I’ve written about some of the frightening details of my tumultuous 2-½ year marriage to a cocaine addict. I always prayed that my ex-husband would live long enough to one-day meet the son he hadn’t seen since before Dallas began crawling.
Before I get to the crazy details about the first face-to-face between father and son, let me tell you a bit about how it came to be.
In mid-February I received a Facebook message from my former sister-in-law telling me that my son’s grandfather had taken a turn for the worse. Grandpa Wayne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years back. Although Dallas hadn’t seen his grandpa in 13 years, they had kept in touch via phone calls, cards, letters, and occasional emails. Sadly, there had been little contact during my son’s drug years, and Grandpa hadn’t been well enough to understand how Dallas was struggling.
When I heard Wayne’s health was failing, I was nearing the end of an eight-week run in “The Dixie Swim Club” at Second Space Theatre, so I couldn’t leave right away. I asked Dallas if he’d be interested in a trip to Memphis, TN (of course!), and I began looking at travel dates.
The show ended on February 20, and at first I considered heading east somewhere around March 9. In looking at available flights, however, I realized that there was little difference in the cost of flying sooner rather than later. Something told me to “Go!”, so I made reservations for a March 2nd flight to Memphis.
We arrived in the southern city that had once been my home at 2:00 in the afternoon. My former sister-in-law Tammy and her mama, Sue met us at the passenger pick-up door for United Airlines. The four of us chatted happily during the 30-minute drive to their home in Olive Branch, Mississippi, just south of the Tennessee/Mississippi border.
Five hours later Dallas and I gathered with family in a care facility in Memphis, TN at the bedside of Grandpa Wayne. I will never forget the awestruck joy that filled the eyes of the frail man as he looked at my grown son.
Sue had been telling Wayne that Dallas was coming to see him, and although Grandpa was unable to speak, his eyes told us he was very much aware of my son’s presence in the room. When we asked if he recognized Dallas, he nodded in the affirmative. When Sue urged Wayne to blow a kiss, he did just that, so I know Wayne was truly cognizant. His eyes followed Dallas as if he was trying to drink in every precious moment.
Wednesday night is Bingo night at the nursing facility where Wayne stayed, and it was our hope that we’d be able to participate in what had become a weekly family ritual. Grandpa, however, wasn’t feeling well and his breathing became labored during our time with him. The nurse listened to his chest and felt Wayne should be transferred back to a hospital where he could get a big dose of antibiotics and a breathing treatment. He’d be good as new in a day or so.
The family walked alongside the stretcher as the EMT’s rolled Grandpa to the waiting ambulance. We all waved and promised to see him soon.
The phone rang at 4:30 in the morning. Wayne was gone.
I’m amazed at the spirited determination of the human heart. We know Grandpa Wayne stayed alive long enough to see his grandson Dallas for the last time. I’m so glad I listened and responded to that still small voice that told me to “Go!”.