My stepfather was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and was a story teller. Shortly after he married my mom he was rear-ended while sitting at a traffic light. His back was broken and effectively made my mom the chief bread winner for our house hold of four to five teenagers depending on which one of us was boomeranging out and back. John became head chef and chief consoler. His shrimp jambalayas’ and etouffees’ was our household staple.
My family was always in a rush so we sometimes cut him short when he launched into a story. One night we had finished our meal at a restaurant and we are all ready to go when my stepfather starts like he always does. “That reminds me of a story….It’s about a woodpile” he goes on as we say “Not now John, we are ready to go!” “Alright” he says, “You are never going to hear the story about the woodpile” as we all roll our eyes.
For years after that we would tease and prod John “Tell us the story about the woodpile.” “Nope” he would reply. “You are never going to hear it” he would say stubbornly. John became very ill with a pulmonary diagnosis. He was in and out of the ICU many times. Always surviving what we thought was the end. I visited him at Virginia Beach General’s ICU. He was laboring to breathe thru a tube inserted in his throat. I cleared his throat hole with the suction as I was shown. His eyes were glazed but he was awake. I tried one more time, “Tell me the story about the woodpile John.” His lips curled into a slight smile. He shook his head. “No” he mouthed.
The next day I was on my way to show property to a client when my mom called. She said she was at the ICU and I should come there. We gathered around and John labored heavily to breathe. Fighting it. My mom held John’s hand and said quietly, “John…it’s okay..you can go now.” John heaved one last heavy breath and died.
I don’t remember what we were all in such a rush to do back at the restaurant but I sure could go for a story about a woodpile right now.