On Saturday, when my mom shook me awake, I didn’t have time to think, it was fight or flight, and I flew down the stairs before she finished saying that he had fallen. I don’t remember which stairs I skipped with my too long legs, or which ones groaned underneath my too big feet.
As I settled back into bed that night, I thought about running to him and it seemed distant, I couldn’t remember the distance; I couldn’t remember the turns I took, a feeling I feel sometimes in the middle of a drive, wondering how I got to where I am, I feel like that often in this time of my life – how did I get here?
I sit in an emergency room and wait for him to come back from x-rays. A nurse comes in and starts asking me questions about him and medications, I surprise myself with all the right answers, neither of my brothers could do that. I tell her that he has ALS, I tell her that he doesn’t take anything by mouth, not food, not pills, not water, and that he is not articulate when he talks; she stares at me and tells me how difficult the disease is and tells me that it’s not fair. A year ago, I would have cried and been consoled by her hug, but I don’t cry and she doesn’t have to offer a hug.
I agree that it is not fair, that life is not fair, because yesterday I was at a county fair and I ate fried Oreos and kissed my boyfriend and drank a beer in a tent and made him take my picture on a ferris wheel and today I wonder if it is the last time I will bring my dad to a hospital, but know that even if today is not that day, that someday, that day will come, and I will have to be strong enough to tell him a joke and make him laugh and that this nurse who tells me the diagnosis is difficult is not enough to make me cry, that that is what makes me cry.
Today, we settle in at home. He seems tired. Mom is over tired and I see her on the front porch, I look out the window pane on the front door and know that she is in pain just like me, and I’m just in time to see her stumble up the stairs and mouth “fuck.” I see her quickly put out a cigarette, she quit over a decade ago. I open the door to tell her she’s been found out. I sit on her lap in the sunshine and she asks me if there will ever be anything to be happy about ever again, I tell her, “of course,” and kiss her forehead. The August sun sets as we sit on the porch and share a silent shed tear.
I think about driving to the hospital yesterday. The sun shone like this on the drive. The windows were down and I caught my own gaze in the side mirror, my hair was down and blowing in the wind and I looked summery and young, today I don’t look summery or young. Now, I think about how much I appreciated driving by the diner I drive by every single day. I remember the moment when my eyes drifted from the diner to him. His eyes drifted too. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe because I wondered if he was wondering if it would be the last time he’d ever drive by that diner, tears flooded into my eyes and I tried to blink them away, but I saw one fall as I looked in the side mirror.