ARUGH… A choking, guttural cry arose from Dad’s bedroom. A stunned Youngest, across the hall working in the office, ran to investigate. Caretaker, who had heard his name called from the direction of the bedroom, emerged from the kitchen at the same time.
“What do you want?” Caretaker asked.
“I didn’t say anything,” Youngest said. “But I heard someone cry out.”
They both turned to stare at the bedroom door. After a long silence, Caretaker said, “I’ll get the man a Pepsi.”
Problem was, the man—Dad—had been dead for three days.
To know Dad was to know that he adored Pepsi. Some of my earliest memories are of him relaxing after work with a Pepsi and a cigarette. In those days, he always was with one or the other. We little kids loved to sneak drinks out of his Pepsi when his back was turned.
(Once as I gulped from his Pepsi bottle, I realized too late that he had used it as an ashtray. To this day I take a quick peek into any bottle before I drink out of it.)
Dad gained 150 lbs when he quit smoking. In a nod to his obesity, he switched from regular to diet Pepsi. After he developed a heart arrhythmia, he easily gave up coffee but could not quit his Pepsi. He started drinking caffeine free diet Pepsi (CFDP), four to five two liter bottles a day.
He prepared his Pepsi as ritualistically as a priest prepares the Eucharist. He took his huge mug, filled it to the brim with ice, poured his Pepsi, and held the bottle by the bottom with one hand as he screwed the lid back on. He kept a folded paper towel on his bedside table to use as a coaster. A day’s worth of bottles stayed lined up against the wall next to his bed so he could open a new bottle as soon as he emptied one.
As his hips and knees became arthritic from carrying so much weight, it was too much for Dad to fetch his own ice and Pepsi. Every few hours he called from his room, “Caretaker! I need some more ice!” When Caretaker brought him the ice, Dad inevitably added, “And get me another Pepsi, if you would.” Caretaker would trudge back to the kitchen for a fresh bottle.
When Caretaker found Dad’s body, atop his open palm was a closed, partially empty two liter bottle of CFDP.
Caretaker got out the old mug, filled it with ice, and poured it full of CFDP. He placed a piece of folded paper towel on the bedside table and set the mug down. “There you go, Dad.”
I arrived a few hours later and was startled to see the mug of Pepsi on Dad’s bedside table. “What in the world?”
Youngest chuckled and shook his head. “Have we got something to tell you!”
They told the tale again when everyone gathered for supper. Caretaker said, “He died so fast he doesn’t know he’s dead! He still wants his Pepsi!”
“Poor Dad,” I said. “If that’s the case, he probably is wondering why no one is getting him any ice when he calls.”
My sister in law started to laugh. “He thought no one would care if he died. And here we are, still worried about getting him ice and Pepsi.”
Caretaker kept the mug replenished until the night before we left for Dad’s funeral. Dad or his spirit or whatever apparently was satisfied. We heard no more shouts from his bedroom.