There is a first time turkey brining situation going on in our apartment. I’m totally equal parts captivated and nervous…
Once, ages ago, I took a bus from a tiny tropical spit of beach in the south of Portugal. Up the whole length of the country to Fatima. Just for the day. Laden then by an inexpertly stuffed backpack (I think it takes years to learn what you don’t really need to survive), I walked around this mystical site for hours and watched the religious pilgrims genuflect across a massive cobblestone courtyard up to the cathedral. Bought a pendant with the three shepherd children who saw the angel stamped on to it. Stood around a while and listened to someone else’s tour guide report that people crawl here from miles away, so in love with the idea of apparition and divine presence.
I’m not even Catholic. But there’s something about a holy site that grabs you, isn’t there? It’s the energy and the sacred stillness at Machu Picchu (you wonder if it knocked Hiram Bingham to his knees too or if he macheted his way right through it?) and the silent plumes of incense and frangipani offerings at a hilltop temple in Laos and the echo and ages of Notre Dame just before Christmas.
Down in southern Portugal, I’d stayed three or four days in a little town and took a boat across a bay to a beach every morning. It was the norm to go topless there, and so I did and felt both completely detached from America finally — as if I’d jerked my hand away while crossing the street — and also as though my high school math teacher might wander over a dune at any moment. I can’t even remember what it feels like to be this young but I think it involved sweet oranges and sangria and complete, benign self involvement.
I sun and wind burned my face the perfect ruddy brown that hurts just a bit and wore my hair twisted up under scarves and had dinner with an Indian man who annoyed me, just because it seemed like a cosmopolitan thing to do.
When I came home, he emailed me pictures of myself and I kept thinking of me on that beach, topless and uncontrolled and free. I didn’t like him, but I liked the picture and the pendant of the kids with the angel pressed right down into silver.
In the morning, I wake up before you, before anyone but the cat and I lie there in the darkest minutes of the day thinking: How am I so lucky as to have been allowed the journey here and also to be here. How do I get them both?
Eleven days ago, everything fell apart. Things do that. Fall apart. There’s a book with that title that Cait or John had to read in AP English. About much more momentous events I’m sure than just my parents having things fall apart.
They’ve reached the stage where they don’t want much. A new book by James Lee Burke. A cup of coffee so hot you can see the steam rising up out of it. Cigarettes and a dependable lighter. Updates on the grandkids. A Chinese entrée special at HyVee. Antiques Roadshow for my mom and a new season of Justified for my dad. Kansas basketball and K-State football. The Chiefs on Sunday with more wins than we’d had any right to expect.
My dad fell in April. Fell and chipped his hip although it took doctors a long time to figure that out. Dropped a book on his foot which opened up a tiny slit. Turns out we were worrying about the wrong thing. His hip instead of that tiny sore. Because that sore. That’s where the bacteria gets in. And diabetes doesn’t like for bacteria to get in…
Last week, when things fell apart, my mom’s nose started to bleed. And it never stopped. Three emergency room visits, one hospital stay, one minor surgery, enough packing in her nose to triage a war zone, and she’s home. Shaky and dizzy and not well. Last Friday, her doctor said, “People come in and say how much blood they lost from a bloody nose and I just smile because, really, it’s not that much. Except for you. You must have been bleeding to beat the band. You lost about twenty-five percent of your blood.” Turns out, when you’re old, twenty-five percent is a great deal. You don’t bounce back…
The young women who specialize in wound care, squeezed him in without an appointment when they saw the soggy mass of bloody bandages because they all like him. Women have always liked my dad. He’s nice to them. He makes stupid jokes. He knows their names and where they went to high school. As I sat there trying not to look at the wound on his foot which looks as if someone grabbed an ice cream scoop, a very sharp one, and scooped out half of his foot, other women specializing in wound care came in and patted my dad on his good foot, squeezed his hand, and say “Oh Lloyd. What have you done? I’m so sorry.” It’s so weird for someone so young to be calling my dad Lloyd. And for someone so young to be squeezing his foot so tightly causing him to wince in pain. I looked outside the second floor window at medians and ponds for our local hospital designed by Pete and invoiced by me so I didn’t have to look at my dad’s face. He wouldn’t want me to be watching.
I manage my dad’s Netflix Queue and I work hard at it. I want him to have good things to watch because that’s one of the things he likes. To watch good things. Now I look at the Release Date and think oh god is that enough time?
Russ Ann writes like someone pouring a bucket of rain water straight into your heart and lungs. Filling you up and killing you. This piece is beautiful and drowning itself with meaning and it is everything I am most afraid of. We are all most afraid of, maybe. Please Lord let it never be our parents’ time.
Thinking of you, friend, and hoping there is some way to bear this walk.