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I’ve been trying to find something funny to write about for days, weeks, months. My dad has been sick for weeks, months, years. I don't want to know how the cycle ends, but he's coming home from the hospital. Today.
It was an okay morning. One of my trees shook his head at me when I went out to get the paper, pine needling me so I’d water him. Cloud formations showed me that the nearby military base was practicing. I yelled hello (uselessly again) at the old lady who walks by my house every morning at 6:30. She can’t hear me; is she blind too? I don’t know why I try.
There is nothing worse than having a parent who is inaccessible.
I call off school, I call off eating—all cleaning and chores go out the window. I am now consumed with worry about my parents getting along in their own home, if they need a lifeline, how my dad will survive this last part. I don’t worry so much about my mom; I worry about my dad getting in and out of the tub.
I've sent flowers. Welcome home.
Coming from a big family, plus being the youngest by far, I'm hoping for some kind of smoothing of fears and concerns. As it turns out, we are all nervous and telling bad jokes. My mom had each of us to make sure that the others had company. She could have had a million kids and we would have appreciated her, but our dad was always the one we wanted.
Always wanting the one who got away.
We all sit nervously in our various situations—me in Arizona, them in Minnesota—and wonder how Mom will react to this new Dad. What will she say about the new lift recliner that takes up half the TV room? What will happen when she can’t hear my dad fall on the opposite side of the house? This isn’t the hospital.
We have to buck up and not bother them: if you have a complaint, please submit it at the door and it will be addressed in time. Please, only good thoughts and kind words. But all good thoughts have been replaced by sad ones: What about the bathroom? I wonder. What about the tub? What about the back steps? What about outside?
I finally call my brother, who is cheery on the outside but worried like me. He also has a cat, like me. My brother is a contractor in charge of a lot; he's currently moving out of my parents' home into his own. I’m sure he never imagined he would be in charge of smoothing out this particular rough spot. He stops what he’s doing when I call.
“I think they’ll be fine,” he says, strongly.
“Should I spend the summer there?” I say, nervously.
We cave at the mention of cats, our cats—his one and my two. These are the family members we’ve managed to gather on our own. We know our mom doesn’t like cats…preferring human beings, somehow, to creatures who might steal food off the counter.
Spending the summer with my parents would mean leaving my cats behind, or—if I took them with me--subjecting them to a type of discipline they’re not used to. Thoughts of sucky summer camp invade my fragile mind. All I want to talk about is something familiar.
“Sara was totally interested in this huge mosquito-type thing through the screen this morning,” I say.
“Eddie will enjoy the lilacs outside my bedroom window,” my brother replies. “I’ll put a cat tree there for him.”
I am not new to sadness, but tears for sadness or love gone wrong are reserved for silence. They are the silent tears you read about being poured into a pillow.
My mind rings with the construction noises coming from next door, a new house for my neighbors and their kids being built and built and built. I shout on the phone to one of my sisters, “Is Mom and Dad’s house gonna be handicapped or what?” The new house coming up next door conflicts with the reality of what’s waiting for me, two thousand miles away.
I get online and order my ticket to go there, but I order a ticket to San Miguel too. I didn’t do everything up to this point in my life for nothing.