Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Not Real, This Is Not Really Happening

The best idea I've had all week involved less thinking.

Tata: Darla, can I get you a glass of wine?

I have to guess for a minute: it's Wednesday? It's Wednesday. Dad relocated from the couch to a rented hospital bed in the living room, which is good because he's more comfortable. His liver is failing and it's terminal. I have no idea how long something like that takes to kill a person but he looks pretty damn good. I said so.

Tata: Dad, you look pretty damn good.
Dad: Don't believe it.

He's always been a good actor. Most of my family is here at Dad's and Darla's house. We are kind of climbing all over one another and anxious to help. This morning, Auntie InExcelsisDeo, who is taking this very hard, needed to get out of the house for a bit so she and I walked to the end of the driveway. It's about a mile and a half. We returned to find my sister Daria and her husband Tyler directing the assembled cousins, siblings and spouses in a hive-like effort to clean up Dad's half-finished oils and vinegars for the spring market season.

Tata: What are you doing?
Daria: Dad said, "Lazy people! Get off your saggy butts and go clean frozen shit out of the garage!"
Tata: Good thing freakish upper body strength is apparently genetic.

We dragged milk crates and boxes out of the garage and into the driveway, which is an absolutely great idea because the house is in the Shenandoah Valley. The backyard, if you can call it a backyard, is a cow path. A little while ago I was talking on the phone to a friend and made eye contact with a passing cow, which seldom happens in New Brunswick - I mean it, almost never. Last night, on our way up the lengthy driveway, nine, ten, maybe a dozen deer crossed our path, staring at us. They were not afraid. Darla said the deer live here because Dad doesn't shoot them, so it's personal. Up here, in this section of the valley near Staunton, Virginia, wildlife is right outside the door, munching on something. Fortunately, we've left it frost-damaged condiments.

Tonight, we sat with Dad in the living room, all of us: his wife, his second wife, three of this daughters, his sister, his two nieces, his son-in-law, his granddaughter, his grandson-in-law. My brother and his family will arrive Friday morning. Tonight, I sat on the end of his bed, with my hand on his leg. My baby sister Dara, all of fifteen, sat on the other side, touching his other leg. My other sister Daria was holding his hand. Daria directed the conversation for about an hour, and it was so funny we were all crying from laughter, even Dad. This is what he has always liked best about the family: we are a riot, an utter riot. In an unguarded moment, we were all telling on each other, which I had never imagined happening, not even with a special prosecutor.

Tata: We've all got GOODYEAR stamped on our asses from being thrown under the bus.

We agreed that one of our finest moments as a group was Miss Sasha's bridal shower, which Dad catered, and it really was. Dad could hardly breathe, he was laughing so hard. We all held our collective breath for a second, though he was smiling broadly.

Dad: Spaghettios!
Tata: What?

Everyone remembered at once. Dad and Daria are catering professionals. They'd built a banquet table of considerable Italian charm and elegance. Rustic touches lay everywhere, like artisan loaves of bread and decorative grasses. Because Dad is a prankster of the first order: a bain marie tray of Spaghettios.

Everyone: Spaghtettios!

A few minutes later, Darla closed the doors to the living room to let Dad sleep. Everyone's in the kitchen, laughing and crying. I don't have to see it to know. I know. And my heart aches.


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