My uncle calls my father’s name. “Can he hear me?” my uncle asks me.
“Maybe,” I say. “Doctor says it’s one of the last things to go.” Die, Dad, please don’t die.
My uncle wants to make it to 90. When he’s almost there, he falls walking around my cousin’s car and wedges between the curb and bumper. Splinters his hip. Inoperable. He lies steeped in morphine till a hospital infection flicks him away.
“I think I won’t be long behind you,” my aunt says to my father. She’s right. I’m in her hospital room. My uncle hasn’t fallen yet. He lifts her head, fluffs her pillow, and asks her if that’s better. I wonder if she can hear him.
I look at my father. Is there something I can do to make him more comfortable? Die, Dad, please don’t die.
I read something about time being an illusion — past, present, and future all existing at once. I think Picasso jumbled the fronts and backs of people as symbolic of showing the past and future at the same time. I might be wrong about that. I look down at my dad’s face and try to imagine the back of his head. Why am I thinking about such things at a time like this? Don’t die, Dad.
Dad says he’ll never forgive us if we put him in a home, says he’d rather be dead. Die, Dad.
My aunt and uncle leave and resume their death march.
A family friend approaches, leans down to my dad and says “It’s OK. You can let go. It’s your time.”
“Stop that.” I say.
She glances around the room then at me. “I thought that’s what we wanted.”
A doctor comes in and feels my dad’s feet, says “Soon.” It’s an imprecise measurement of time, but he leaves before we can ask any questions. My wife squeezes my hand. My mother sighs, with dread or relief she still can’t say 10 years later.
Past, present, and future — soap bubbles slipping around the drain.
Late in the evening my dad is still alive. Everyone goes home except me. I pull two chairs together and spend the night. Around dawn, my father calls out my uncle’s name and says to get ready for school. His last words. I take some comfort knowing my dad finds this time.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including Spelk, Hypnopomp, Pithead Chapel, and Moonpark Review. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.