I watched two little girls at the pool hook their pinky fingers and seal a pinky swear secret today. I smiled at the memories of our girls at that age. There were so many pinky swear moments: the current boy crush, hidden candy waiting under one’s pillow, don’t tell Mom the dog slept in my bed, and countless others of dire importance. But the big memory of pinky swear moments involved my father-in-law.
My husband, Scott, usually took his eighty-two year-old dad to the VA hospital for his visits. This day, he was busy so I offered to be Pop’s PIC (Pilot In Command). We had a “SOP” (Standard Operating Procedure) in place.
First, make sure his oxygen was turned on, get Pop bundled in truck, fold up walker, hoist it into the trunk bed and proceed. Once in the car, Pop would do his check list: juice drinks… check. Peanut butter crackers…check. Hard candy…check. He was like a boy scout, always prepared. Once that was completed, we could begin our journey. This blue, soft cooler was standard baggage on every outing. Maybe he thought we’d get stranded and starve on our ten minute drive to the VA Hospital.
Upon arrival, we did a reverse SOP: Remove walker, hoist Pop out of truck with oxygen tank and blue cooler. I’d go park while he began his trek to the lobby. This day we were visiting a doctor I’d never been to before. Scott gave me directions before I left. “Don’t worry, Anne,“ Pop announced, “I know exactly where we’re going”. I can get lost with a GPS, so I was relieved because Scott’s directions had way too many twists and turns in the corridors of the hospital.
About ten minutes into our walk, Pop had to stop and catch his breath. He sat on his walker seat. He nonchalantly checked his oxygen and chuckled. “It works really good when I turn it on.” His next words were, “Don’t tell Scott.” We waited until he got his breath and off we went again. He asked if I had a compass. “This doesn’t look familiar, Anne. Where did Scott say we should turn?” “Pop, I wasn’t listening. You said you knew where we were going.” I scratched my head and said, “Something about making three rights and a left and it’s on the left side.”
“Hmmmm,” he said, looking around for help. We retraced our steps back to the lobby. “Now I know!” he insisted and off we went down a different corridor. Ten minutes later, we were right back in the lobby. “Don’t tell Scott,” he repeated. We pinky swore that this was our secret. Our fingers released and we sat like two lost souls in the lobby.
I called the doctor’s office from my cell phone and got the directions this time. “Well, Pop, we are in the wrong building,” I reported. I didn’t want to make him feel bad about being confused. “It sure confused the heck out of me,” I told him. “I knew something was wrong,” Pop piped in. “I just had a feeling you were wrong.”
Back I went to get the car, to begin our departure system once again… load Pop up, the wheelchair, and the oxygen. We arrived twenty minutes late for the visit, but they’d just called his name. (I learned later that Mr. Boy Scout always told us his appointments were a half hour earlier because we were always late.) The doc gave Pop a good report and we began our trek home.
“Anne, have a peanut butter cracker,” he offered. “We need protein after that fiasco.” I agreed and munched my cracker. He handled me a box of apple juice. In between chewing his cracker, he repeated again, “Remember, don’t tell Scott.” “I know. I know. I got it,” I told him. “We are NOT telling Scott.” We joined our pinky fingers once again..
We arrived back home and began the arrival system process: Remove wheelchair from back of truck, hoist Pop out of the truck, unload the oxygen. Don’t forget little blue cooler bag. As we walked in the door Scott asked how the visit went.
“Good. No problems,” I smiled. I winked at Pop acknowledging our pinky swear secret. The first word out of Pop’s mouth were, “Good, but Anne got us lost. Your wife has no sense of direction.” Pop ratted me out! I looked at him and he grinned.
“That was supposed to be our secret! Pinky swear, remember?” I chided him.
He winked back at me and said, “I think we need supervision.”
With a salute and a smile, I agreed.
With a tear in my eye, I saluted again from my pool chair. ‘I miss you, Pop. Thanks for checking in.”