Monday, August 30, 2010

My Father's Life Work

He picks up the other extension
and starts right away.
My mother gets off the phone.
Hello? my father says again.

Hey, dad. The phone crackles in my ear.

He tells me how great he feels
about how he mowed the front and the back lawns yesterday.
Both in one day.
He hasn’t done that in years.
He’s very proud.

Then he asks me about paint
and the Yankee game.
What kind did you get, paint and primer?
You need paint and primer. All in one.
Is it flat? You should have gotten eggshell
but it’s okay. You didn’t know.
Good. Good.
Did you see the Yankee game?
No dad, we put on a movie.

Oh Ally, you missed a great game,
he says, his voice going high.
The pitcher, oh man, that pitcher. What is his name?
I don’t know.

No, really what is his name?I yell into the kitchen to ask my husband.

I tell my father.
Yeah, my father says, that guy. That guy is so good.
Don’t worry about the B12 shot. It’s nothing. It’s nothing.
It was such a good game. I swear, one of the best.
So what else is new? All these kids are here. I’m hiding
in the garage. Now he starts to laugh, this high wheezy laugh.
I gotta tell you honey, I’m here hiding in the garage.

This goes on for half an hour.
At the end he tells me about the drugs.
I’ve never felt this good honey.
I don’t want it to end, he says.
I finally feel like I should. Not like a 90 year old.
Like a 45 year old. This makes him laugh again.
I laugh along.
It’s been so long since I heard him sound like this.
The way he used to.

I feel like before 2003, he tells me.
Before the cancer, and the surgery, the chemo
before the stooped walk he now has,
and the leg pain,
and the sickness and the vomiting
before the catheter and the pain killers
and the exhaustion and the struggle to get out of the chair.
And the struggle to get into the chair.
And the struggle to get down the hall, one damaged leg after another.

It’s terrible like this, I think. To go, piece by piece. To fall apart, to live
through the cancer and watch the rest of you break down
until your life’s work is just
holding yourself together long enough to get through the day.

I can’t remember the last time I felt this good,
he says laughing.
He tells me again, before the surgery I guess.

I guess so, Dad, I say and swallow, my mouth full of words.
It’s great. It’s really great, I manage to get out.

It is honey, he says.
I don’t even feel like I’m dying anymore.
And then that laugh again, high,
like air coming out of a balloon.

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