Vern and Frank – Part 4
(Read the prior parts on the RiverPath Blog)
Frank tells me to come into his daughter’s house. It’s kid messy with toys and stuff, but not dirty. Diana – I finally get her name – acts like she’s known me all her life. She’s a social worker and starts askin me all kinds of questions about my condition and the services I’m gettin and the same about AJ. I tell her what the doctors are sayin to me, but their words haven’t sunk in yet. She tells me to have AJ come down. AJ comes down and we talk some more.
She looks at me and Frank. “Have either of you considered hospice?”
Frank says it’s all set up for when he gets back. I don’t know much about it. Diana tells me and AJ about it. I don’t know whether to be glad to learn it’s about people helpin me die in my home or pissed off I finally realized the truth. Diana’s words helped me understand what the doctor’s been tryin to tell me—I’m dyin. The truth sinks down my gut like a lead anchor.
AJ starts cryin, then I do, next Frank and Diana. Frank’s two grandkids come in, and they start cryin. One of them says this is Grandpa’s last visit ever to their house and that sets us all off again.
Old Frank starts to get crazy. “Let’s stop this crap.” He sits up straighter. “Diana, you still have that moonshine tucked away?”
“Dad,” she says, still crying, “Dad, that was a souvenir you bought when we traveled to Kentucky four years ago trying to find our hillbilly ancestors. What do you want it for?”
“It’s still moonshine, now please go find it.” Then he says, “Remember Shawshank Redemption? The movie? Remember where one of them says, ‘You can either get on with living, or get on with dying?’ Well, I’m dying, but I’m not ready to get on with it quite yet.”
He adds somethin it took me a while to figure out. “These may be our only stories, Vern, but they’re not written quite yet.”
That white lightening burns like crazy. AJ gasps. Diana chokes. She yells at her dad when he dips his finger in his and lets them grandkids touch it with their tongue. We all laugh when they holler it bites.
He looks over at AJ. “AJ, you know someone who has a vehicle big enough to haul all six of us around in? Maybe use it for a couple of days? Oh, and can you drive if Vern can’t?”
AJ nods, smiles a little. “My sister has a minivan she doesn’t use much, and, yes, I have a license and drive right well, why?”
“Well, here’s what we’re going to do. First, we’re not sitting around and crying while I’m here. Second, tonight we’re going to The Flying Biscuit Cafe for grits and blackened shrimp, and tomorrow we’re all going to the Georgia Aquarium. The next day we’re going back to the Civil Rights museum, I don’t think I can do both in the same day, and the next day after that we’re going to a Braves game. They’re not the Detroit Tigers, but baseball is still baseball. AJ and Diana can push us around in wheelchairs those places keep for old folks like us.”
I think this man’s gone bat-shit crazy. Maybe that prostate cancer already hit his brain. But he starts to make sense after I take another sip of shine.
The next three days, we go as crazy as two dyin old farts can go. We laugh at everythin that can be laughed at and some that shouldn’t of been. The only time we cry a little is when we take him to the airport. Frank rolls down his window and hollers at a Southwest guy to bring over a wheelchair. Diana helps Frank climb out and get in the chair. Then he tips the guy real nice because he hollered at him.
“Bye, Dad,” She says, hugging him, trying not to break down.
Watchin the Southwest guy start to turn his chair, I call out, “Frank, don’t ya need your walker? It’s still in the back.”
The guy stops and turns the chair a little. Frank grins at me. “Nope, Vern. You keep it. You have more time left than me. My time’s about over. By the way, you can have the shine, too. Maybe it will keep you telling your story a little longer.”
He gave a big wink and turned his head right quick. I’d swear I saw tears in his eyes.
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