I sat with my father and two of his friends yesterday, in his room, while we listened to a mix of reggae and jazz and then even some disco. We enjoyed some Chinese dumplings from Flushing and Bayou Beast slices from Two Boot. And of course there was the Pepsi I brought for my dad, his favorite drink. Why the hell not? What the fuck power does Diabetes have over Cancer anyway? Stage 4 Cancer with an end date stamped and approved by your local Cancer-Doctor trumps Diabetes any day of the week!
Dad got up a few times to give away slices to his neighbor, an old bronze-browned man with white ash for hair who is never fully clothed. Dad remembered that the man had told him earlier that morning that he was hungry, so despite the fact that his arms tremble now from the pain, he picked up the pizza box and brought it to the man. A few minutes later, dad figured that maybe the man would need food for later, so he asked another friend of his, a recovering alcoholic dad had sponsored for years, to go to the store and pick up a sandwich and a cup of coffee for the man. After he counted the few crumpled up bills he had lying on the edge of his bed, he gave his friend the money and told him he should get something for himself as well. Once all of this was done, he put up his feet, biker boots and all, onto the bed and lay down.
Another friend of his, also a Sponsee, who had been looking at me on and off throughout the day, checking to see how okay or not okay I was in this fucked-up situation, said that as painful as dad was feeling, it didn’t stop him from running when he had to…
“Your dad and I are at the meeting the other night, sitting next to each other, when all of a sudden I see your dad jump up and fly about four seats over. Man, he flew and just left me there. I had no idea what happened until I felt something by my feet. Man, Sean, it was a rat. Your dad has a phobia when it comes to rats so when he saw it, he was gone, pain or no pain. Every man for himself for your dad when it comes to rats.”
Bobby smiled as he told the story and for a brief moment so did my dad. And once again, through the corner of his eyes, dad looked at me to see what I was feeling at that particular moment. Perhaps, he was asking himself if it was possible that I could laugh long enough to forget what is happening… Is it possible to forget that this is the Hospice period he is in now… Is it possible to forget what he told me an hour earlier.. about the the fact that they had offered him a Hospice apartment with its own kitchen and a bedroom… That if he wanted to, he could move to 96th and Second Avenue and have a city view to die for.. (his words, not mine)…. To forget that he said that it sounded nice, but that all his friends were here on the West Side and that they wouldn’t be there when the time came… Because, he did not want to die alone…
I did not forget anything, but I did have a moment of WHAT THE FUCK, ARE YOU KIDDING ME….
“I have a phobia of rats, too,” I said.
“Wow, isn’t that something, Fred? Sean has the same phobia as you,” Bobby said.
Dad looked at me, but this time without a smile, but more with questions in his eyes… Are you really scared of rats… Do you fear other things that I am scared of as well… what else did you inherit from me….. Are we similar…. Does that scare you… That you are like me… If I were you, I would be scared….. Really, aren’t you scared that you are anything like me… anything at all like me? Because if I had a father like me, I wouldn’t want anything passed down at all. Nothing at all.
When my dad first found out I liked Jazz, he was stuck on that for a while, the fact that I knew the names of songs and musicians that he figured my generation had long ago forgotten. He was also thrown off when he found out that I used to play soccer or that I wrote or that I even had the same kind of degree he had on his wall. You have a MFA in Creative Writing, my dad kept asking after I told him. When he learned that I rode a bike, he almost came out of character and had a full blown conversation with me without the music speaking for him.
“Wow, same phobia. Genetics is something, right, Fred,” Bobby said. “I bet you that you two have a lot more in common with each other than you know.”
Dad said nothing. He simply nodded and closed his eyes again.
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