Colleen J. Pallamary is an author, speaker, copy editor, freelance writer, and crafter. She is dual-certified as a BLS/CPR Instructor for both American Heart and Red Cross disciplines. She has published three books including Scammunition: How To Protect Yourself From Con Artists: A Guide For Baby Boomers And Beyond, an urban fantasy novel titled The Vampire Preservation Society, and a biography based on her Mother’s career in show business Meet Bridgeport’s Sweetheart Colleen J. Bartram. All are available on Amazon.com.
In addition to lectures on scam prevention Colleen frequently teaches her course Lucid Dreaming: Another Altered State of Mind and has received 5 Star Reviews from all of her students. Her writing has been prominently featured in Ocala The Good Life Magazine and many other local publications. She resides in Central Florida and is currently working on a collection of poetry. For more information visit www.colleenpallamary.com.
When I was little it was my job to be my Dad’s personal groomer whenever we were together in his car. He’d come to pick us up for our weekly visitation and I’d climb into the backseat of his 4 door Buick and scooch over to the spot behind the driver’s seat so I could touch his brush cut hair. Sliding up to the edge of my seat, I’d tap him on the shoulder and say “ready” so he could hand me his small black comb.
He’d drive through a maze of city streets like a cat on the prowl, stopping at red lights and checking for oncoming traffic before pushing his polished black shoe on the gas pedal to proceed. I loved those times with my Dad and I always felt happy doing my job. Then one day he was gone. No kiss, no hug, no goodbye – just gone.
Fast forward in time. I hadn’t seen my Dad in nearly 20 years and didn’t know what to expect when I drove to visit him in the VA Hospital. I had discovered somehow that he was diagnosed with ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I had no idea what ALS was during those pre-Internet times. I had a few things to say to him and finally knew where he was after all this time. Living without a father to support and guide me as I made my way alone through the important milestones of life was difficult and not knowing if he was alive or dead was worse.
Seven months pregnant with my third child I waddled over to the elevator and pushed the button for the third floor. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer for both of us. The doors opened and I glanced at room numbers until I found the right one. I grasped a picture of his granddaughters in my sweaty palm, took a deep breath, and walked into a room full of bedridden patients.
I spotted him as soon as I walked in, off to my left, sitting by the window looking out at the traffic on the busy Jamaica Plain thoroughfare. Slightly hunched over wearing a rumpled blue hospital gown he loosely held a corner of a thin, worn blanket draped over his skinny legs. A pack of his favorite Camel cigarettes was tucked into his dingy white sock and his wheelchair looked much too big for his frail body. A glowing cigarette dangled from his trembling right hand and he looked at the husky nurse beside him and pursed his lips indicating that he wanted to take a drag. I watched the nurse gently grab the smoldering butt and bring it to my Dad’s lips. He closed his eyes and exhaled, the bluish smoke wafting through the air like storm clouds on a summer day. A thousand thoughts flitted through my mind and I looked away for a moment trying not to intrude.
I approached from behind slowly, not sure of how to proceed in such an awkward situation. Do I hug him? Kiss him? Show him the picture of his granddaughters to break the ice? I glanced at the unmade bed cluttered with wrinkled newspapers and that’s when I spotted it - a small black comb nestled between the pages of an old magazine on the nightstand. I grabbed it, walked over and stood behind my Dad, placed my hand on his shoulder and softly pulled the plastic comb through the graying bristles of his brush cut hair.
I nodded at the startled nurse. “It’s okay. I’m his daughter and this is my job.”