My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago. I watch… I wait… I wonder…
I watch my cellphone in the morning, awaiting my orders, when my dad finally texts: After u pass the office go all the way down the road i will b at the top.
When I arrive, I wait a minute before getting out of the car, playing with the zipper on the jacket I borrowed from my mom. I text my husband about breakfast plans for later. I fiddle with the radio.
I wonder what kind of day this would be. When it might start raining. How long this will take. If I’m ready for whatever lies ahead.
I get out of my car and watch my dad slowly get out of his truck. “You can stay an hour, right?” my dad asks. I nod once. “Sure.”
I wait as he stands by the truck bed and begins taking out his supplies–knife, flowers in plastic pallets, small brush. “Go up ahead! Don’t wait for me!” he barks. He doesn’t like to be watched. To feel the pressure of others’ expectations as he moves about, dreading well-intentioned yet completely unhelpful overtures.
I turn and start up the hill. There isn’t really a path, so I just carefully pick my way toward the first headstone that looks interesting. I wonder if it’s rude to step on the graves even though there are no demarcations. Who else comes up here. What happened to these people who died. What happened to the families that survived them. It finally starts to rain.
I watch as my dad kneels down on the grave of a man he does not know. “A prisoner,” he tells me. “They bury them up here for free.” I watch him carefully sweep the headstone with the brush he’s brought. I watch him use his knife to scrape a clumsy hole into the earth in front of the headstones.
I wait for him to tell me it’s time to release the purple morning glories from their plastic container and place them in the hole. To tell me to tamp it down. To point the way to the next grave.
I wonder how these cheap, drugstore flowers could possibly take root here in this soil that’s like crumbly clay.
I watch my dad kneel on another grave, then another.
I wait for him to make conversation. He tells me he wants to visit his parents’ graves. He was too sick to go at the time they died. He says he wants to make the 7 hour drive alone. That my mom picks on his driving too much and it annoys him.
I wonder if he hears how crazy this idea sounds. If I should show how angry I am at how selfish he’s being. If I should even bother trying to dissuade him.
I watch my dad walk off again toward his truck. He stumbles a little with every other step, and the rain is dripping off the back of his floppy yellow foul-weather hat.
I wait a moment before following him.
I wonder how much longer he’ll be driving to this cemetery to visit the graves of dead prisoners. How long I’ll feel angry. When the rain will stop.