Thus, we prematurely ended our weekend retreat. When he walked back into "his house," Dad's expression resembled that of a convict who just received a stay of execution. I half expected him to shout, "Free at last!" Dad quickly announced his new project -- defrosting the old freezer that sits out in the garage. "And then, there are other things I need to get to. There's ..."
My brother, who had been waiting for us to return, took me out to the front porch. Look, Kirk said, pointing to the row of houses across the street and down our side. See all the single men and women living by themselves, right here in this neighborhood? Their successful, caring children provide attention, but decided to accommodate their parents' desire to live in a familiar setting surrounded by their safety net of friends. Old people, my brother insisted, want their independence.
"You see the lady who lives over there?" said Kirk. "She brings beans that she grows for Dad. The one over here uses the lemons from Dad's backyard to make Dad lemonade. See this house over there? Well, this lady, the man who lives next-door to her and the woman two houses away are all part of a sort of 'neighborhood watch.' If somebody sees something suspicious, they'll call the cops in a hurry. Same thing about an ambulance if somebody needs help."
My brother and I now watch with amusement as Dad belatedly discovers all the stuff Mom did for him, things he took for granted. But interestingly, he sees this as somewhat of a challenge.
"How," asked my suddenly-anxious-to-learn father, "do you pick up these recorded phone messages?" "Where did Mom keep the Windex?" "Now, your mother told me to take one blue pill in the morning, and this other one at night. But which one is which, and why exactly am I taking them?"
The phone never stops ringing. Neighbors call. Does Dad need anything? Hey, you didn't open the drapes this morning, is everything OK? I came over and picked up your newspapers and put them on the porch. Are you all right?
"See," said my brother, "we've got to figure out a way to keep him here."