Each morning I do my warm-ups: Coffee, reading, coffee, breakfast, and putting the birds out. By the time I get to the birds, I have a good contemplation going. This morning, like a song stuck, came "lookin' further in." It's another old one.
Know that silence is near and in turn be granted
romantic lucidity in time for catching up.
With your new perception, were better
all else fail you to see things you know
about Godly people, the joy you get, ready
to speak, is not their joy or sorrow.
written by my Grandfather, Alfonzo Remuni
The thing we cannot know: all time different.
Past waivers between that which is caused,
remembered as what has changed.
Who told you to anticipate the future,
waiting for something skipped over into?
Don't look back. The immediate stops for no one.
--Translation of old Italian maxim
Although my father, Daddy Rem, died when I was still in my teens, I was afforded attendance at his dying words: "It's about time I be lookin' further in."
I rarely said anything when I went to see my father in the hospital. After all, I hardly knew the guy. I really didn't even think of him as my dad. Yet, I was caught up in the idea that this was our last chance. No Regrets. But then again, maybe he intended to do all of the talking, affording me perspective. Perspective that comes from identity and not necessarily self-affirmation.
Daddy Rem says, "You know, the only way I feel I can fight this thing is to eat. My lungs are filling up with my own body while my body is eating me alive. Kind of complete, you know. But if I keep eating, maybe I can upset the balance ... gain some ground. And if that doesn't work, maybe I should quit eating.
"Me and my appetites.
"A woman I know suggested I try to quit smoking through hypnosis. I figured that's what smoking was, hypnotic, like driving a car down a long smooth deserted highway at 100 miles an hour. That and fortune telling: you get there eventually, so all you do in the meantime is wait."
He was in real pain that last week. The morphine wasn't touching him. Actually, I knew that it was in fact effective — to the degree that an observer can be objective about pain — because I had worked in a hospital where they used a lot of morphine and Demerol. It never stopped the patient from crying out in pain yet they did sleep most of the time, doped up. And eventually, if these folks were going to get better, they didn't remember much of anything from the time they were on the opiates. Something I also picked up working in a hospital was the ability to know three days in advance when a person was going to die. There wouldn't be a time when Daddy Rem would look blankly back on his hospitalization. He had less than twenty-four hours.
In sort of the same way and for the same reasons, I can't be too critical of Daddy Rem in those last days. I didn't know much at all about his life, except to leave Mom and I pretty high and dry from when I was a toddler until he died. Besides know he was a rambler, I sure wasn't going to be able to find out much now, once more being on his way out.
Closer still to the end, he did a lot of screaming. He had that delirious burst of energy that folks get right before they go, which, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, gives false hope to loved ones..
"JUMP UP SCREAMING AT THE WALL!
"Yes, jump up screaming at stuff on the walls.
"Your lipstick smudged bathroom mirror, the message
pretty clear but in the wrong room.
"Jump up screaming at the cosmos and HIT THAT WALL, because you're just what the drywall needs, sucked up like a grease stain the size of your nose.
"Jump up screaming at the mere mention we're all in this together.
"I tend to think about you a lot lately, kid. My memory of you is a Post-it taped to the air I breathe…that we all breathe, sooner or later.
"HEY, jump up screaming at the wall on fire, stretched out as far as the eye can see.
"As your grandfather said, 'There ain't nothin' worse for a body than anticipation.' Did us both in.
"Grandpa said, '... and I ain't gonna tell you why!'... just bound."
It was almost like he was prophesizing.
In Dad's last six hours on this earth, I slipped him a half-pint of whiskey. Horror-killer. If the morphine had him prophetic, the whiskey made him nostalgic.
"Farsighted folks just got to be oversexed. Can't see close; afraid of being alone,
so they compensate. Hyperopic. Hypersexed.
"I see a woman at a distance with eyes three times bigger than behind those binoculars, I think: 'easy mark.'
"Knew a woman in the Navy slept with the biggest guy on base. He was easy to find. And man, was she possessive. Wouldn't let the guy out of her limited sight. Not that he minded much. He had about the same prescription as she.
"I can remember him sneaking her into the barracks and keeping us awake all night with their goin's on.
"Open a window, will you, boy?
"Had my own chance at sex overdrive when I was in.
Easy; and easy was just what I needed at 19 years old and headed for the arena.
Used to go behind the barracks late at night with the rest of them young lovers. Bunch of us under blankets doing the dirty deed. It took the Night Watch half an hour to make their rounds and by that time we could be out of there.
"No long good-nights. Just the way I liked it, 'cept she was mighty loose.
"Did you open a window? God, I'm sweating.
"It was no secret to anyone that I was no good. Now, mind you, in the same way, I wouldn't say that I was always in the wrong. Just no good. “
(The Kid thinks of mortality as authority to rebel against. The Kid thinks about older relatives he could kill with a sentence he avoids. He says, “Pity the angry, whose eyes never roll back in their head after something pops for good, them just sitting there at the dinner table, not moving, staring straight ahead like it was you getting killed.”)
My father says, "Kid, the only place for anger is on the road, where nobody's at fault. Just you and the varmints you run down. Redemption is easy for the easily preyed-upon and now I see that I've been doing it to myself.
"Got that window open? It's about time I be lookin' further in."