Dad: Merry Christmas

JohnWaynePicture

My old man isn’t doing too well these days.
He’s still in the hospital – a stroke victim.
Truth be told, I’d like to switch places with him.
He should be at home, keeping Mom company
and giving her a reason to keep living.
I’ve seen this play out before. My grandma died
and Gramps went shortly after. For about one
thousand days, my grandfather was a zombie.
A living corpse. The spark in his eyes was gone.
He didn’t want to be without his partner.
Mom spends a lot of time at the hospital.
I try to concern myself with what people
will say about me using the phrase “a lot”
so I can avoid thinking about Dad’s state.
When I visit him, my empathy goes nuts.
All I can do is imagine how awful
he must feel and how lonely that room must be.
His body is pretty much a prison cell.
He’s weak and frail. He looks so much smaller now.
He always used to remind me of John Wayne.

Poor bastard bought a new boat four months ago
and he was so excited when he told me.
He always seemed most alive on the water.
It’s something he and Mom really liked to do.
I’ve never seen the two of them happier.
When I visited them in Pensacola
a decade ago I caught a baby shark.
Dad helped me reel it in and took a couple
pictures as I pulled it up to cut the line.
We didn’t take a picture together, though.
Why would we? We had all the time in the world.
How the gods detest humans who think like that.
They take the utmost glee in punishing us
for our impudence and arrogant notions.
It’s almost as if they’re mocking us, gloating,
“You’re dying. All of you. Ha ha.” … Yes, but when?
There’s little left in life to take pleasure in
knowing so many people I care about
will vanish from the face of the earth someday
and leave me lamenting things I should have done.

I realized today I’ll most likely never
spend another Christmas with my family.
The worst part is, the holidays were the one
time of year we acted like a family,
but last year I only called them instead of
stopping by to exchange gifts and pleasantries.
Once again, I thought I had plenty of time.
Some of my best memories with them are from
Christmas. In fact, one pops to mind straight away:
18 years ago, my parents dropped me off
at a cheap motel and wished me luck.
I was leaving for boot camp the next day and
wearing a Navy baseball cap I’d unwrapped
earlier that night. Dad shook my hand before
they drove away and said, “I’m proud of you, son,”
then he pulled me in for a bear hug. “Thanks Dad,”
I told him. It had started to snow, but I
was fairly certain I saw him shed a tear.
He married my mother when I was seven,
but that was the first time I ever called him…

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