2nd Place – September 2020

Little Sidekick

by

Donna Pierce

“Your wife will be fine J.R., but I’m going to have to keep her here in the hospital for a while. I would say at least a month or so, she’s in bad shape. What do you plan on doing with the baby?”
“I’ll take her with me, Dr. Vicklund. She’ll be fine.”
“I have to say, I’m a little worried J.R. It is terribly cold and the snow’s getting really deep. Suppose to turn into a blizzard tonight. Can you even drive that bus of yours in all this snow?”
“It’ll be fine. I just need groceries.”
“You’ll need milk! How will you heat up the bottle?”
“Radiator.”
“Oh my God. I have heard it all now.”
***
I have wondered if dad ever looked back on these times and thought about why we were so close.
We did a lot together. If someone in our area had problems with their TV, we would drive out so dad could fix it. He had built a booster and put it in an old refrigerator on top of a hill, so the town could have television. He was good at many things but excellent with electricity.
Some of my best memories were when he taught me Morse Code and we would listen to the ships at night. It was so interesting with all their ‘dit-daw-dits.’ I felt like I was hearing government secrets. I imagined it being above the authority of a little girl, in a little town, in Wyoming.
Now look where life has brought us.
Sitting here lost and scared, I heard the tv above my head, but did not listen to the words. Sunlight streamed through the window and across his bed. Everyday chatter of nurses, wheelchairs, and monitors filled the air in the hallway. My world as I knew it was gone.
***
“It’s bright outside,” he said.
“Yea.”
Suddenly I realized my dad had just spoken!
Jumping up, I ran to his side and leaned down to look in his face.
“Dad, dad!”
I began to cry.
“Don’t cry sweetheart. It’s ok.”
There was so much I wanted to ask him and tell him.
He brushed my face with his hands as I sobbed. I was so lost and unable to find the words I wanted to tell him.
It was hard to believe he was “awake.”
Alzheimer’s had gotten a stronger hold on him after the anesthesia when he had surgery.
If only I had known that I was saying goodbye to my dad, as I knew him, when he left for the hospital. What would I give to sit and talk to him one more time before he had left?
“I have been really sick,” he said.
“I know dad, you had surgery remember?”
His big brown eyes just stared at me.
“I love you dad.”
“I love you too pumpkin. I love all of my kids and I want them to know that I am really proud of them. I hope my mom and dad were proud of me.”
“Dad, I know that grandad and grandma were proud of you. I don’t know. I have worried about that.”
“You don’t have to worry; I know they were.”
Being born the only child of a doctor that was successful at everything he did, was hard for my dad. He did not want to follow medicine like his father and grandfather had. He enjoyed building and working with electricity. He enjoyed blowing up hills with dynamite, starting new businesses, and hunting in Wyoming.
I kissed him on the check and held his face close to mine.
God please, don’t take him from me. I love him so much, what will I do.
His eyes begin to glaze again, and he looked away.
Rage boiled out of my heart as I trembled and cried.
“Why God, why?”
I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight, then slowly stood up and stared at him.
“Dad, dad!”
No response.
With all the weight in the world on my shoulders, I walked back to the chair, sat down and closed my eyes. I was looking for something to hang on too, anything to think of.
I thought back to the time we were hunting and laying out in a snow-covered field. We were in the middle of a loose haystack. Wet and cold, I noticed steam float out into the air each time we exhaled. Dad picked up his rife. A small heard of deer had come from the brush and begin to run across the field.
Look Donna.”
“When they are running, move your rifle along with their movement and gauge it just a little faster in front of their chest, and a little low. Try to hit right behind that front leg. It’s a shot you don’t want to make if you don’t have too. The meat is tougher if you shoot them when their running.”
Boom!
“The next one is yours. We are staying out here until you get your deer.”
Crap. Just because I turned twelve and am legal to get a license, I have to shoot a deer now!
Later on, in the evening, when I could no longer feel my fingers, feet, or my face, dad held up his hand.
“Get down! Look over there between that sagebrush.”
“Ya I see him.”
“It’s a buck. Move over here quietly now. Aim a little low. This sight is off.”
Boom!
“Dammit, why’d you miss him? I know you had that shot!”
I remember moving the gun over to the side a little, he was too beautiful to kill! 
“Donna, you’re a good shot. I know you did that on purpose. We are not going home until you get your first deer. It’s snowing again and we don’t have much daylight left, come on, let’s hurry.”
We had walked about an hour longer when dad noticed some tracks.
“Shush. Down there in the ravine. There are three of them, two doe and a buck. Get the buck.”
By that time, I felt like I was frozen near to death and had spent the last hour asking myself, ‘where’s a damn deer?’ Knowing that I had better shoot one before sunset, so we could go back to the truck and warm up, I raised my rifle.
Quietly I eased up behind some brush and slowly crouched down. I put the butt of the rifle tight against my shoulder.
“Shoot him in the heart. I will put this one on the wall for you.”
Moving my sights down a little, I was right behind his chest and front leg, in the heart area. I slowly squeezed the trigger.
Boom!
He dropped and did not move.
“Nice shot. Let’s walk on back and get the truck, then dress him out.”
Poor thing. Had to prove to dad that I could do it though. Especially since I got out of school again a whole week to go hunting.
 ***
 “How’s he doing?”
A nurse came in the room.
“He was awake for a few minutes and talked to me! Do you think he might snap out of it?”
“I’m not sure hon, but I’m sure sorry.”
She took dad’s vitals and left. The news came on tv, so I sat there and watched it while listening for dad to make a sound.
Please God, just bring him back one more time so I can tell him thank you.
Someone honked the horn down in the parking lot and I sat back and closed my eyes. I want to remember more, I wanted to wrap those memories around me.
***
“Donna, I might as well teach you to drive.”
“But I don’t want to drive dad. I can’t even see over the steering wheel.”
“Scoot over here and sit up on my lap. Look through the opening in the wheel. Can you see over the dash?”
“Yea.”
“Well, you can learn how to drive. Start her up.”
I remembered being a little afraid but knew that dad wouldn’t let anything happen to me. From there he taught me how to drive ditchers, asphalt rollers, and the second largest tractor they made. He had purchased it out of a coal mine in Kentucky.
I thought about the time dad came home with a Harley Motorcycle and told me to climb on the back.
“You’ll be fine. Just lean when I do.”
That was a wild ride but not as crazy as the time we flipped the snowmobile in Idaho. Now that was scary.
I guess you could have called me his side kick, because I was always at his heels. I remembered as he got older and couldn’t keep up with me. It reminded me of how I couldn’t keep up with him when I was small.
“Your just like your dad,” my mom used to say.
Many years have passed, and I still hear the same words, “Your just like grandpa mom.”
I smile inside and out.

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