I was thinking back to when you used to throw things into the fireplace. Any old thing really. Cigarette packs. Fast food garbage. I’ll admit it got on my nerves. I mean I always worked hard on stoking the fire and making everything nice and you were so indiscriminate with what you put in there.
I never told you not to.
Days have passed and I’m still not over everything that’s happened. How could I be? It’s a moral dilemma really. A conundrum, an enigma. The sixty-four thousand dollar question. Could I have done more? It’s hard to know if things could have gone any differently.
I’m not being melodramatic.
At the time I took you as being nothing but inconsiderate.
Now I miss you and you’re gone for good. And I did it. Well kind of. See it all killed me too. Now most of the time I feel DEAD to the world. But of course, I’m still here to talk about it. And I sure the hell am a changed man. But I did take care of you the best that I could, as well as anyone could really. Unfortunately, that was never good enough for you and you made sure I knew it. It was fine in the beginning though, when taking care of you was easier. That was when you were still on good behavior. And I was too I’ll give you that.
It’s uncanny how much you can care about someone before you really get to know them, isn’t it?
Last week at the funeral, your mother was particularly curt. Your father was silent and removed from it all, although I never really knew him any other way. But your mother and I always had an understanding. I was the one who’d pick up the slack. I’d make sure you took your medication the way you were supposed to. I’d pick you up off the floor when you fell. I’d listen to your rantings and ravings about all the injustice in the world and get the emergency phone calls in the middle of the night too. It really was my role to do whatever you needed and wanted, my own dignity be damned! She and I both knew we didn’t have to like each other, and that was okay because we didn’t. We simply had an unspoken and what I now know was a sick and very misguided agreement. Being that she did all those things for you for so many years really anyone that could help ease her mind was a blessing.
Now here I am out in the cold.
And why should she be anything but curt? We proceeded behind the casket with all the crying and sniffling, with all those relatives who never called you, well you said they disowned you. I talked to no one. What could I say? Besides, I didn’t know them from Adam.
“I just want to thank you,” said your mother, who had caught up with me in the procession. “We couldn’t have done it without you these last few years.”
At a loss, I managed, “no problem.”
We continued silently, my eyes on the bishop with his torch at the lead and the deacons next to him swinging their incense and the pallbearers carrying the casket.
“It’s too crowded,” you said, as we clumsily managed to get your wheelchair inside the first set of double glass doors to a lobby full of people, with little elbow room to spare. “I told you that you should’ve called ahead. Now we’re gonna be stuck in here.”
“Well it’s Saturday night, what do you expect?” I smiled and tried to sound reassuring and calm, like I always did. I was determined to have myself a good time tonight. It’d been a hell of a week at work and a nice long and leisurely dinner was just what the doctor ordered. “Hold on while I get our name on the list.
You looked up at me appealingly, but there was a warning behind your eyes. “Well hurry up, you can’t just leave me here stranded.” People were staring, but not because you were in a wheelchair, people see that every day you know. They were staring because of your tone and your demeanor. The trip down the elevator from your apartment and through the parking lot and into the van then on over here told me I was in for a long night anyhow.
We’d been through this countless times.
I made my way inside to the hostess who said there was a forty-five minute wait and took my name and we could “sit at the bar” if we like. Being that was impractical I thanked her courteously and rejoined you in the lobby. You looked at me anxiously, awaiting the report.
“They said forty-five minutes, we’re on the list.”
“Forty-five minutes? What the hell are we supposed to do now?”
“What do mean? We wait. There’s nothing wrong with waiting you know. Look around, people are waiting. It’s what people do. I’ll tell ya what- I can’t WAIT to sink my teeth into a big old steak!”
“We can go somewhere else, can’t we?”
“Sure we can. Do you want to?
“I don’t know, where could we go?” You rubbed your palms together and your eyes darted around the lobby at the faces of the other waiting people, the wheels turning in your head.
“We can go anywhere you want, or we can wait.”
The funeral procession arrived at the gravesite and the priest got into what most likely would be his overly long prayer ritual. My eyes surveyed the small crowd of family and friends of family, all strangers to me and no doubt to you, most with what looked like expressions of obligation or what at least could only be called curiosity on their faces. I took my position slightly back from the crowd.
I didn’t belong here.
Remember how you used to tell me if it wasn’t for me, you would never talk to another living soul? How you would never leave the house? Do you remember the living hell it was most every time we did?
I would always tell you that I would never feel sorry for you, that I believed in you as a person and you were bright and had potential. I told you that for so many years. But now I realize it all fell on deaf ears and was just wasted breath. As a matter of fact, I told you so much that now that you’re gone I have to ask myself if I’m any better for knowing you at all.
Right now I can’t say that I am.