The Fog of War

by Chris de Serres

I got the text at 3:30am.  Dad is in the hospital again.  This time it’s dehydration.  Happy Thanksgiving.  I was already in a haze from the previous day.  I spent most of it listening and offering advice to Ophelia about a friend going through a horrible breakup.  Happy Thanksgiving.  The friend’s circumstances sounded horrible.  They were texting back and forth.  The entire day we lived this trauma as the friend continually updated us on the next depravity.  It just got worse and worse.

I sat back in a chair and watched my wife silently.  How she got worked up.  How outraged she was in the situation.  Her body was tense.  He speech flowed like a wave, from a gasp to loud angry tones.  I felt the tension in my own body rising.  I got up and began making potato salad for our Thanksgiving celebration.

Then a former friend who royally screwed my wife over sent her a friend request on Facebook.  So we reviewed the trauma of that past.  I began chopping the sweet pickles, nodding my head as Ophelia spoke.  My knife surged across the cutting board, chopping.

We soon went to bed, in a haze.

In the morning, we waited for updates from our mother.  Dad was receiving fluids.  We didn’t need to come up yet.  We agreed to defer the Thanksgiving feast for another day.

We drove to the ICU.  He was in a bed, wrapped tightly in his covers.  He looked so small.  The body of a child with a huge adult head.  He had ordered up some turkey from the cafeteria a couple of hours prior.  Happy Thanksgiving.  He was alert.  His left arm was a constellation of purple bruises, nearly covering up his sailor tattoo completely.

He was usually quiet but today was in a mood to talk.  We talked about his troubles with my mother.  She couldn’t see that his body is shutting down.  10% function of the kidneys and liver.  His weak heart makes him a bad candidate for a transplant.  She didn’t want to plan ahead and we couldn’t make her.

I asked him if he were healthy where would be the one place he would want to visit.  Arizona.  He wanted warm weather.  The Pacific Northwest was hard on his old bones.

We talked about my older brother.  How he never spent the holidays with the family.  Rarely visited.  He had adopted his wife’s family.  I saw pictures of him on Facebook, spending time with them.  Never missing a holiday.  Always missing it with us.  I remembered a conversation we had in a car, where he said our family never said “I love you”.  Never showed enough emotion.  Was not enough for him.  Unlike his wife’s family.  Happy Thanksgiving.

We drove home.  We sated ourselves on our consolation dinner of pizza and my potato salad.  Shortly before bedtime Ophelia made a halfhearted attempt.  She asked our daughter what she was thankful for.

My family.  My mommy and daddy.  Our house.

Then my wife got a text from horrible breakup friend.  Happy Thanksgiving.