This is Over
tell me something comforting." I say to my husband, as I lay in bed staring
at the ceiling.
He puts down his book. "We don't really exist."
quite what I had in mind.
I fall off to sleep and dream of my father
being chased by a police car. The siren on the car interrupts my sleep, then morphs
into a muffled, wailing cry. Is it Drake, my five-year-old, in the midst of a
nightmare? A feral parrot with its acute imitation of a child in distress? The
baby's monitor? My father's monitor? It's 3 a.m. and it's the baby, August. Jim
is either sleeping or feigning sleep or has left his body on a sojourn to another
dimension. Two hours ago we gave Dad his morphine for the night.
whisper to Jim, "If
you put the baby back to sleep, I'll
a blow job."
opens one eye in brief consideration, then passes out. I propel myself out of
My father wanders into the kitchen as August sits in her highchair,
painting her face with yogurt. "Is everything all right?" He asks.
the craziest thing." He turns to August. "Hello, beautiful baby, you're
amazing aren't you? What was I saying? There's something
choppers. Goddamn, I have no idea where they
pull his gleaming white teeth out of the blue cleaning solution beside the sink.
of a gun," he says, shoving them in his mouth and sitting beside August.
shrieks in delight and yells, "Poopy, gogama!"
laughs and says some combination of the same back at her. They moo and giggle
at each other as I prepare my father's toast and jam, which he will pretend to
eat but actually fold and cover with a napkin then slide into the garbage when
I'm not looking. He's not eating and we're not making him. We're doing hospice
for him because the cancer in his gut is going to kill him much sooner than the
Alzheimer's. So here he is, with us -- gliding in and out of rooms like an apparition
as I give the kids their meals and baths -- losing the fat and flesh anchoring
him to the planet, standing in the middle of the living room waiting for the impulse
to move or sit or speak or for me to tell him which to do.
sit down. I'm making you a milkshake."
had those before, right?"
he reads aloud off the high chair as he does every morning. "Grrraco! GRAH-COH."
He stares out the window, then says, "Look outside. It looks like Shakespeare.
You see what I mean? Just like Shakespeare."
"Is Poppa gonna
die?" Drake asks.
don't know. But we're going to help him."
Momma, I think this is the die kind of sick. I think we have to say goodbye to
don't say goodbye, not yet. What we do is move Dad into our tiny Los Angeles home
where my husband and I live with our two small kids. In the beginning, when Dad
is lucid, we talk to him about his choices
tubes for food, tubes for breath,
resuscitation? He grunts disgustedly at the notion of being kept alive by artificial
means. No, no, no. But Dad soon forgets his diagnosis, his emphatic wishes for
his end of life care, and plans to move to Arizona when he gets better. A house
in the mountains or in Lake Havasu, you know, where the London Bridge is. "We
can all move there and Jim can commute." He asks why he's feeling so lousy
and we remind him that he's very sick. "How sick?" he asks.
like when Mom was sick," I say.
falls quiet. "But, how did this happen?" he asks, incredulous. "I've
never been sick before."
how I want to go, is what I want to say. Healthy eighty years and then, boom,
I've got six months. "I don't know, Dad."
can't say my feelings. Is my mind going bad or is my body really sick?"
the right combination of truth and kindness and hope? "I don't know,"
we've got to find a doctor and find out. I have to find out why I can't think.
the sunny land
the whole thing. How
he says to show me that he remembers Jim, remembers Jim's dad, remembers.
old is he?"
father's aghast. "Is that possible?"
he had Jim when he was thirteen," I say.
you playing with me?" he asks, looking pained.
no, no, I'm just kidding." Then we both stare at the floor.
is sweeping, this last man on the planet who would ever want sympathy, ask for
help, or admit to growing old. He sweeps everything in his path, then spends the
rest of his day on a lounge chair in our backyard, wrapped in fleece jackets and
blankets in the seventy-degree sun. I watch from a window as Drake approaches
Dad, who is sleeping with his mouth hanging open. Drake stares at him, then runs
back to me. "I think Poppa's dead, Mom."
don't think so, Honey. Let's go out together and see." And he's not, yet.
comes into the living room dressed in pressed chinos, blue oxford and white sneakers.
He's an actor; the TV guest psycho/bad cop/abusive husband/pyromaniac and the
man who sits with my father nightly, he with a Heineken, my father with his morphine
cocktail. "There. How do I look?"
worker, but he's the killer. Killer, but he's a social worker."
so clean. Maybe a darker shirt."
comes in. "What's your audition, Dad?"
a social worker."
that's all wrong. You're supposed to wear a black shirt and black tie and black
shoes. Like Cobra Bubbles. In Lilo and Stitch? He's a social worker and
that's what he wears, Dad."
runs in, then stops short, eyeing Jim suspiciously. "No like, Daddy."
enters and gestures to Jim. "Hey
young man. Have you
of those things where you do that thing
Knock 'em dead," Dad says, throwing shadowboxes, nearly knocking himself
out. "Give 'em hell. Who are you
don't know anymore, Tony. Maybe you should tell me."
squints. "Is this a trick question?"
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