Daddy’s fingerprints are all over this Pomona life I’m living. Just the mention of the town of Pomona conjures up years of vignettes of Daddy and Mother’s life after all their kids were grown. Until they moved to Pomona, it was just a town on the map, about halfway between downtown L.A. and the Riverside/San Bernardino area where I went to college and spent ten or so years living, working and trying to figure out who I was as a young adult out on my own, away from the family nest. It became a destination of travel once they moved here when Daddy retired from the pastorate and went to work for the California Southern Baptist Convention. It was a fairly easy destination close to the Ontario airport when I lived in Texas, then a convenient and inexpensive haven to store my things and a place to live for a few weeks while finding a job in L.A. and was a fairly easy drive (forty minutes or so) from to West Side of L.A. for overnight Friday night visits several times a year while I worked in Beverly Hills and later in Downtown L.A.
It was suburbia and I was the urban city dweller. It was hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than the milder L.A. West Side temperatures. It was a quieter, slower paced life and I was a busy, single, professional who had no time for unsophisticated suburbia. A convenient place to visit because it was where Daddy and Mother were, but I wouldn’t want to live there. And if I ever moved back to Southern California, was my thought as I used it once again as a way-station between leaving my urban L.A. life and heading cross- country to Nashville, I certainly wouldn’t chose Pomona as a place to live.
I couldn’t have foreseen that my thirteen years in the Nashville area, a sprawling suburbia with small urban pockets and clusters of suburbia interspersed with rural areas would find my health and me changed. Nor could I have foreseen that the decision to live in Pomona would be made for me by the march of time across Daddy and Mother’s lives.
I knew I had to fly out to check on them after Daddy was diagnosed with liver cancer. I told them it was a vacation and it wasn’t unusual for me to fly in for a week or so, but subconsciously I felt the mental and emotional shift from a trip that normally meant some down time from the stress of my own life to this trip as an adult on a mission to see if my aging parents were ok.
They weren’t ok. Of course, Daddy insisted they were fine. He would start chemo and life would go on and the chemo would remedy the situation. He was more concerned for Mother who had been dealing with diarrhea for nearly two years and was struggling with trying to do all the things she had once done easily.
On this trip I didn’t pay much attention to the town of Pomona or all those reasons why I wouldn’t choose it for a home. What I saw was two valiant people, Daddy, at 87 and Mother at 80, slowed by waning strength and stamina, but like a very slow energizer bunny, they just kept going, trying to cope with the tasks necessary to keep up a house, a yard, gardens, an imperfect car, a garage with a difficult, heavy, wooden door, and Daddy’s responsibilities as pastor of their rapidly fading church.
It was Daddy’s bathroom that clinched it for me. Daddy had picked me up at the airport and I’d only been at the house a little while. When I left the bathroom and returned to the dining room Mother was at her normal spot on the back side of the table, the table cluttered by piles of mail, books, crossword puzzles and papers. She looked up at me through her weariness and said,
“How’s the bathroom? I just haven’t felt like even thinking about cleaning it.”
“Oh,” Daddy sat tiredly at his end of the table, “it’s ok.”
I was speechless. I’d never seen layers of dust on the toilet, a dirty sink, a toilet bowl that needed cleaning and mold in the shower. It told me two things, Mother was beyond keeping the house clean and Daddy’s eyes had deteriorated to the point he couldn’t see how bad it was getting. In the past, he had always picked up the slack of what Mother couldn’t get done. It was probably that more than anything else that convinced me as I flew back across the country to Nashville, I was needed in Pomona and in Daddy and Mother’s house.
They were pleased when I came back six weeks later for a Christmas visit. I wasn’t sure what my long range plans were at that point, I just knew I had to be there. Five days later, Mother collapsed with congestive heart failure. That settled it. Once Mother was stable and recovering, I returned to Nashville and began the process of closing down my business and deciding what to do about my home and my things. Pomona, here I come. All those details like suburbia and less than ideal weather no longer mattered. How could they? Daddy needed me.