It was just a year ago, this past summer, when we went together to empty out Dad's safe deposit box and to make me a joint signer on his credit union account. For some time, we'd been trying to get him to close out the account, or at least start accessing it online, but he paid no attention to our advice. What seemed like such a bother to us, the drive down to the North End taking his baffling combination of city streets since he wouldn't drive on the highway and didn't think anyone else would want to either, was no bother at all for him. On arrival, he would insist on going inside, not struggling too much with his walker, but enough to get a little special service, and then upping the ante by announcing how he was one of their very first customers when the phone company credit union was founded. How proud he was of his years at the telephone company, and I think visiting the credit union brought him back to those days of working and earning and supporting a family.
When I arrived by myself to close the account, his presence was so strong, I held the door open an extra moment for him to pass through with me. Inside I announced to the receptionist that I was there to close the account of one of their very first customers. Since I'd called earlier in the morning, the closing check was waiting for me and the whole process only took a few minutes. But I could sense Dad sitting there next to me, so I didn't turn my head to look at the empty chair. I kept the moment going, and lingered a bit chatting with the bank officer just as he would have done. Then I left quickly, and outside in the car, cried harder than anytime since he died.
My plan was to drive back through downtown, along Main Street, and stop in the South End for lunch before heading back home. But in a couple of blocks my plan changed. I turned onto Fort Street and pulled into an empty parking space in front of the Student Prince restaurant. That made me chuckle because more than once when I brought Mom and Dad there, I had been lucky enough to get that exact parking spot right in front of the door. If the spot hadn't been open, I might have just driven by, but I filled the meter with coins and went inside.
Again he was there with me. He was telling the same story he told every time we came, all about how he and his telephone company cronies would meet there for long lunches back in the day. He would have had his favorite, the liver and onions special, but I passed on it, knowing I wouldn't enjoy it equally. Instead I had a small cucumber and vinegar salad, followed by a bowl of goulash soup. A dark beer would have been perfect for toasting him, but with more driving ahead, I made do with a dark coke. I took my time at lunch, thinking back over all the years with Dad, pleased that a simple errand offered this unexpected way to say goodbye.