Yesterday, I went to the ER with my dad (he’s okay now). I packed a bag full of things to entertain us if and when the inevitable waiting got to us. I called my sister to give her a heads up. I brought most of the predictable essentials, though I missed a couple of the less predictable ones. I answered doctors’ questions, thanked the nurses who went above and beyond and held my tongue with those whose attitude annoyed me. When it was time to go home, I asked every question I could think of, gathered up our things and saw my dad to the curb in the requisite wheelchair.
We were almost out of the parking lot when my husband asked if I had my father’s glasses.
I did not.
So, we turned around, I went back inside and, with the help of a security guard, retrieved the glasses.
Story of my life.
There's always a pair of glasses -- that one little detail that's like a pizza stain on a white tee shirt. It's not the end of the world -- it's fixable -- but you can't miss it. It's a small annoyance, but an annoyance nevertheless, pointing out that you're not as together as you thought -- or at least pretended to be. A testimony to imperfection -- a comeuppance of sorts -- reminding me that the devil is in the details.
On our way out of the hospital, we passed the ambulance driver who'd brought my dad in. Without missing a beat, my dad -- who will turn 80 in November -- said, "Hi, Matt."
After the day he'd had, feeling hungry, tired and uncomfortable from the medications he'd been given, my dad not only remembered the name of someone he'd met only once, but greeted him genially, as though they were passing on the street, rather than in the corridor of a hospital.
That's my dad.
Names are his detail. He remembers the names of waitresses, nurses, and, apparently, ambulance drivers. If people introduce themselves, my dad remembers them.
Unlike my inevitably forgotten detail, that pizza stain on a white tee shirt, my dad's detail is sharp and classy -- like the collar on a freshly pressed dress shirt. He is a gentleman and, even when he's hungry, tired and uncomfortable, he is polite. He has his moments of course -- times when he speaks out in ways that surprise me -- but when you're pushing eighty, you're allowed to be colorful at times.
Perhaps it's not always the devil that's in the details. Perhaps sometimes, it's a spirit of a completely different kind.