Monday, December 15, 2008

Men

When my father died, I was sitting in the cafeteria of the Children's Hospital, which was separated from the main wing of the Hospital by a sky bridge.  I was scanning car magazines, searching for a new car.  My friend, Kurt, sat down next to me, smiled strangely if he had an unsavory secret--and then told me Dad had "passed."  A half hour later, I stood by his bed, trying to understand his corpse.  His eyes were closed, but his mouth was open in an pronounced "O," as if in a kiss.

Many years later--my father died nine or ten years ago, oddly, I've never been able to get the passage of time right--my uncle David died, in a small hospital in Mandeville, La.  The television was on all the time, loud.   Televisions were on in every room, patients' rooms, waiting areas, hallways, playing soap operas and commercials.  This was a Catholic Hospital.  I would have thought Catholics would have been good about honoring the sick and dying.  I was not with my uncle when he died.  I left him in the evening, after a long, good, heart-breaking, wonderful, terrifying, healing, scarring conversation.  I told uncle David something important, something true, about why I loved him.  I should have stayed with him afterward, but drove across Lake Pontchartrain to my my hotel room in New Orleans, instead.  Uncle David looked at me with saucer-wide eyes as I left him that night.  He died the next day, as we both knew he would.

My grandfather, at present, is nearing his 102 birthday, in three weeks time.  Only recently has he become disheartened--in public--by increasing infirmity.  I will be near him on his birthday, with siblings and first cousins, in case he wants to see us.  I've been putting off writing to him, lately.  There is too much and too little to say.  I'm afraid to be too near when he dies.  I do not look forward to his funeral, when he does.

The men in my family have a hard time with each other.  We try, but not quite enough.




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