” Breaker’s Tony “
This is the name our whole town knows my father by, a name derived from the “billiard parlor” dad and my brother used to own. He was a younger man then (he’s 86 now), and the local high school kid, serious players, and young ladies alike all flocked to him. He has always been a charismatic man. At one time in a much different world he was a tap dancer, a writer, a metalergist and x-ray specialist, a service man in the Army, and an all around self absorbed meanie as a father. And I love him beyond measure, really beyond what others think I should love him due to his past treatment of our family.
He is my Dad, and my hero in so many ways, and I am losing him. Inexorably, as each day goes by, he disappears a little more. There are often times when he is angry, but his anger is no longer directed at his children, or my deceased Mom. No, his anger is towards eyes that don’t see as good and ears that cant hear, at a dancer’s body now wizened with age that does not respond in the graceful way it once did. Now his spine takes a hard curve to the right- the result of a bunged -up hip replacement 20 years ago, so that he bumbles about with a cane. But the worst of his anger is directed towards a mind “full of cotton-wool”, as he describes it, a mind in the clutches of what I know to be severe dementia. and Alzheimer’s disease.
Thankfully, he spends more of his day happy than angry now. We feed birds and look at flowers, enjoy old movies starring Humphrey Bogart and others of Dad’s time. I am here to care for his needs, and I try to fulfill his wants too, which aren’t many: a quiet house to sleep in all day, a short walk with the dogs in the afternoon, and a cheeseburger and Coke from a fast food joint, now and then. I was severely injured in a fall lat April, which cut my pool playing career short, and kept me from taking Dad down to the local billiard parlor to shoot. At 85 he could still shoot the lights out in 9-ball, and he taught me everything I know. Even today, if we were to step into the pool hall, there is no doubt someone would call out, “Tony!!!”, and throw out a hand or offer a hug.
I’m glad I have had these years to be with him. I hope I have cushioned the blow in some small way. I know one of these nights when I tell him goodnight, it will be the last time I ever do. I hope he sleeps good…