I was never the good son. We need to start with that.
Any good I’ve ever done for you was borne from a healthy dose of Celtic guilt. I was closer to Cora than you. She ran that whole grandma, cookie baking, and hugs thing so well. You and me, we never connected like that. That’s just the way we rolled. Not a good or a bad thing, it has just always been this way.
I’m sorry for the bad years. I’ve been told, even years after those days have faded, I was a scary motherfucker—jacked up on coke and reds and vodka and acid. I’m sorry you saw any of that.
The night Luis brought me to your house, I was beat-up bad, broken bones and a lot of blood. Luis was screaming, half in English, half Spanish, that you couldn’t call the cops. I know that scared you. You covered for me and Luis. I should have never let you see any of that.
One of the few times I ever saw you cry was when you told me Luis was dead. I felt close to you that night. Like when we used to sit by the Christmas tree and drink Canadian whisky.
You loved Hector Luis like you loved me, from a safe distance. That was good. That allowed me to skip some of the uglier details. I always hoped what you imagined wasn’t as bad as the reality.
So now you are dying, that’s what they tell me.
No one comes right out and says it, but they say things like, “The numbers don’t look good.”
We are all dying from the moment of birth, right? Maybe this isn’t news…
I should have listened to Cora. She always wanted me to pray. That woman was always praying for someone or something. I think I never learned because I figured Cora prayed enough for every-fucking-body. Or the truth, I never drank the Kool Aide.
Even if I knew how to pray, even if I had the desire to pray, what do I pray for? Another year watching you be perplexed by yogurt and all those buttons on the TV remote. Another year of the indignity of pissing in a diaper.
You tell me you are tired and you want to die. I have no words to change your mind. There is no upsell here. You are chained to a life of existence. The high point of the week is Saturday; you get ice cream.
You try to tell me a story and I’m lost in a salad of mumbled and confused words. Lost in your confounded thoughts I recall the of the day I killed my dog, George. I knew it was time. I was holding him, crying, as he died and for a second I panicked, and I wanted to bring him back. There ain’t no coming back…
There is a finality, now, to all these conversations. They all lead to a wall. A hard stop. Are you down to a handful of tomorrows? These long talks with doctors and nurses make me realize my time to settle up our diffences, lay the cards on the table, is short.
You left it to me to make these final decisions. For fuck’s sake, Ma, who in their right mind leaves shit like this to me.
They tell me they can keep you comfortable as you die. I guess that’s the next step after palliative care; morphine under the tongue. I think about George a lot these days. I killed George because it was time. But you get morphine to lessen the pain until your heart or your kidneys fail. Maybe both.
They are preparing me for the worst. But I lie to you and talk about next weeks ice cream as I pour you another plastic cup of Canadian whisky. No glass, only plastic. A glass might break, you could hurt yourself.
You stumble for simple words now. I wish I could tell you, and you’d understand, that any good I’ve ever done in this life was an illusion, an accident. I never was, I’ll never be, the good son.