Saturday, September 3, 2011


The heat permeating, the inability to cool down, hair metal on the radio all weekend, no breeze to speak of and I end up spending the afternoon fleeing the heat and Getting Things Taken Care Of in strip malls and big box stores like a Real American because I need groceries and work clothes and art supplies. I've spent the night drinking tea and listening to 70's rock, swirling paint around to Skynyrd and Sabbath, relocating to the balcony because it finally feels good out here. I know it's the weekend of cookouts and revelry for the Peonage and their overlords, but I'm just not there right now.

We went to visit my great uncle this morning at the nursing home, and it's the first time I've seen him since he had a stroke a couple weeks ago. His words come slower, and he apologizes constantly for what he deems boring talk ("I just can't do the small talk anymore") but this is the best conversation I've ever had with him. Instead of sitting alone in his house listening to the radio where people keep talking about buying gold, he's found people there to talk to, a priest he likes (he's never liked organized religion because he thinks it's all about parting fools with their money, I understand this), a nice lady friend down the hall "Nothing romantic, we just talk about old times. I need an alliance now like I need a hole in my head..." He knows this will probably be where he spends his last days trying to learn how to walk again, how to speak the way he once did, but as strange as this is, it might be a good way to end, a place where there's people to talk to and take care of him so he won't die alone.

I hate nursing homes slightly less than funeral homes, but this place is beautiful and if I become unable to take care of myself I'd rather be there than a lot of places. Catholics do the nursing home thing well, that whole sanctity of life/having the funds to stay there I guess, and I'm relieved I no longer have to fear going to check on him at his house and hoping he's still alive because I don't know what I'd do otherwise.

The prayers I struggle most with are those involving the changing of souls, because it's just such an impossible thing for me to understand that divine calculus of how it all works, but between this time and the last time I saw him he's a different person or rather not different but alive in a way that he wasn't before even as he grows closer to shedding the mortal coil now after 90 years of life and disappointments, a childhood in poverty, the hell of the Pacific theater (which he still doesn't talk about), an unhappy marriage with a woman who couldn't see past her own issues("She wasn't all there, but I didn't treat her right. I supported her financially but not emotionally..."), a daughter in worse shape than he is, a house full of tchotchkes worth nothing, if this is the closest thing to heaven how tragic is that?

He used to always talk about money and a good job and being a decent person being the ultimate most important thing and for the first time in 92 years, he's finally started talking to God after being so bitter and so stubborn for so long. I've never heard him apologize for anything before. I've never heard him say that what you have doesn't matter. I've never seen him so peaceful, so ready to face a pending mortality, ready to let go of all the other things he clung to so desperately. I'm glad he can't see me crying because I just couldn't stop.


Randal Graves said...

Seems like the detritus of the unimportant (something that builds up in each of us, only to choke and distract) has been swept away.

Don't want to say better late than never because, besides being trite, it'd be wrong; maybe he found the beginnings of a clarity most never will.

Anonymous said...

lovely, sadly this generally speaking is not the way of getting older/dying, as a hospice nurse I used to work with said to family members expecting deathbed conversions (of character not faith-tradition)"people die like they lived", obviously some graceful exceptions but we must work on this every day I think.