28 June 2009

A Quiet Death

For my in laws, Art and Mary. Written June 2001.

He sat in front of the television. In his wheel chair. The size 14 corduroy slippers looked like the fins on an old Cadillac. We walked in. My wife and I. Afraid to say what we had come to say. Art turned from the TV and smiled when he saw us. A big smile full of his own teeth. They were yellow but they were all there. It was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and Art was watching TNT's day long John Wayne movie marathon. As far as hospitals went... Art could do a lot worse than Lake Forest. Reproduction 18th Century furniture surrounded his futuristic hospital bed while the TV had a built in VCR.

My wife and I were his only family in town due to the holiday. And so we told Art his wife had just died. The light in his eyes went out like a switch had been thrown. His smile disappeared and his lips trembled as he brought his hands to his face and cried, "I just talked to her." My wife cried, "I know, Dad. I know." She did not hold him. She did not touch him. And he did not reach for her. I thought it odd my wife's legs were crossed. I was suddenly aware my legs were crossed. Uncrossing them I wondered what to do with them.

We went to the funeral home. The nice man in the rep tie and blue blazer showed us the caskets. I pushed Art around the show room in his wheel chair and slammed his foot into a casket named the Virginian. "Goddamn that hurts!" "Sorry, Art," I said as I thought of a parchment map of Virginia City burning on my television screen. The Virginian was a dark walnut with a cream quilted interior. It did look comfortable. It was nine thousand dollars. Not too bad when you figured the daily cost spread across an eternity.

Every ten minutes or so I would wheel Art into the bathroom. I would bend down in front of him and he would pull himself up on my shoulders and we would stand together as he peed. I looked at his penis and noticed how big it was. "What am I doing looking at my father in law's dick," I wondered. But not out loud. I realized my brother in law must have a big penis as well. That fucker is lucky in everything.

We looked at more caskets and discussed the advantages of more expensive vaults and after all was said and done -- close to thirty thousand dollars had been spent. All of it, tossed in a hole, so to speak. Nine months later my wife and I knelt in front of the Virginian Art was lying in. His hands were folded on his chest and covered in a thick pan makeup not unlike the stuff used on stage. His lips were sewn together and looked odd. There was some truth in my wife's observation, "Dead people always look Italian."


Joey B said...

Reminds me of my own experience with my dad.


Anonymous said...

I didn't help pick out my father's casket, I was only a kid. My father in law's, well, he liked gaudy belts and boots with heels. Even though he was from the midwest his casket had a sort of cowboy theme. He didn't look Italian, he just looked sober for the first time in long time. D

Anonymous said...

This is beyond the pale. Stick to what you do best -- glamorizing the wretched excess of your besotted existence. Leave the people in your past, and their pain and suffering, alone.

Michael Rowe said...

I have an idea for you, "Anonymous." Why don't you fuck yourself? This is a gorgeous piece of writing, and your misuse of the term "besotted" along would preclude you from understanding, let alone commenting, on it. Why don't you do what you likely do best...go back to quietly seething with resentment and jealousy over the lives of others whom you consider (likely with some justification) more interesting, and superior, to yours.

tintin said...

Joey B- I enjoyed your memoir and appreciate your sharing it. So much of it is familiar not to mention the locale.

D- I know the feeling and yet I don't.

Anon 16:05 - Sorry you feel that way but people share pasts and people write about them.

Michael- That's one way of putting it. Thanks and I'm glad you liked it.

ADG said...

Tinman....sobering. I've buried a dad and step dad and my mom is on a slippery slope right now. Nothing unique-it happens to all of us when people that we love get old and frail. It does though, open up a mega can of emotions and thoughts that go otherwise pretty much untapped till you are doing shit like debating life support and picking out caskets.

Regarding your brother in law. Don't conclude that just because his dad was packin' that much heat-he also had the sausage. My brother is hung like a monster. Me-I'm hung like a Tic-Tac.