St. Patrick's Bed (Ashland, 3)

St. Patrick's Bed (Ashland, 3) by Terence M. Green Read Free Book Online

Book: St. Patrick's Bed (Ashland, 3) by Terence M. Green Read Free Book Online
Authors: Terence M. Green
    "What happened to your father?" I asked him once. He never spoke of his father. It was always Da he mentioned, his grandfather, Nanny's father.
    He was quiet for a minute. Then he said, "He went senile."
    I listened.
    "I remember one time he came downstairs at two o'clock in the morning. He was carrying a candle and had his feet wrapped up in rags. I had just come in. I asked him what he was doing. He told me he was going to work." He paused. "He hadn't worked in years."
    I didn't know him. He died in 1942, before I was born. Even Da outlived him, dying in '44. "What did he used to work at?"
    "He was a shipper, then a driver, at Doyle Fish Company, down in the St. Lawrence Market. When he got older, he worked for the city. Department of Streets and Cleaning." He paused. "He had a twin brother that died at birth. It was a big family. He was one of ten."
    I waited. He didn't offer any more. "Why was he called Bampi?"
    "Your sister Anne started that. When she was little she couldn't say Grampa. It came out Bampi. The name stuck. We all liked it."
    "Did he have Alzheimer's?"
    He looked at me. "I don't know. I never thought of it."
    "It sounds like Alzheimer's."
    He was thinking. "I never heard of Alzheimer's until the last few years. Some people just went senile. It was the thirties. Happened in lots of families." He looked distant. "Never thought about it before."
    "Sounds like it. It was just a thought."
    He didn't say anything more. He was quiet for the rest of the evening.
    I lived with him for seven years, from when he was eighty-three till he died at age ninety. He never mentioned Bampi again.
    At the Metro Reference Library I asked for the white pages of the Dayton, Ohio, phone directory. The woman at the Information desk gave me a small envelope of microfiche transparencies, showed me how to use the machine, then left me alone.
    There was a "Swiss, B" on the black-and-white screen before me. Only one. I read the address, the phone number, copied them on a piece of paper, put the paper in my shirt pocket.
    I sat back.
    I saw my father, traveling around the city, blind, revisiting places from the past, coming home and telling me how everything had changed. I touched the piece of paper in my pocket. Another step toward becoming my father.

    What else can I tell you about Jeanne? Besides everything, I mean. It sounds corny to keep mentioning how we're crazy about each other, but it's true. Most people don't believe us. Everyone is sure we're not being honest, hiding something—a discordant note that would make our relationship more akin to their own experience.
    I don't know. I've had lots of relationships that didn't work—most of them, for God's sake. A failed marriage even. But this one works, and it probably shouldn't. And maybe I shouldn't be so smug. After all, no one gets married thinking it isn't going to work, do they? I didn't that first time. Yet half of them don't make it—and of those that do, I don't know how many of them I'd say were real good.
    High maintenance, low maintenance. This is Jeanne's theory.
    "Most of the women I know treat their pets better than they do their man," Jeanne told me one day. "They got a dog, they'll get up early to walk it, scoop behind it, clean, feed, groom, ooh and aah, pick fleas off it, you name it. Yet they ignore their man. Like they'd be happier if he was gelded. Like their dog."
    "Who are you thinking of?"
    "Nearly everybody. They like them to bring home a lot of money, wear knee socks and shorts in the summer and mow the lawn, shovel the snow in the winter, and by and large leave them alone. Only a few exceptions." She thought for a moment. "Jenny and Walt. Jenny understands her man." Pause. "Christine and Fred. They're both happy as clams." Longer pause. Shrug. "That's about it. Jenny and Christine get it. Rest of them don't."
    "Get what?"
    "Lust makes the world go round." Her eyes twinkled.
    I nodded sagely.

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