I’m about to bum you out, but today is a day for bumming out. Hey, at least I have the decency to bury the post in the weekend when most of you aren’t at your computers.
I awoke this morning to find a text message from my sister and a missed call from my mom. In mom’s voice mail, she was using The Voice. The tone of voice that’s only used for “we’re moving” or when somebody dies. Since I haven’t gotten the “we’re moving” speech since 1993, I figured I should read sister’s text.
Luckily, nobody’s dead. Somebody is, however, rather sick and the cruise scheduled for the end of February is off. I was kind of looking forward to having a vision quest to film and post (and to introduce you to the fam via festive cruise footage), but not enough to voluntarily get on a plane. I’m sure that day will come. It’s just not going to come in February. It seems dad’s lung cancer is pressing on a nerve that allows him to swallow. He’s lost 15 pounds, so they can’t do any more cancer treatments until he gains that weight back. They’ve put in a feeding tube. You may only be meeting mom and sis via video when I go up to spend the intended cruise time playing euchre at my parents’ house. Filming someone with tubes is the nose is, I’m guessing, an even bigger party foul than filming a drunk person.
I SO wish I’d started carrying around a camera sooner. I wish I’d hijacked dad and made him record songs back when he could still sing. He doesn’t have spit anymore because of the throat cancer of a few years back, so he doesn’t even talk much. It usually works OK when it’s just him and mom because, after 40 years of marriage, they probably communicate telepathically like magic wonder twins. But it still sucks to see him fading into the background, sitting there quietly while everybody else talks. It’s almost like he’s getting us ready for when he won’t be here.
At Christmas, dad and I were sitting in the living room and he asked me if I was doing OK. A valid question, as 2008 saw me bury a friend, get fired for the first time ever, and have the longest and most dramatic home-buying process known to man. But by Christmas, I had gotten my shit back together. New shit. Better shit.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
I can’t tell if he was trying to feel out whether I was still in danger of throwing myself in front of a train, or if he was just trying to make sure that his youngest child would be OK without him. The work’s already done, dad. You raised me to be strong and bulletproof because you knew I’d need to be. I’m little and neurotic, but my bones are adamantium. Besides, when you’re gone it’s my job to be the living legacy. Just like with Diah, except that I’ll be doing it with your face, your feet, and your disappointing baby fine hair. Your hard head. Your obsessive attention to scheduling and organization. Your last name, which I’m keeping even if I lose my mind and get married (unless the guy has a last name I can’t refuse, like Ravenclaw or something). I’m going to be OK because I’m going to have one more hand on my shoulder, pushing me forward.
Mostly, I worry about mom. What are you supposed to do after 40 years with someone? What are you supposed to do waking up next to an empty spot? What are you supposed to do when you see Dad’s Chair still sitting in the living room? In a house filled with his paintings? Finding things unexpectedly in dresser drawers? Opening the snack closet and seeing his stash of macadamia nut cookies? Going through his meticulously-kept tax records? Looking at your youngest daughter, who looks like him in drag? I worry about mom. I know I’m supposed to do something, but I have no idea what that is.
The whole thing is like one of those 72-ounce steaks that they serve somewhere in Texas. If you eat it in a one sitting, it’s free. My brain doesn’t work pain that way. It never hits me all at once. My brain figured out what it can handle and eats the big pain steak one ounce at a time, meteing out the pain little by little for as long as it needs to. On one hand, mourning anything takes forever. On the other hand, I don’t throw myself in front of a train.So, I haven’t wrapped my head around this yet. It’s still like an abstract concept or something happening in a movie with really good 3-D. My head is just watching it happening, with hands over ears, going “lalalala….”