O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?
Right here. It's stung me too many times this year to toss it off casually. Two family members (I think both were the last of their generation); too many feline friends.
Dad died last month. He was in his 90s, so it came as no great surprise except, apparently, to my inner child or summat, because I keep catching myself speaking or thinking of him all the time, in the present, or worse yet, as if he was actually present.
It's been almost exactly a month since I got the phone call. I had made reservations months ago to spend a couple of weeks around Thanksgiving with him. Let us give thanks for those parents we have left. Those relatives, of any degree of relativity. No, not really. I'm not terribly fond of my relatives. Although I was very fond of Dad.
I've been told I look like him. (A piece of flattery that would earn anyone a place in my good books, or on my Xmas list.) He was a handsome man. All I know is, I got his teeth (fragile), his feet (flat), and his tendency to tear up in old age. Also, thick eyebrows, early graying (he was 30 when he went completely silver, but the fates were kind and gave me an extra decade to get used to it), and a reading addiction I just can't shake. Thanks, Dad.
My father was a good man. One of the few I've ever met. His word was his bond. He never said anything he didn't mean (and because he was a gentle man, that meant he often said nothing at all, because he couldn't bear to be mean); he never told a lie. I miss him a great deal already. But he's been gone for several years now, fading a little each year. Losing his hearing, and then his sight, and finally even words. At first, at the beginning of his long decline, he would answer my questions with "I don't know. I don't know how to say. I've forgotten the words." In the end, he could not speak at all, although his brain could decipher that we were making patterns of sounds. He attempted to join in, but could only produce strange, disjointed noises, shouts, barks, mutters, all cadenced just like his normal speech.
Hard as it was to hear that he was gone, it wasn't intensely painful. After all, he was no longer mobile, nor continent, and the last stroke left him with a feeding tube. If he had understood what was happening, he would have hated every minute of it. So perhaps it's just as well that multiple small strokes took away his power of understanding.
But barely had I placed his bones in a funeral urn, crushing them with my hands, when came more bad news: Zingiber died suddenly, a week after my father.
O grave, here is thy victory. Stop taking my nearest and dearest away. Or at least slow your pace a little. Over the past decade, I've buried two sets of parents (natal and in-law); lost too many dearly-loved friends; and said goodbye to six cats and a dog, two charming chickens, and several bunnies. I'm done. I want a year or two without funerals and burials and mourning. Is that too much to ask? I'm feeling my own years, and I've spent thirty of the past X years worrying about, and taking care of (in my own incompetent fashion) my parents. They're gone, now, and I really have stopped caring. I don't want to give any more hostages to fortune. I'm ready for my own last trip to the banquet, goddammit. Ready to be worm food. Life sure is a lot bleaker without my dearly beloveds. Goodbye, Dad. I wish I could have talked to you more, but I really did spend every single day's worth of vacation over the last three decades with you. And Mum made every second of it a hell, so I'm sorry I didn't bite the bullet and sit through her needling, her vicious jibes, and her petty, pointed remarks and stay for the delight of your company. I couldn't do it, in the end. I just couldn't take any more. I'm sorry. I have always loved you, and I will always love you. And I always felt your love, Dad, surrounding me, making my life a better place. Making me all the good things I have ever been, or could be.
Goodbye, little Zingiber. I'll tell your story, my love. It will live in my heart always, just as you will, with my beloved father, and my sister, and all the others I loved who left me behind in their dance between matter and energy. Stumble It!