Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

I am still at the hospital with my dad. Today the primal anguish of watching him waste away has ebbed. I don't see a cadaver in front of me anymore. I see a man, who is troubled and ill and suffering, but who will not die just yet, not from this story.

Tonight I am here to fluff pillows, call nurses, talk him down from delusions, feed him, keep him from pulling out tubes and IVs, etc.

Before tonight, I was with him in order to be there if he died. His father, my grandfather, died in my dad's arms about fifty years ago. My grandfather was a doctor, a soldier, a gambler, a drinker. He also had a bad heart. And one afternoon in Mexico City, he lost all of his family's life savings betting on jai alai. He died of a heart attack shortly (minutes, hours) after that. I like to imagine that as he died, of guilt and shame in the arms of his youngest son, the love in those eyes mitigated his suffering a bit.

Maybe I thought that my being with my dad would help. Maybe I just like old tragedies that repeat.

There's a lot more about this story I want to tell. About compassion and vulnerability. About why mitigating suffering matters. About political power and suicide and courage and love. Mostly though, I am just sad. About so many tiny things and so many terrible things.

The people I most wished to share this “me” with are the ones that are no longer here (were they ever?) – except some part of them lingers, and some part of me drowns when I imagine their human voices. I am like my dad calling out to the ghosts that I can't convince him aren't here.

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