All we can do is dig.
That’s what I thought to myself as I hung up the phone.
The conversation was light. Focused on the mundane – the length of my commute today, the number of phone calls I was on at work, what I ate for dinner, what they ate for dinner, what one can enjoy in a low sodium diet, how I want to invent a robot who folds the laundry. When we exhausted those topics on the speakerphone, my dad broached another. Casually. And I followed.
What was he going to tell the girls? The four granddaughters. Four reasons why he has lived so many of these last few, long, terribly difficult years. How would he tell them?
I sat in the sight of light at the window, swaying back and forth as I listened to him think this through.
I suggested, softly, that maybe he should check with my brothers, see what they have been explaining all along to their daughters about my dad’s illness, decline, what we know is coming of his death. That it’s not all on him to explain. It’s maybe not on him at all.
No, it has to be me to tell them. The strength of his voice picks up, while he takes us down different cul-de-sacs of thoughts. His frustrated that I’m not understanding him, or the depth of him, or the meaning behind what he is working through.
What will they think of me? How can I put into words all that they mean to me? That I will be there with them. They can always talk to me, visit with me, ask me for help and comfort. That they won’t forget me.
They will, Dad, they will.
I try to provide comfort from 3000 miles away.
And if you say it like that, they will listen. And maybe you can write it down too so that they have it, something to hold in their hands forever.
How can I even try and write what I just said? My words, I can’t do it, it’s so hard.
When my mom interjected, I’ve been asking you to write a letter for the last 9 years to your wife, your children, your grandchildren. He paused. Reminded. When she spoke, something opened that I didn’t know was shut.
I told him: If you feel tired, rest, Dad.
And then silence.
Conversations about death. I think of death like it’s the sun.
We know it’s there, we wake up to it, go to sleep by its absence. It’s a necessary part of life, one stop in the circle. If we look at it too long or too close, we lose our sight, ourselves. If we get too close we burn, disintegrate in the heat.
My mom disrupts the silence to say, I think we’re done with this conversation.
I ask, for clarification, are you done? Or is Dad done?
Dad is done.
I feel tired and need to rest too.
We all do.