Today's column is dedicated to my dad, Peter Saleski, who passed away this past Tuesday at the age of 86.
You think that there will be more time for things. You know — that book proposal you've been meaning to finish, the trip you've always wanted to take. But things are too busy, so we wait until 'later' because there's time. Looking back, you can see that sometimes that logic is used as a rationalization: to avoid doing things that should be done, but might be difficult. I had a few things like that with my parents. I always wanted to get mom to a Springsteen show. With dad, it was Fenway Park. Neither happened.
Last summer was both sad and beautiful for me. My mom had passed away, leaving some time to hang with dad. It was interesting to see how he got along without mom to nag him about stuff. While doing his daily errands (usually grocery pickup), he would stop and get himself some lunch: a cheeseburger and shake at McDonald's. Let me tell you, I can hear mom's voice very clearly, "Pete, you shouldn't be eating that crap!" Dad obviously ignored that advice, as he also became very fond of driving across the street to get a jelly stick at Dunkin Donuts. It makes me smile just thinking of it.
I started working at home a few days a week and I'd usually go with dad on the burger run. We also hit a local hot dog stand a few times. Probably the best lunch we ever had was over at the coast. Mom and dad loved to get fish and chips at a takeout joint, eating in the car while looking out at the ocean. Somehow, I screwed up and didn't get any plastic forks. We had a good time anyway, chowing down on all of that crispy and greasy goodness. We listened to one of mom and dad's favorite CDs. Chas and Dave seemed very sweet and old-fashioned, just like my folks.
As fall approached, I could see that something was happening. As dad walked from the kitchen back to his living room, he let his hand glide over the top of every piece of furniture in his path. It was clear that he was slowing down, though I didn't bother asking him because the answer would be of the standard "Oh, I'm fine" variety (despite his more frequent coughing episodes). I took dad to several doctor's appointments, the last of which being for his recent inability to sleep. The doctor said that he might be suffering from depression and recommended a consult for that, and then proceeded to write a script for a mild sleeping pill.