always knew he liked watching sports of all kinds and that baseball was his favorite. Way back in the fifties our little town in Texas had its own minor league team called the Owls. This was before television captured the nation’s attention and people actually left their houses for entertainment. It was nice to go someplace with my father but I never figured out which team was which.
“Which ones are the Owls?” I asked.
“They’re at bat,” Dad replied.
I was only four or five, and I didn’t know what “at bat” meant. As we left I asked him if we won or not. I think we lost.
I tried to play Little League, but I was lousy. I knew I was lousy because all the other guys on my team told me I was lousy. I think that summer I actually played in two games. In the first one I struck out. In the second one I got a walk and made it to second base before everyone started leaving the field. I asked why and someone told me the game was over. We lost.
I don’t think Grady even knew I played baseball that summer. He was out of the house on his Royal Crown Cola truck before I woke up and usually came home after dark. I had this wistful daydream that all of a sudden I was going to become a great baseball player. I’d be in every line up, making game-saving field catches and hitting home runs a couple of times a game. And then, maybe, I’d look out to the road and see the soda pop truck pull up. My father would get out, lean against the front bumper to watch me play a few innings before he finished his route.
When Grady’s spirit was about to go, he told me once he saw a UFO
My visits home were mostly awkward. We’d sit in the living room staring at the television. Probably a baseball game was on, and I didn’t know who was playing. For sure, it wasn’t the Owls.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“How’s Hallie doing?” She was his girlfriend.
“How’s the weather?”
“As long as it’s under a 100, I’m fine.”
After a pause I announced, “I’m fine.”
“Janet and the boy are fine.”
“Janet’s mother is fine.”
On another visit Grady did ask about my mother-in-law’s health so I thought he’d be interested to know she wasn’t dead yet.
I ran out of the usual questions and became desperate so I mentioned a show on TV about UFOs. I didn’t know if I believed in them but the show was fascinating.
“I saw one of them one night, you know.”
This was when I almost fell off the sofa.
“Really? You never told me that before.”
“Oh, I never told anybody about it. I didn’t want them to think I was crazy.”
On one of his many late nights out in the truck, he saw the object in the sky. It didn’t move like an airplane, and took off across the sky faster than any jetfighter could. I often wondered what other stories he would have told if I had just mentioned the right topic.
As Grady lay there dying, he told me once he went flying.
After moving to Florida, I’d fly back for a visit. We exhausted the topics of weather and health (everyone was fine), so I talked about how the flight went (it was fine). Then I added that I guessed he never flew on an airplane.
“Oh sure, I went up in one of them biplanes way back then.”
Again I almost fell out of my chair. Cautiously, I pumped him for details. It seemed a barnstormer was going cross country taking people up in the back seat of his plane for five dollars.
“My brothers were scared but I was too young to know any better.”
What startled me more than the fact he actually went up in one of those flimsy contraptions was that he parted with five dollars. Remember, this was in the 1920s when five dollars was a week’s pay for most folks. It pained him to give me two-fifty a week for school lunch in the 1960s. I kind of felt sad that he grew up and learned it was better to keep his five dollars than have an experience of a lifetime.
Eventually, Grady moved into a nursing home. He decided he couldn’t keep up with paying his bills, and he wanted Hallie’s son to have his power of attorney. Hallie’s son told me he didn’t want to do it, so the only one left to take care of Dad’s bills was me. It was bad enough that he never said he loved me, he never kissed me or hugged me; now he didn’t want to rely on me to pay his bills.
The nursing home director convinced him that it was better to have a family member have the power of attorney so with a heavy sigh he accepted the situation. I came to terms with this state of affairs too. He was who he was. Nothing could be done about it.
On my last visit, we sat in the day room watching a rerun of Gunsmoke. Marshal Dillon was one of his favorites. Grady particularly liked Doc. At one point his hand moved to my knee, and it stayed there for a while before he pulled it away. He walked me to the nursing home door and hugged me. I whispered “I love you” and then he mumbled it back at me. I think he kissed my cheek but I’m not quite sure about that one.
I have written before about how Grady put his hand on my knee, hugged me and said, “I love you,” but I believe it bears repeating, like when he hit a home run, when he saw a UFO and when he went up in a biplane. It was an experience of a lifetime.
When I thought any hope of redemption was too late…Grady snatched my love from the jaws of hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *