John Lockwood was consolidating the leftovers from the two “Dad’s night to cook” large pizzas into one box when the doorbell rang. Eleven-year-old Jasmine ran out of the family room and proclaimed, “I’ll get it daddy.”
She ran to the foyer and slid the last few feet on her pink bunny slippers to the door.
Did I forget a sleep over? John thought to himself. Guess I’ll be getting more pizzas and sodas. He chuckled to himself. Why? He thought. Because that’s what dad’s do.
“Daddy,” Jasmine announced. “It’s a policeman and he wants to talk to you.”
“What?” John said as he put the pizza box on the stove and headed for the front door.
John saw Jasmine holding the door wide open and saw the policeman standing just outside the door. “Tell him to come in Jaz.”
John wiped his hands on his pants. “How can I help you officer?”
“Mr. Lockwood, John Lockwood?” the officer inquired.
“Yes sir, I am John Lockwood.”
“I need to talk to you privately,” the officer said pointing his eyes down towards Jasmine and then back up to John.
“OK,” John said slowly. “Jaz I need to talk to this nice officer alone now, so why don’t you go back and watch TV.”
“OK, daddy,” she said.
“What’s this about officer?” John asked.
“Mr. Lockwood,” the officer paused. “I am sorry to say your father has passed away and I need you to come with me to identify the body.”
John stared for a moment. “What the…” were the only words that came out. “I was with him just two nights ago.”
“Yes sir.” The officer said. “I am sorry, but we need to go.”
John’s mind was reeling. It had been only two nights since he, his brother Jake, and the other two members of their bowling team had been sharing a beer at the bar after his dad had a good night of bowling. They were all joking and toasting the elder Lockwood on his exceptional night.
“Damn old man,” Jake said. “You were killer tonight. You shot a five ninety-eight.”
“I’ve still got some tricks up my sleeve,” the elder Lockwood laughed. “Not bad for eighty-three.”
“Here’s to the Old Man,” laughed Jake as he raised his glass of beer.
“Sir, Mr. Lockwood,” it was the officer’s voice. “We really need to go. The coroner is waiting.”
“What?” John said as he came back to reality.
“We need to go sir,”
“Right, just a minute here,” John said as he gathered his thoughts. “What about my kids?”
“I don’t know sir, I was instructed to take you to your father’s apartment,” the officer said. “Can you call someone?”
John’s thoughts were crashing into each other and dissipating faster than he could control.
“Yes, thank you officer,” John said as he called his brother Jake. One ring and Jake answered.
“Hey bud, what’s up,” Jake said.
“Dad died,” John said.
“Dude, that’s not funny,” Jake said in a disbelieving tone.
“Yea I know,” John said with a sigh. “I have an officer at my door getting ready to take me to identify the body.”
There was a long silence on the other end. John could hear the tears in Jake’s breathing.
“Oh wow, this is for real huh,” Jake’s voice was breaking a little.
“‘Fraid so man, ‘fraid so,” John said as he slowly shook his head in disbelief. “Could you have Jackie come over and watch the kids till Sara gets home?”
“Yea, no problem,” Jake said. “I’ll call mom too.”
“I’ll call mom and have her come home.”
John had forgotten that his mother had gone to Miami to visit her sister who was dying from lung cancer.
“Good call dude,” John said. “Guess I will be on my way now. I’ll give you a call when I need picked up. Later.”
“OK, later,” Jake said then hung up.
John walked to the family room where Jasmine was waiting by the door.
“I’m going with this nice officer to go see my dad, OK?” John said as he was putting on his black jacket. “Aunt Jackie is coming over, so you and the boys be good.”
“We will,” Jasmine said as she returned to the TV.
John shut the door and followed the officer to the squad car. The officer opened the back door and John settled in to the back seat. The officer shut the door.
As the officer drove John the six miles to his parents apartment, on the twelfth fairway of Midland Golf Course, his mind ran full of memories of his father. All outside sights and sounds were drowned out by the crystal clear visions of the past.
It was hot with little wind on the day his father gave John his first swing of a golf club. He was eight years old. John had pulled his dad’s two wheeled cart that held clubs and bag for seventeen holes. He was hot, tired and ready for the day to end.
“Johnny, come here,” his father said as he motion for John to join him on the eighteenth tee. “You want to take a swing?”
Exhaustion was replaced by exhilaration. The eight-year-old boy quickly walked to his father, remembering there was “no running allowed on the tees and greens.” Though the club was almost as tall as the young caddie, he took a mighty swing but barely grazed the ball.
“You keep swinging like that and you’ll knock that ball a country mile,” his father chuckled as he rubbed the top of Johnny’s head.
John still carries that ball in his pocket when he is playing.
“Mr. Lockwood, sir,” the officer’s voice brought John back to reality. “We’re here sir.”
John blinked his eyes a couple of times and everything became clear. He looked out of the windshield and saw a group of people gathered in the circle of light at the bottom of the streetlight. There was a squad car with its lights blinking and in his father’s car port there was the coroner’s van. The officer opened the back door and John stepped out and started walking towards the front door of his parents’ apartment.
The storm door was propped open and the white wooden front door was open. As John entered the door he was met by the coroner.
“Sorry for your loss Mr. Lockwood,” the coroner said in a low calm voice. “Your Father is in the bathroom. We have not moved him, so you will see him as we found him.”
“Thank you,” John said. As he followed the coroner to the bathroom he thought, I can’t believe they have all the light in the house on, dad’s not going to be happy about that.
They reached the bathroom. The coroner stepped to the side and let John pass. John took a deep breath then looked into the bathroom. His breath came out in short bursts as he saw his father’s lifeless body curled up on the floor dressed in the clothes he was born in. He saw Uncle Buzz sitting on the floor next to his stricken brother. His back propped next to the bath tub and was rocking mournfully as he was slowly petting the ring of white hair on his father’s head.
“I knew something was wrong when I didn’t hear the TV.” Uncle Buzz said as tears streamed down his face. “We were going out for chicken tonight.”
John just stood there. He didn’t know for how long, he just stood there. All these sights were too surreal. No thoughts came. His body and mind were frozen in time watching the mournful movements. A hand on his shoulder startled him.
“Sir,” it was the coroner. “Can you positively identify the body as your father?”
John turned towards the coroner and shook his head.
“Yes, that is my dad.”
“I’ll need you to sign the papers I left on the kitchen table,” the coroner said then pointed towards the kitchen.
John walked down the hall and into the kitchen. There was a clipboard with a white piece of paper on it. He picked up the clipboard, read his father’s name and the official cause of death, heart failure. At the bottom was a blank line labeled witness. John looked up from the clipboard.
“I don’t have a pen,”
The coroner gave him a pen.
“There will be no autopsy because of your father’s age unless you order it.”
“No, I won’t be doing that,” John said as he stared at the blank line.
His hand was shaking a little making it hard to sign the paper. The pen seemed to weight ten pounds and the harder he tried to push the pen, the harder it fought back. He looked up from the paper, took a deep breath and signed the death certificate. Just as he handed the clipboard to the coroner he caught a glimpse of his father’s maroon blanketed body being carted towards the front door closely followed by Uncle Buzz.
“Once again I am truly sorry for your loss,” the coroner said as he shook John’s hand and walked towards the door.
John followed the coroner out the front door and he watched as the assistant shut the back of the van. The loud slam of the door seemed to echo through the carport until the van drove out of sight.
“Good bye Pop,” John said as the tail lights of the van disappeared.
John walked to the carport storage, opened the door and pulled his dad’s driver from the bag. He reached into the side pocket and pulled out a golf ball and wooden tee. He walked to the back yard and teed up the ball. His swing was smooth and powerful. The smack of the club head hitting the ball echoed off the building.
“Yep,” his dad would say. “A country mile.”