Wednesday, April 7, 2010
A Day as Perfect as Blueberry Pie
Every time I open my eyes the nurse looks different. Sometimes it’s a guy even. Its an ugly deal having either one roll you over so you can take a dump, but its just ugly in different ways. Even in the hospital with a heart monitor over your head, you still hope to make an impression on the ladies. Guys, well, it’s just something pretty weird about having a guy point your dick for you while you pee in a pan. A very old man is a nasty thing even on his best days, anyway. I feel like I want to give them a tip. I feel bad for them.
Anyway, it’ll only be for a little while. I haven’t told anybody that, I don’t even know how I know it, I just sort of do. I don’t want to upset anybody. No need for that. I’m luckier than most folks. There’s a lot of people, their last thought on earth was “ – what the hell is that - !”
My son pops in with his wife and my grandkids. They ask how I’m feeling and my lips move like I want to say fine but it doesn’t come out. I’m still a Minnesota boy, brought up in the days when the correct answer was “Fine.” You could be in a flaming rollover end over end car crash, laying on the side of the road with your hair on fire and a drive shaft up your ass and there is always some moron who says “Are you okay mister?” and then even then you’d write the correct answer with your only remaining finger in the bloody dust --
“O . . . K. . . A . . . Y . . . Y . . . O . . . U . . .?
I can tell what shape I’m in by looking at the faces of my grand kids.
I ask my son “So how did the election turn out?” and it comes out as “Arrrag gggh elecraawah ?” Josie grabs onto her mother Annie, a beautiful Korean-American girl. I love looking at her face. What a good generation this is. Anybody can marry anybody. Any body can vote for anybody. I just love that. Politics. Religion. Race. Money. Spaceships to Mars, colonies on the Moon.
It was such a big deal when you were in the game. It all seems so stupid now.
It would be nice to sit in the shade of my peach tree with a coffee and some blueberry pie and no pain and no thoughts. What remains are the people. The people. All my friends back in the old days. They were fine people. They were all so fine. I want that to be my last thought.
They were all so fine.
A drift. A blank spot.
I open my eyes and the kids are gone and just my son is here, reading a newspaper. Keeping vigil. Being a good son to the last. I take care to test my throat before I speak. “Did I –“ the words sound okay and he looks up.
“You awake Dad? You okay?”
“Yeah. Did I tell you the only time I saw your abuelo, your grandfather, cry? I saw him cry two times in my whole life. Did I tell you already?”
He puts the paper down. “Did you just ask if you ever told me about grandpa crying? Is that what you asked? That’s what it sounded like.”
“Yeah.” I could sure go for a drink of water. My throat’s locking up. I turn my head sideways because I know there’s this glass over here. I pick up the glass and it slips and dumps on the floor.
Another blank spot.
I open my eyes and the nurse is here and my pajamas are down and she’s doing some embarrassing nurse business down there. I can’t see her and I can’t feel anything anyway. Everybody else is gone. It’s dark out.
I wanted to tell my kid. I hope he comes back.
When I was about seven or eight, something like that, I saw my old man cry. First time. True fact. My grandfather, the family patriarch, my grandpa who married a Cherokee Indian woman, and was a bootlegger during prohibition and made the best beer in the county in a hidden space under my dad’s bedroom. Well. He had cancer. Something like what I got. We all drove from Iowa to Kansas non-stop to see him. When we got to his bedside and gathered around, Dad took his hand. Grandpa looked up at him and he was a million miles away. He said “Joe?”
Dad’s name was Daniel. Dan. He didn’t try to correct him. One tear. That’s all. I watched just that one tear moving slow like rain on glass. It was an awesome sight for a little kid. That’s how a man cries. My opinion. The other time was when we said goodbye. The cancer was back. The insurance had dumped him. I came to Minneapolis first week of November because we were a couple of liberals and politics was our shared passion. We stayed up sitting in the basement and watched Obama become the first black President, me and my old man. The next morning I had to get my plane. He was there in his pajamas and the leukemia made his face look like he had leprosy or something. But he was still sharp. He was still my old man when we hugged goodbye. We knew we’d never see each other again. It special when you know something like that. He said You’re a good son. I said You’re a good father. Do you forgive me for the things that went wrong? he said. Of course, yeah, of course, I said.. Father, forgive me too. I said, like in the Bible. I should have done better, I said to him, you did fine, he said. I’m proud of how you turned out. I won’t get to see you again, I said. Yes, you will, he said. You’ll see me again. And then he cried. And I cried. And we hugged each other, which we never did, didn’t know how to do when I was a kid. My old man.
If my kid comes back tonight, I got to tell him that story. No, wait, is that a good story? No. It’ll make him feel bad. No. Probably a good thing I didn’t tell him. I don’t know. Maybe he’d think I wanted him to cry or something. Maybe I do.
“How are you feeling tonight?” The nurse tugs my jammies back up nice and dignified. I forgot she was down there. Not a hint of disgust. I love nurses like her. They’re angels.
I try to talk.
Shit. Blank spot.
A big marble hallway like the Acropolis. Books. Lovely books everywhere. Oh my god, look at the books. There’s this pedestal in front of me and a huge book open at one page. It’s different from the other books, it’s all stuck together like a scrapbook. The pages are all different colors and materials. The edges are bound up in wire like it could fall apart.
It’s the book of my life. All my lives, even the ones I’ve forgotten. It’s me. I glance at one paragraph. Its talking about when I broke up with my first love – the inside story.
Whoa whoa whoa.
Holy shit – is that what really happened? I had no idea she felt like that. This is huge.
There is a woman behind me. She puts her hand on my shoulder. I feel like I’ve always known her, but I don’t know her at all. She looks middle eastern. She’s gorgeous. Curvy. And she’s got her hand on me.
“How do you feel, honey?”
“Do I know you?”
“I’m your ‘ex’.”
“I can’t remember anything where I came from.” Her beautiful dark eyes. The way she looks at me. “We were married?”
“No. But we had a messy divorce anyway.” She says. “I’d like to make it up to you. I want us to be close again, the way we used to be when you were a kid. Is there anything in that book you’d like to ask about?”
“Will my family be alright?”
“For a while.”
And then it hits me. “Am I in trouble? With you?”
She scowls and punches me in the shoulder. “You’re always thinking like that. Even now.”
“Can we have coffee? Is there blueberry pie? Someplace to sit together?”
A doctor standing over me and there is a shrill alarm in the air. He’s got those electric mitts in his hands with big cables and I’m twitching and jumping like a fish. There’s a pair of greasy red burn marks on my upper chest. “Stop that shit!” I yell, and suddenly I’m coughing a bunch of hot gunk in my chest.
“He’s back!” A bunch of people I can’t see are clapping.
Idiots. I want to see that Woman again. I know Her. I know who She is! I want to go back. I have to go back and tell Her I forgive Her for letting me down and can She forgive me for losing my faith and can we be together now forever? Can we make peace? Can we make love? I want to tell Her I’ve always loved Her, even if I didn’t know.
Tired. Resting. So goddamn tired all of a sudden.
Floating on my back on a vast blue sea. Overhead the night sky, indigo and endlessly deep. The face behind moving clouds like sailing ships. That woman's face. Watching me. Infinitely kind.
The stars are falling.
I feel light. I feel better. I want to get up and walk around.
I tumble out of the bed and stand straight and flex my legs and arms. I'm in a bright meadow, I can't remember when I came here. I want to dance. I want to fuck. I want to fall in love and travel the world and have adventures with an excellent companion. The hair on my arms is dark. Lean and virile. I feel like a kid. There is eagerness and beauty all around me. I am male. I am young. I am insatiable.
Standing in the grass under a huge mango tree, he’s standing there smoking a big cigar. Looking sharp. My old man.
“Told you I’d see you again.” He says.