Lynn woke and, realizing what day it was, closed her eyes and pulled the sheet up over her head. Maybe she could sleep a few more minutes and postpone the inevitable. But after tossing and turning for ten minutes, she went ahead and got up from the guest bedroom at her father’s house. It was the day she and her brothers were going to move him into assisted living.
Her father, Charles, was doing well physically, but mentally, he'd been slipping for months.
At first, the dementia wasn't so noticeable. Lynn had stopped by one day around lunchtime to the smell of scorched food coming from the kitchen. "Dad, is something burning?" she had asked. Rushing into her father's small kitchen, Lynn had discovered a tomato soup can on the counter and a small saucepan with the burned remains of soup clinging to the bottom and sides.
Her father claimed he had simply gotten busy watching Gunsmoke and forgotten to turn off the soup. Later, he claimed he was distracted because he was thinking about how much he missed his late wife. That excuse might have worked if she hadn't passed away twenty-six years before.
Lynn and her twin brothers, Richard and Russell, all lived nearby and tried to check on their father often, but it had gotten to the point that “often” wasn't enough. One evening about nine, her dad’s neighbor, Mrs. Barnes, called.
"Honey, I don’t want to worry you, but your father was just outside in his boxers and a T-shirt watering the azaleas. I got him to go back inside, but he seemed confused about what time it was, so you might want to come check on him."
After seeing both her teenage daughters off to college the previous fall, Lynn had looked forward to a year of carefree living, maybe taking a class at the community college or finally joining a book group. She hadn’t realized that parenting a parent was going to be one of the hardest jobs she'd ever had. To top it off, she felt guilty for even thinking about herself when her father was clearly in decline.
She and her brothers had been preparing for the move for weeks. They had tidied up the neat red brick ranch-style house, knowing eventually they would have to put it on the market, and one of the three spent the night at their father's house every night. Charles knew something was up, and it was making him nervous.
The three siblings had agreed they all wanted to be there when their father left the house to go to his new home. Lynn went into her father’s bedroom and gathered some of his personal items and toiletries, just the few things he would need to help him settle in at Grayson Manor. The assisted living director had advised her not to bring any of her father's valuables with him, but he didn’t have many valuables at that point. He still wore his watch and his wedding ring, but that was about it.
Lynn did a fast check of the worn wooden tray where her father had always kept his watch, his spare change, and his wallet. A small wooden box contained a photo of her late mother along with a few other mementos. He would want that photo for sure, and to Lynn's surprise, when she reached inside the box, there sat the gaudy, tarnished old teapot pin he had purchased for Lynn when she was a little girl.
Lynn wandered back in time to the late fifties. She and her father had gone to a Father-Daughter Tea at church on the Saturday before Father’s Day. That afternoon, her father took her to Woolworth's to select a memento to mark the occasion. When Lynn spotted the rhinestone pin, she had insisted that was what she wanted. Lynn's father had tried to talk her into getting a nice charm bracelet instead, since those were so popular with girls back then, but Lynn had been adamant about getting that gaudy rhinestone pin. Lynn hadn’t thought of that old pin in years. On a whim, she fastened the piece onto the crisp cotton blouse she'd worn that morning.
When she walked back into the living room, her father was watching Gunsmoke. He loved that show, and every week or so he asked if the actor who played Festus was still alive.
Suddenly, her father looked her way and got a big smile on his face.
“What is it, Dad?”
“That's the pin you got that time you went to tea with me right before Father’s Day.”
“I know, Dad.”
Lynn was amazed that her father could, on occasion, still remember something like that—yet he couldn't remember to take his medication at breakfast. Maybe her father was doing better than she thought.
Lynn went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of iced tea. She hoped they made good iced tea at the assisting living place, because that’s all her father would drink with his dinner. She walked back into the living room and joined him on the sofa.
Charles looked at her, again staring at the teapot pin on her blouse.
"That's a pretty pin, sweetheart," he said. "Is that new?"
Lynn swallowed. “No, Dad. It's just”—her fingers flew to the satiny gold surface of the pin—“something I’ve had for a while,” she said.
There was a knock at the door, and Lynn opened it to find Richard and Russell standing there, looking just as nervous as she felt.
“Are we ready?” asked Richard.
Russell, who had always been closest to their dad, looked on the verge of tears.
"Yes,” Lynn said. “It’s time.”
She touched the teapot pin again, recalled the happy memories of the past, and told herself that maybe there was still time to make a few more.