Cut the chicken into fine pieces. Strip the bone from the ribs. Pretend not to see him cringing. Smile at him when he turns up the music and looks to you for approval. All good, dad, your smile says. Pour some gravy on the mashed potatoes. Get him a glass of juice. Serve him his plate.
Joke with him by saying that you would have brought pepsi, because you know he is a pepsi-man, but the loyal coke-man that you are, wouldn’t allow you to commit such blasphemy. And when he laughs a little, hiding the pain in the twist of his lips, the turn of his eyes, and says, Ok then, so where is the coke, laugh back and tell him you stopped drinking coke months ago.
Show him pictures of your daughter. Tell him about the soccer city championships, the honor roll, the school choir, the cheerleading squad, the records in track and field and all the rest of it. Also, tell him she is driving her mom nuts. It’s the age, you know. Tell him that, about it being the age. Maybe it will make him smile without having to laugh. It looks like it is too painful for him to laugh.
Don’t tell him that no other girls in her school look like her, or if they do, they are few and far between. Don’t tell him that sometimes this worries you, the fact that no one else looks like her. Don’t tell him that though you know she will be okay, still it bothers you because you wish she could experience your childhood. Every kid should know what it’s like to see other kids that look and sound like you, especially in this country, even if it’s just for a brief moment in one’s childhood, because you believe that even a brief moment is better than no moment at all.
Don’t tell him that you have other worries too, almost all of them centered about whether or not you are getting this father thing right. Yes, for sure, don’t tell him that, because you are sure he wouldn’t understand. Worries like yours don’t come from not trying, but rather from trying and not knowing if your trying is going to work. For sure, he wouldn’t understand.
Tell him that mom sends her love, though she didn’t really send that. It was more of a general prayer and concern she sent, but definitely not her love. Tell him that your daughter plays the guitar he gave her almost every day, though she hardly plays it at all. It’s not that she doesn’t love it. She really does. Weird kid that she is, she actually appreciates every gift loved ones give her. It’s just that she’s a kid and her interests jump from one moment to the next. Shit, he wouldn’t understand that either.
Tell him that your job is going well, even though it’s going great. Not that you don’t want to share, it’s just that you don’t want to think about your job right now.
And if he were to ask you about your health, a thing he has never done, as in never, tell him that you are in great health, that your health is so great that you could run a marathon tomorrow if you want or maybe even climb Mount Everest if you had to. And don’t worry, he won’t know that you are lying. Remember, you never told him that you have this insane arthritic problem that is messing with almost every bone you got and that just last night, you almost passed out from the pain. I mean, what would he do with that knowledge. Maybe he could handle it, but something in you feels like it would make him really sad, and that somehow that sadness would make him sicker, and sicker than the kind of sick he is now would not be sickness anymore. It would be something else.
Offer him another glass of juice.
A little bit more chicken. Some cornbread. More gravy.
When he is finished eating and you have cleared away the plates, washed the dishes, cleaned up the table and taken out the garbage, lie to him and say you need something hard against your back and would he mind if you switch places with him. I will take the chair dad and you can sit on the bed. Tell him that with the most innocent look on your face. He will nod, unable to speak, because you can tell that the pain now makes it impossible for him to speak.
But before he goes to the bed, he will open a bottle of pills, spill out a handful, count unknown, and chase them down with another glass of juice. And you will flinch, because though you don’t have a medical degree, you know that one should have some idea of how many painkillers one is taking. You could tell him that taking so many pills could kill him, but he is in so much pain, that he would probably look you dead in the face and say, “If only I could be so lucky.”
Look out the window as he takes a minute to find the position that will allow his lungs to adjust to the tumurs pressing up against it, and, when his breathing has settled down a bit, look at him and ask him if he wants to hear some Grant Green, his favorite guitarist. You don’t even have to wait for the answer. If he could smile now, he would.
He will lay down with a pillow propped up under his stomach. His face will be in the covers. His boots will still be on his feet. His body will be slightly curled into a ball. His fingers will be gripping the bed frame.
Find the youtube channel. Adjust the screen. Turn up the volume.
And if you believe in praying, well then, why not try it, at least this one time, try it. I mean if you have to tell someone something, might as well try God. Why the hell not? It’s not like anyone else is listening.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this post. Please feel free to leave a comment.
ALSO, IF THESE WORDS MOVE YOU, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW AND LIKE MY JAMERICANWRITER FACEBOOK PAGE SO YOU CAN SEE FUTURE BLOG-POSTS: