What Dies With Him
by Chris de Serres
The doctor was talking, but I was having trouble understanding the words. Was it his broken English or maybe I didn’t want to absorb the information? I’m not sure. I heard Kidney. Functioning at 10%. Palliative options. Dialysis. Liver transplant. Maybe liver and kidney transplant. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow.
I looked over at mom. Judging by her demeanor he could’ve just been finishing up a physical exam and was on his way home.
He looked like he was dying. He is dying. There was this huge bulbous belly, filled with fluid. It almost seemed like a prosthetic the way it didn’t seem to fit with his body. The belly filled the bed and he was hiding behind it. Scared.
No child should ever have to see a scared father. No adult child either.
Mom shifted her gaze nervously out the window. She checked her phone when I brought up moving into a retirement community. She talked over me as I tried to start the difficult conversation. When you are losing your husband and best friend you don’t want to talk about the long term. Yet, I still judged her and find myself so easily irked by these walls she puts up.
He began to begin his sentences with, “when I die…” When I die, i’m worried what will happen to your mother. When I die, I want things to be taken care of. When I…
When I couldn’t bear anymore I left for the day. We went to a social dinner. We can be very good at forgetting death because we have to. We laughed. We ate chips and hummus. Then some pad thai. It was almost as if that was just a bad dream.
I started thinking about Maus. The graphic novel about the Holocaust. It started out as a son interviewing his father about his past. His struggles in Auschwitz.
Should I begin interviewing my dad? Should I say all the things i’ve been wanting to say since forever? Should I get angry at him for abusing me as a child? For not spending enough time with me? For not giving me the relationship with him I always deserved? Untainted by abuse and a lifetime of awkward disconnect and anger that came after.
I can’t get those things back. I never had those things. I can’t let go of those things. They are all just hopes and projections of what I always wish I had with him. There is only now and life is a diminishing moment.