Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Waiting to Die, Part II

Catch up by reading Part I here.

“Oh, my. Oh my,” Coach Dunnigan repeats, “You need to go home,” pinching his eyebrows with concern and pain for me. He stands up from his desk and gives me a hug. My arms wrap around the top of his belly – barely – and he smashes my head into his chest. Black mascara leaks onto his yellow sweater. He pats my head with his massive rough hands, the kind that most guys aren’t blessed with unless they were raised on a farm or have worked hard or are just genetically blessed for women like myself who may or may not have a hand fetish to enjoy.

Nothing I can do will stop my dad from dying, nothing I can plead to God will keep him here . . . nothing. I feel small and unsure of what to do, and I don’t want to leave Dunny’s office. We take a few steps out of his office and he gives me another hug, and another once we are out in the hallway, and another before he sends me on my way back to my room.

Once back in the suite, I try so hard to pack a suitcase with a weeks’ worth of clothes, but I end up getting a small workout in: walking to the closet, turning around to open all three drawers in the dresser, walking out of my room to my desk and pulling out all of its drawers, just to return to my closet, never finding whatever it is I’m looking for. My brain? It’s like I don’t have one. My ability to plan ahead and handle multiple tasks is the one I put the most value on, and it’s failed me.

Some time later, back in the class that I got that first phone call from mom, my professor spilled his coffee and semi-frantically said, “Keep calm and carry on!” and skip-ran to the paper towel dispenser. That was my dad’s favorite quote, which was neatly printed on his favorite coffee cup. He would say that the British or English or whoever would say it during a war. Or something like that, during a time when it was definitely difficult to stay calm. But somehow, dad was always calm, no matter what was happening. Obviously not like me and my reactions in the course of the day. Finally, Grandpa calls me back and says that, no, Mom was not exaggerating and yes, dad has pneumonia. His request was that he not receive any kind of treatment.

“ Dunny told me to go home,” I say.

“Just hang tight for a bit,” he says gently, “Let me see what Grandma thinks and what your mom wants. I’ll talk to you in a bit, sweetheart.”

While I wait, I shuffle around the suite relocating clothes and shoes and shampoo but not actually getting anything packed.

Why? Why is this happening? Why now? Why me? The “poor me” syndrome is taking effect, and it’s burning every part of me. My life is a mess, my family is crumbling and old and ill. Why can’t I have a normal life, with normal parents who aren’t almost 30 years apart age-wise, who aren’t emotionally unstable, who aren’t dying so fast.

Grandma calls and says that dad is not well. She was a home health and hospice nurse for twenty or thirty years and watched people die daily. She was calloused to this stuff. But at the end of the phone call, she started crying. Shit was real. I was going home to wait until my dad died.


How Embarrassing. . .

An early morning sun shone through the tiny south-facing window, replacing the green and orange and red from the street light at the end of the block that flashed all blessed night. Icicles hung from the window pane and a thin frost had gently froze over the light brown grass. I sat up slowly, being careful not to move too quickly. My sinuses were threatening to explode, so I sat there with my mouth wide open sticky-dry and eyes swollen.

The bed had felt like sleeping on a linoleum floor with only a blanket for padding. I rolled from front to back to side to the other side for eight hours trying to find a way to breathe. And to add a cherry on top for a splendid night, Hobie had stolen my pillow. Come to think of it, he had taken all three: the mostly flat one, the lumpy one, and the wafer-flat one. So it really didn’t make a difference anyway.

Once upright, I swung my legs off the edge of the bed as my head pounded at its barriers. Hobie and I had been engaged for maybe a couple of months, so should I still be in that phase of worrying about how I look when I sleep? Well, I’m not. In Hobie’s giant gray P.T. shirt emblazoned with ARMY in reflective letters across the chest, no bra, a pair of red and black 2-XL basketball shorts, black cotton tube socks which weren’t close to being at even locations up my shins, and thick curly blonde hair going who knows where around my oval head, I looked as pretty as I felt.

I bent over to rest my head in my hands, palms on forehead, elbows on knees. These simple  movements caused a tumultion of creaks and moans within the bed, waking Hobie. He rolled over and rubbed my back, asking if I was okay. I grunted an affirmative, hoping to give the impression that in that moment, life sucked. I stood up, shuffled to the crammed and dirty bathroom, and peed. At least my bladder could feel less pressure.

Hobie was under the one blanket we had available for a room without heat, naked, when I return. He’s six foot two, two hundred forty pounds, and covered with about half an inch of hair. Everywhere. So even though there wasn’t a heater in the room, there was one in the bed. I pulled the cover back and crawled into the center of warmth. Hobie pulled me close and, thinking that I was simply in a bad mood, began to tickle me.

Nope, not happening. Crossing my legs and sitting up, I took all of the blanket with me. That made him curl up into a big furry ball. Since laughing hurt too much, I just smiled. Apparently that was some sort of cue for him to force out some built up gas. His aren’t just any typical fart though. No…no, they sound like a duck quacking into a porcelain bowl.

That did me in. I sent out silent roars and plugged up snorts, rolling around on the bed, out of the general area that his gaseous expulsion was blown into. Not that I could smell it. I rolled back into my cross-legged pose, still laughing like a little girl in a giggle-fit, when it was my turn. A tiny little “Pffttt” came out from between my legs. Heat rose in my cheeks and my eyes watered. I looked at Hobie, biting my bottom lip, hoping to God he hadn’t just heard that.

He was just staring at me with his eyebrows pinched trying to figure out where the noise came from. When he saw how red my face was, he knew what happened and started his own laughing fit. Still sitting, I wrapped the blanket tighter around me and ducked my head and told him to stop laughing, it wasn’t funny. Between his laughing and throat clearing he said my toot was cute.

CUTE?! A cute…toot. Right. Well, I suppose this is where I put in my two cents on love and soulmates. Women, if you can find a man who claims he finds your first fart in his presence to be “cute,” hang on to him. He’s a good one if he accepts you for your gross bodily functions as well as your beautiful face and body. Men, don’t embarass your lady if she accidentally lets one slip out. Yes, accidentally. We women are very good at covering up, hiding, and dispelling gas without you even knowing about it. But if it does happen, she will be very very embarrassed. Yes, insignificant things like a toot will blow our cover of carefully constructed likeablility more than pictures of a crazy night out. In the end, if you stay together long enough, it will become normal. Don’t believe me? Check out this site of other things that become normal in a long-term relationship: 23 Words That Mean Something Totally Different When You’re in a Long-term Relationship.