I had one of those phone calls last night that all adult children dread.
My father had left me a message – he hates voicemail and he always sounds like someone just died. Rarely an actual message, just asks you call him back.
When I called back, he told me he’d had a car accident. Four days ago. His car was totaled, more from expense than repairability. He had a rental from his insurance until next Wednesday.
Oh, and by the way, he’s not getting another car. He’s been planning to give it up in August anyway. He’s decided to give up driving when he returns the rental.
My father has macular degeneration, lost all sight in one eye and it’s been affecting his other eye for years. We cringe at his stories of bumping over curbs, going the wrong way in parking lots, driving past his street.
He didn’t give any details – he didn’t even know whether the other driver was a man or a woman, hidden by their airbag. How could you be in an accident and not even find out, notice, the gender of the other driver? Than means he must have not even gotten the other driver’s insurance information himself. Was he pulled away from the scene and driven off by the police, just a confused shaken old man?
He refused to give details, and got angry at me for saying “Aw, fuck…!” like I do.
I called the local police today to see if I could get the report. They pulled it up, assuming I was from the insurance company, and when I told them I was a concerned son whose father was stonewalling they said – politely – I wasn’t privy to the report and I should try to ask him about the accident.
I called one of my sisters – another was on vacation, my father had told me he hadn’t called her – and she said, “Yeah, it’s the beginning of the end.” My mother never learned how to drive. Meaning we are now obligated to driving our parents and developmentally disabled sister, getting them groceries, picking up prescriptions, taking them to Target to buy us Christmas presents.
They are probably older than I see them. Our genes make my family look youngish. And I tend to see my parents as they looked in the old black and white photo they still display, both of them standing squinting in the sun in the backyard, my mother’s hair in a helmety beehive, my father’s bryl-creemed slick, one-year-old me balanced between them smiling dopily.
What the hell happened?