TITLE: An Inconvenient Death
The voice of the caller on Matt Lanier's answering machine was calm, professional, and disinterested, considering the magnitude of the statement.
This is the Owatonna Hospital. Your father's in our emergency room. Please call us at...
Matt heard nothing after that because simultaneous joy and panic bolted to the surface of his brain like a long ribbon of gasoline set ablaze with a spark. On one side of his mind, the possibility of being free forever of his old man shot waves of energy through his fatigued body. On the other side, the weight of dread, finality, loss, responsibility, change, fought those waves with invisible pressure like the gravity pull of a full moon restraining the tide.
He replayed the message to copy the phone number, then called the hospital. A nurse answered in a tone consistent with the phone message voice.
"This is Matt Lanier. I'm returning the call I received earlier this evening. My father, Ray Lanier is there." Matt turned and looked out his living room window, bracing for the psychological impact of what he was about to hear.
"Oh ... yes, Mr. Lanier, I'll get the ER doctor for you."
Seconds later a male voice came on. "Mr. Lanier, this is Dr. Singh." He spoke with a British accent. "I'm afraid your father has suffered a stroke. He's in bad shape."
Stroke. So that was it. Not dead. Not yet, anyway. A vision came to Matt of Ray Lanier sitting in a wheelchair, one side of his body numb and lifeless,