Ask him about the time he saw mom crying. Ask him why dad sneaks a drink in the middle of the night, or why sis sneaks off with the girls she says are mean, but she'll go anyway for a fake laugh and to share cigarettes that they stole from the purses of their mothers or older sisters. She hates the odor and the taste and she knows that he can smell it on her. Ask him. He'd tell you secrets if he could, of crimes, misdemeanors and the kindnesses we've forgotten, like the time little Joe saved handfuls of pennies and nickels to buy mom a Mother's Day card at the corner store, or the day grandma died and he hung his head low like we all did.
Ask the wise one, the old one; the one with gray on his face and blue in his eyes. He may not see as well these days, or walk as fast, but he remembers and has never forgotten this home, this place of varied seasons, of excited footsteps, angry footsteps, slammed doors, and the front door opened with welcome. This day, this last day we have to ask of him the one last deed that we know that he knows and we don't want to ask him to do but have to ask and we have to bear witness but don't want to witness, as he sits there, leash in mouth, our friend, who wants one last walk around the neighborhood.
12 November 2015