For nearly eight years after my mother’s stroke I lived to help my father make her life the very best it could be.  Few coworkers during those years knew of my life outside the walls of academia. Only a handful of close friends recognized the paralyzing stress that lodged in my jaw.

Now the days I am not teaching are reserved for appointments and errands with Dad. He is 95 and trust me, totally in charge of life. On the schedule this morning: routine blood work for his checkup next week, the barber for his signature buzz cut, and an inaugural trip to the new Dunkin Donuts on the south side of town.  Eating a single treat after monitoring his sugar intake a month before lab results has become tradition. Until today, I would pop in, stock up on a half dozen frosted yummies and deliver them to Dad’s apartment. The new shop has a wide entrance, more seats, and larger windows. Dad wants to check it out.

Only two cars in the lot, I unfold his cadet blue rollator and we wind our way down the ramp and inside. The menu on the wall includes active video panels in between the list of coffee varieties and breakfast fare.

“Do they have anything like regular coffee?” Dad leans over to ask.

“Yes, way at the top, roasted coffee.”

“Boy, you need binoculars to read that far.”

Straining my eyes behind trifocals I know he is right, as always.

I wait for the coffees. Dad rolls his way toward the far window and sinks onto a comfortable seat at a low table.  I set down the coffees and he chomps into a sweet frosted break from the overnight fast.

“All we need is Mom and the paper.”

A reflexive smile curves onto my face, then freezes. The coffee, the chocolate morning treat, and Dunkin Donuts.