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Good Days, Bad Days

“No! Inside! Take me inside!”

The self-described “crusty old bachelor” who lives across the street once thought that Papa (Darin) and Daddy were brothers. As described here, he came around, once he figured things out, both awkwardly and sweetly.

Since then, he’s had several stays in the hospital, suffered a stroke, and engaged round-the-clock in-home assistance. After months of staying inside, sometimes watching Daddy and the twins hit tennis balls into his ivy, he had a wheelchair ramp to his front door installed. Now, with the help of his wheelchair and his aides, he goes out for a walk at least once a day.

One day, he comes for the first time upon Daddy and the twins whacking tennis balls across the street into his newly razed yard. Gone is the ivy. On the day the gardeners clear-cut the front, thirteen tennis balls rolled out into the gutter. Ahem. Daddy explained “baker’s dozen” to the twins while picking them up that day. This day, the first day that Johnny comes along while the kids are working on forehands, an aide asks him, “Would you like to sit outside?” The aide maneuvers the wheelchair into a position from which he might watch.

The kids are staring. Cory starts to smile. She likes an audience.

A: Do you want to watch…
J (harsh, scowling): No! Inside! Take me inside!

Cory’s face falls. Fisher stares. Daddy has to explain that Johnny, like everyone, has good days and bad days. It has nothing to do with them. Today he just wants to be inside.

A couple weeks later, Daddy is out with them again. This time, music is blaring through a front window to liven the tennis up a bit. Cory is hitting a mix of forehands and backhands, and Fisher is tooling around on his bicycle. Daddy’s favorite song comes on. By the first “And I know and I know and I know…,” Daddy’s and Cory’s rackets are on the ground. Dance break!

Cory’s laughing and moving. Daddy’s moving and laughing. Fisher starts circling around making goofy moves on his bike. No one cares about the passing cars, which have to slow down to avoid multiple tennis balls, most of the drivers either oblivious to what’s happening on the driveway, or, if aware, smiling.

The song winds down. Daddy and Cory lip sync, “One last time, I need to be the one who takes you home” to a big finish. Everyone laughs until Cory stops and points discreetly behind Daddy. Johnny is out, with his aide having brought his wheelchair to the exact spot where he’d been so grumpy before. The next song starts. It’s danceable. Daddy starts wiggling. Cory joins in, smiling. She still likes an audience, although her moves are somewhat more tempered. Fisher circles…

…and for almost a whole song, Johnny smiles, claps his hands down on his legs, and laughs occasionally. It’s all a little odd, but Daddy goes with it. “I keep, going to the river to pray…”

F (at dinner that night): Daddy, I think Johnny liked watching us play tennis today, right?
D: I think so.
C: Yah, he was having a good day, right, Daddy?
D: Yep, seemed so, huh?
F: Yah, he was having a very good day.

“I keep, going to the river to pray, cause I need something that can wash out the pain…”

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