Long Distance

“I had lunch with your dad a couple of days before he died.”

“What?”

We were talking about the logistics of his own grandfather transferring to another facility so he could be with his wife.

“Yeah. When I’m in town I always have lunch with my grandpa. He and your dad were lunch buddies.”

I’d had no idea my father was having lunch with one of my patients. And apparently my patient had no idea he was eating lunch with his doctor’s father until the picture was flashed up after he died. He saw the name and realized the man’s daughter who was a doctor was….

Me.

That meal was the beginning of the end. Something happened. That afternoon as I was wrapping up clinic the assisted living facility called to tell me he wasn’t doing well. When I got there he said he had choked then urinated on himself. His blood pressure was dangerously low and he had a terrible headache, severe back pain. He had apparently left the meal without telling anyone at the table what was going on.

My father suffered the indignities of dementia, angry about having his freedoms taken away one by one….. He had already lived through polio. One pandemic should be enough for any human being. I am glad he died before COVID. He would not have done well with quarantine thrown into the mix. His facility on lockdown? He needed family to visit, to keep him sane. Someone to yell at.

I went as often as I could.

It still didn’t feel like enough.

My father, if he were here, would likely subscribe to all of the COVID conspiracy theories. He would have cheered healthcare workers going from heroes in the US to suspect individuals, purveyors of falsehoods to keep the American people under control. I think he would have been one of those that refuses to wear a mask.

Or maybe not?

I didn’t know him that well, after all.

How strange to have a man, halfway around the world, tell you out of the blue that he had lunch with your father a year ago. A man you have never met. If God allows things happen for a reason, what reason for this?

“My grandfather thinks highly of you. He might not put a lot of stock into what other people say, but you? You he listens to.”

And there I was. Sitting at my desk, gooseflesh standing out on my arms. Hot from working outside in the sweltering heat. Tired of telling suspicious people all day that COVID is real and they need to take it seriously.

“Thank you.” Thank you for taking the time to tell me.

It felt like I had just gotten a big hug from my dad.

Maybe he doesn’t hate me after all.