Tore the Rug In That Downtown Dive

Yesterday, I awakened to find a grilled cheese sandwich next to my head and Dad’s wife Darla staring at me.

Darla: Y’awake?
Tata: I yam!
Darla: Ya weren’t!
Tata: I ya-wasn’t but now I have a cheese sandwich! Good morning!
Darla: Your sister made it. I applauded. Weren’t you up early this morning?
Tata: I was! Then I came up here to work and sat on the floor with the laptop. Then I reclined. Then I decided to work with my eyes closed. Then I had a delicious cheese sandwich.
Darla: Your plan comes to fruition.
Tata: And cheese.

The first time I awoke to a ringing phone. My reflexes, sharpened by days of leaping at anything with a ringer, drove me straight up and at the phone in Dad’s office before my eyes opened. At the other end was an old friend of Dad’s who’d just heard news of Dad’s imminent demise, and the nice man was very upset about it. He’d been traveling to a bonsai conference when Dad got sick. They share an interest in manicured miniature trees. Dad’s back porch has about a dozen of them. Anyway, even Dad’s good friends and acquaintances are still just getting the news, so the teary phone calls can be a bit much. Dad isn’t talking on the phone anymore. Darla looks stricken every time it happens. I take messages and let these people calm down, which is exactly what I did yesterday, at 9:01 A.M. So I got up twice yesterday. This morning, Dara went back to school.

If I haven’t made this clear to you recently, you should forgive me now and beat the Christmas rush: I am 44 years old. Daria is 16 months younger than me and Todd is two years younger than Daria. Dara is 15. She is Dad’s daughter from his marriage to Summer, who is two years older than I am. Dad is now married to Darla, who was born in England, to English people a year after Daria was born in New Brunswick, and who then moved to Canada. It’s a family tree resembling kudzu, but it works for us. For instance, at this very moment, Summer’s new husband’s stepfather is coming up the driveway to jump start Daddy’s van. So: good for us.

Tonight, Dad’s having trouble with pressure in his chest, which he differentiates from a heart attack through experience. Today’s big break came when the hospice nurse told Daddy to bust out his oldest scotch as a topical anesthetic for the throat pain and sleeplessness. If I remember right, Dad said, “That’s the closest I’ll get now to an 18-year-old.” My sisters and I are eating freezer spring rolls.

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