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The E.T. Connection
Geraldine Cook Davis
E.T., blockbuster movie of the year, brought a full house at the theatre. Dad, Mom, and I just knew we'd have to forget finding three seats together.
"Just get anything," Mom whispered, as the three of us scanned the audience.
I found two seats in one row, then one seat for me two rows back. "You sit with your mother, Ger."
"No daddy, you sit with Mom."
Behind this banter, concern. Dad and I needed easy escapes, using, "Excuse me, sorry, pardon me," smiling while wishing we could scream, "Get-out-of-my-way. Let-me-through. Don't you know anything about panic attacks?" Dad needed to sit with Mom.
Once the movie started, we settled in. I watched Daddy's broad shoulders
for any movement signalling, "Get me out of here." E.T., the embodiment of goodness and naiveté, captured Daddy's heart. His shoulders didn't twitch, nor did he shuffle in his seat, but stared wrapped up in the little
E.T. wants to phone home, so sick, perhaps dying. My father's shoulders begin to shake, not an anxiety gesture, but one projecting a man trying not to cry. Finally, shoulders heaving, Dad's familiar cough comes on and he pops a cough drop in his mouth, then Mom hands him a Kleenex to dry his eyes, but the shoulders heave, and I hear his throaty sobs. Mom turns to me, a frown on her face, her head tips to her left, towards Dad, all gestures indicating disgust.
Dad and I weren't the only ones crying as we left the theatre. He chokes out the words, "Gee, I'm glad we came." I hook my arm around his, while Mom strides out of the theatre before us.
Ten years later Dad lies in his hospital bed at home in New Jersey. He's at the point where he picks at the plastic on his diaper. Pick, pick, scrunching noises, lead to a mass of torn material. We ask Hospice angels for suggestions.
"Does he have anything he can pick at?" the hospice nurse asks.
"No," Mom says.
"Wait a minute," I say, "I'll be right back."
I come downstairs with two articles. I hand Dad a baby gorilla, which he backs away from. Then I hand him E.T., and Dad eagerly holds the replica to him, picking at its plastic material. Weeks later, Dad passes on, with E.T. clasped in his arms. The day he died, I had to be in Boston. Mom called me at six thirty a.m., telling me what I already knew. Dad died. His body awaited cremation.
Mom said, "I kept the E.T. doll for you, honey." My sigh came from deep within my being.
Oh, Mom, you sent Dad home -- alone.
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