It’s 9pm and I’m finally getting something to eat. I’ve been in the lab all day and I really just want to eat, shit and sleep. Hopefully in that order. It’s my second year of graduate school and I think I’m half way through the worst decision of my life.
The phone rings.
“Hey Dad. What’s up?”
“I just got home.”
“I know, you guys always forget about the time difference.”
“Yeah, it’s 9 o’clock here.”
“What? No, I don’t know where mom is.”
“I don’t understand. When did you see her last?”
“Three days ago! What? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“What letter? What are you talking about?”
“Gone? She’s gone? Gone where?”
“She didn’t say anything to me. We talked last weekend. She said she missed when I was little.”
“Just hold on. I don’t know what’s going on here. It’s ok, dad. Stop crying.”
3 years pass.
A funny thing happens to a human when they lose hope. They tumble through their days. The rough edges that make up their character are smoothed away and they become a tiny silhouette of their former self. They don’t hold on to the world anymore. The world holds on to them.
“Dad! Where are you?”
“Holy shit! Do you need anything? Money?”
“No, you never mentioned Charlie.”
“Come on dad. I can send you some money. I don’t want you sleeping on a goddamn floor.”
“Oh. Ok. Give me the number.”
“How long do you think you can stay there?”
5 years pass.
Time is a coarse sandpaper that wears us down. The harder we resist, the faster we lose. Time is particularly hard on those of us that have passed beyond the hopeful days of spring. A time when a better day stopped being right around the corner and instead is a faded polaroid on our dashboard. My dad spent 8 years losing against time.
“Hey dad. How’s it hanging?”
“Yeah. Good. We’re all good. You ok?”
“How big’s the spot?”
“You sure? Was this just a crummy E.R. doctor?”
“Oh. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Wait. Are you still smoking?”
“Shit, dad. What the fuck! You need to stop smoking if you’re on chemo.”
“Seriously, dad. I’m not fucking around. Don’t you want to see your granddaughter?”
2 Years pass.
Chemo. Radiation. More Chemo. Physical therapy. Medicinal Marijuana. He takes a bit part in his own life. He survives but doesn’t live. He coasts through his days.
“This is he.”
“Yes, I am.”
“When will he be conscious?”
“Not till tomorrow. I’m on the east coast.”
“No. I think I’m the only one.”
“I’ll try to leave tomorrow but I have to make arrangements for my family before I can leave.”
10 minutes pass.
We like to think that we can make up for stupid mistakes. We like to think we get second chances. We have years to repay debts and rebuild bridges. But we are smooth pebbles in a rushing current. Our mistakes are behind us but they plot our course forward. They propel us. They are inescapable. They are our regrets.
“No. I need to talk to you.”
24 hours pass.
“Is this doctor Ang?”
“Yes. It is.”
“That’s great. Is he lucid?”
“No, I haven’t booked a flight yet. I was waiting to talk to you.”
“Yeah. I guess. If he’s well enough. Can I talk to him?”
6 months pass.
“Are you there?”
6 months pass
“Is he lucid?”
“When was the last time he was conscious?”
“Ok. I understand. I should be there tomorrow.”
24 hours pass.
“Hi dad. Can you hear me.”
24 hours pass.
“Hey there. How are you feeling?”
“She’s not here.”
“Dad, do you know where you are?”
“I think you’re a little confused.”
48 hours pass.
“Ok, dad. You going to be ok here?”
“Probably a couple of months to recover.”
“As soon as you can. Your lungs aren’t doing so great.”
“I’ll give you a call when I get back to Boston.”
4 months pass.
“Yes it is.”
“Oh. I see.”
“I’ll be out tomorrow.”
20 hours pass.
“Dad? You awake?”
Gary: “Yeah. Not dead yet.”
Me: “How are you feeling?”
Gary: “Like shit. You know. The ususal. You didn’t need to come all the way out here for this.”
Me: “I’m just checking in. Do you remember much?”
Gary: “Not really. I’ve been here a couple of days.”
Me: “No. You’ve been here for 3 months, in intensive care.”
Me: “We need to talk about some stuff. The hospital wants to know what they should do if you stop breathing again. They saved you twice already. What do you want to do next time? This is your choice, not mine.”
Gary: “I don’t really want to die. I don’t know. What can they do? I guess I just want to go home.”
Me: “There’s no one to take care of you at home. Charlie’s in no condition. She’s drunk all the time.”
Gary: “I want to see my dog. Just let me go home. I’ll be alright.”
Me: “You know, you were a good dad. I just want you to know that I’m the man I am today because you were a good dad.”
Dad: “Well, you made it easy. You were a good kid.”
Me: “Dad. I need to go back home to my family. But I’ll be here for a couple more days.”
Dad: “You should go. You need to take care of my girls.”
Me: “Dad, you really were a great dad. All that other stuff is in the past. What I have now is because you were a great dad. Thanks.”
Dad: “Did you read about those robot bugs in the ceiling?”
Dad: “It was in the newspaper. I was just talking to my buddies about it.”
2 weeks pass.
“I’ll be there tomorrow.”
“No. Just me and my mom.”
“I’ll pay for it. Can I take care of it when I get there?”
“Yeah. Just release the body to them. I’ll be there tomorrow.”