Sometimes People Die


I should rephrase that.

We all die.

Sometimes people die and then, well, they don’t.

I expected the worst when I got the phone call this week about my father, the surgery, the injury, the coma, the low quality of life he has had over the last few years (in and out of homeless shelters), rampant alcoholism.

Hell, the last few decades.

However, he’s tough.

Like me.

I get my toughness from him.

And my mouth and my hair and I hate to say it, my big old Hawaiian flat-footed feet, I mean, really, those are my feet.

And my nose.

And my hands.

And my hand in his.

It’s just a slightly smaller version.

Watching him struggle, watching the tubes tumbling out of every single limb on his body, was like watching a version of myself and what it could be like, well, if it weren’t like what it is, which is that–

I have recovered.

From a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.

My father has not.

Maybe.

Maybe he will.

Maybe he’s still digging that bottom of his.

Maybe he’ll die.

Maybe he won’t.

Well, he will, I will, you will, we all will, but maybe there might be some juice left, some special spark, some tremolo of love that sings out, come walk with me longer, look at the mountains, see the sunrise over the snow-covered trees and breathe the air–crisp, cold, bracing–let it fill your lungs and soul and heart.

Whenever it got to be too much I would walk the sky bridge between the ICU and the wing adjoining the Cancer Center.

It’s a skywalk with views of the mountains and it commands attention.

Nature.

God.

Great.

Out.

Doors.

What ever you want to call it; that which is a power greater than myself.

That tree, yes, that one, over there, its older than me, it was here before me and it will be here after me.

I am just a blink.

A particle of time and space and love.

But oh.

Such love.

How many times did I tell my father I loved him today?

A lot.

More than a few.

I told him, I told friends, I told my sister, and my mother, my grandmother, my uncle, my great-aunt in New York.

You know who I didn’t?

My boyfriend.

Not because I didn’t want to.

That’s another blog.

But out of fear.

And perhaps that lesson is the greatest one here.

Tell them all, tell them you love them, smother them with love, and tell yourself you love you.

“I have to go papa,” I said and squeezed his hand again.

It’s disconcerting, he’s so lively, so responsive, but it’s not cognitive response, it’s nerve response, it’s like watching a fish with electrodes moving it’s tail back and forth.  I don’t know how much is real, and I don’t want to give myself false hope or for that matter, anyone else.

He twitches and jerks and occasionally an eye opens and it rolls and I don’t see much there and I am afraid to not see it and afraid to see it all at the same time and then I think, he hears me, his head it turned, but then it turns back.

I squeeze his hand, my hand, that is my hand, there and stroke the pad of flesh with my thumb and rub it and touch it and warm the skin.

I lean in and find a place in between the maze of wires and find a spot I can kiss goodbye.

But not yet.

Not goodbye for good.

Just good-bye for a meal and a hot shower.

I stay as long as I can, then I go.

Twice today I went out, out into the world and then in and down into a church basement.

The great thing about where ever I go, there’s a church basement with a pot of coffee and some big styrofoam cups and some principles in red ink hanging from the wall and someone to offer me a suggestion.

“Pray and breathe,” she said to me.

Yes.

Pray and breathe.

It’s that simple.

And say I love you.

Again and again and again.

I love you for your brown eyes and your dark hair, and your big hands and strong legs, those legs, you gave me those, I recognize those knees and thighs–I use them every day on my bicycle or to walk or to kneel down and pray–for being so smart, “you got your intelligence from your dad” so my mom says (although I suspect I got my heart from my mom), and you gave me stories and you told me I was a writer.

“I always knew you’d grow up to be a writer,” my father said to me on the front porch of Patty’s house on Monroe Street in Madison.

We had just gotten a couple of cans of Barq’s (Famous Olde Tyme) root beer from the soda machine at the market–when it was still 35 cents a can and we’re drinking the cold pop on the steps smoking cigarettes and (watching Captain Kangaroo) watching the cars go by.

“You’re a story-teller, just like me,” he said and sipped on the pop and dragged off the cigarette.

The sun was warm, my feet were bare.

I was nineteen.

I was lost, pretty much a college drop out and my dad was basically couch surfing and dating the daughter (18 years old and therefore younger than me) of the woman who lived in the house whose porch we were sitting on (I ended up sleeping with her son, so I think we’re even on that score), living on food stamps and borrowed time.

But in that moment.

Exquisitely happy to be hanging with my pops on a porch, shooting the shit, telling stories, remembering when I was  little girl and he would ride me around on his motorcycle.

Not all my memories of my dad are so golden and shimmering and flecked with creamy root beer spiced carbonation.

I don’t know that I would cast the memories that I am creating here in this hospital as golden either.

But they are a gift.

It is a gift of immensity that I expect to be exploring with new and different eyes for some time to come.

And maybe my papa will come out of the coma while I am here.

And maybe he will not.

But I am here.

I showed up.

I grew up.

And in my heart, I’m still sitting on that porch listening to my father spin yarns and drink root beer in the dusk of a summer evening.

I love you Michael Martines.

I am your daughter.

You are my father.

And whatever happens.

Nothing will change that.

Love never dies.

Or grows older or fades.

It always stays.

So stay a little longer.

There are so many stories I haven’t told you yet.

 

 

 

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One Response to “Sometimes People Die”

  1. Secondhand Surfer Says:

    My heart goes out to you – “one day at a time”

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