Changing winds

SeasonsDarlene knew things had changed when she was called into the lab room to see her father sitting on the examining table clad only in his underwear.

Merle was the most modest man she had ever known. She turned away from him to face the doctor, hoping he’d find his clothes while she heard the report.

“Your father has hardening of the arteries in his legs,” the doctor said. “That affects his walking, of course.”

They discussed the treatment plan and then Darlene checked on her dad out of the corner of her eye. He hadn’t moved.

“Uh, Dad, why don’t you get your pants on?”

He stared at the wall.

Darlene scanned the room and located his pile of clothes on a chair. She edged to the chair, still keeping her back on her father.

“Here, Dad.” She held out the jeans and shirt and, when he didn’t take them, laid them on the table behind him. “How about you put on your clothes? I can wait outside.”

“I can’t do it.”

Darlene felt her throat tighten. She had dressed her children just short of 10 million times when they were young. But never her father.

“You’ll have to help me.” He spoke softly, his voice hoarse.

So Darlene threaded his thin arms into the sleeves of his shirt and buttoned it. Then she pulled his jeans to his knees and helped him stand.

He gripped her shoulders while she finished with his pants.

“Thank you,” he said.

There might have been a tear in his eye. She couldn’t tell for sure.

But, for a reason she didn’t understand, she wrapped her arms around him. “Oh, Dad, you’re welcome.”

Merle had never been much of a hugger but he didn’t shrug off her arms. He patted her shoulder.

“Let’s go home,” Darlene said. But winds of change had already come.

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