When Henry picked me up at the station, he told me that Dad was on a respirator now and heavily sedated. He was being kept alive, but that was it.
At the hospital, the respirator made a big inhale-exhale sound, breathing for my father. I held his hand. But I couldn't tell if he was still in there.
Henry called friends and relatives, and they started coming.
Once everyone had left, I sat in the chair beside my father's bed again. I thought of Kafka's story "The Metamorphosis," and how Gregor's sister knew to feed him garbage once he'd become a cockroach.
I tried to explain to Henry that this was the transcendent act I wanted to do now.
He said, "Please don't feed Dad garbage."
"I don't know what Dad wants me to do," I said. "I just know I'm not doing it." Henry took my hand and held it.
My father died later that night.
I called Archie at home. He said all the right things, but I didn't really hear any of them. He asked when the funeral was, and I told him.
"Do you want me to come?" he said.
"No," I said, "I'm fine," as though answering the question he'd asked.
Sophie drove down. She stayed with me in my room, and scratched my back while I talked.
My mother's mother didn't come to our house until the funeral. She spoke to the caterers. She looked over the trays of meat and salads that would be served after the funeral when people would come back to the house. She clicked around the kitchen in her high heels and talked to my mother about who was coming and how many people and-- Remember Dolores Greenspan? She called. I thought that maybe my grandmother couldn't bring up my father. But then I realized that she was trying to help: make everything appear fine and sooner or later it would be. This was what she'd taught my mother.
My mother, Henry, and I got into the black limousine that had come to take us to the funeral. When a woman I didn't recognize walked up the driveway, Henry said, "Who's she?"
My mother said that she was a neighbor who'd offered to stay here during the funeral, when burglars might come, thinking the house would be empty. "Mrs. Caliphano," she said to me.
The woman waved, and my mother nodded.
"She seems like a nice lady," my brother said. "I hope they don't tie her up."
The night before Henry went back to Boston and I to New York, I told him that I hated to think that Dad was worrying about me when he died.
"He wasn't worried," Henry said.
"How do you know?"
"I was there when you called," Henry said. "After he hung up, I said that I'd be happy to kill Archie if he wanted me to. And Dad said, 'Thanks, but I think Jane can take care of herself.'"
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