CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was in October of 1984 that I drove down to South Carolina to visit my parents, who lived in the Presbyterian Home in Summerville. They had lived a long time there, and my father was 94 years old. My mother, somewhat younger, was just 80.
Daddy was in good spirits and in relatively good health for his age. He had slowed down considerably, and his vision was undergoing changes from arterial hardening in his brain. All in all, he was remarkable. As a young man he had worked as brakeman and conductor on the Southern Railway. Later, he performed various farm-related jobs that involved management skills, mechanical agility, and the ability to ride a horse with his collie dog mounted on the saddle. Later in life, after the Depression, my father worked at various jobs until he was hired by the Navy Yard to be a member of the civilian fire department. In his uniform, he was so very handsome.
All of that was years before. He had been retired for almost thirty years and enjoyed life.
My visits were often quiet affairs, with conversation about things happening in The Home and about his earlier life. I wish now that I had asked more questions.
The conversation on that October day took an interesting turn.
"Son," he said. "I need to talk about a suit."
Daddy was a natty dresser, so I figured that he needed some new duds so that he would look good at the Sunday services.
"What kind of suit?" I asked.
His answer was quickly made. "A funeral suit," he said. Did I detect a twinkle in his bright blue eyes?
Leading him on, I asked, "Whose funeral?"