My sons’ father is dying. We are discussing hospice care, picking a gravesite. We want him to rest by his parents and his two brothers. I say sons’ father because I cannot, in this context stand to use the term “ex.” I am struggling with him being ex anything, being gone, over and done. So soon.
I reach back for the sweetness and the fun. Drinking hard at the Korean restaurant after long hours on deadline at Rolling Stone. We drank gingko sours or something. I think we hoped it might improve the memory. I don’t remember if that’s true or not. Once, one of us laughed so hard and long that he fell straight back on his chair to the floor. Another time, another one of us dangled by his bare hands from the 23rd floor terrace where we had many (obviously) raucous parties. He survived. Most of us did. But not all.
I remember a jetlagged morning in the tiny breakfast room at the Portobello Hotel in London. Everything was tiny there. But it was, at the time, U2’s favorite hotel. So, we went. Sometimes when they were there and sometimes not.
This morning was my first London morning. The light was soft and filtering in through the windows. The tea was copious, sweet and milky. We sipped and laughed and talked. The jet lag and all that caffeine providing an eerie timeless quality to the morning. It seemed as if we had all the time in the world.
I remember hugging and crying and saying goodbye and I’m sorry in our garage as he moved out. That was my choice. I don’t regret it. I do regret the pain and his loneliness.
It’s spring here and the tiny, lacy leave are greening the trees. Renewal, cycle, growth. Words I cling to right now. And I look for comfort and meaning in all of this. I recognize the terminal condition we are all in and it makes every detail sharp. Life is insanely beautiful. The magnolias bloom, bursting with their lush pink petals. The beauty all the more precious because I know the flowers will fall in a matter of days.
We got a puppy a few weeks ago. What a leap of faith! To fall in love with this floppy being, knowing that she will die on our watch and that when she does the house will be unbearably silent, that we will see her out of the corner of our eyes when we come into an empty room.
Atul Gowande in his book “Being Mortal” says: “how we seek to spend our time may depend on how much time we perceive ourselves to have.”
Oh yes. Tell me I have weeks to live and I would choose differently. How about you? What make us think we have any time to waste? Of course, we have to make a living, but can we clearly and intentionally also make a life? One that when it is near its end we can look back on with joy and thanksgiving.
My sons’ father does not have the capacity to look back fondly. He needs to be reminded who his boys are when they visit. He has forgotten my name.
I have always said I love you when I say goodbye, always hugged my dear ones. Just in case it is for the last time.
The last conversation we had was more than a year ago on my birthday. He called (as he always did) to wish me happy birthday. As he hung up he said, “I love you.”
My we live long. May we live well. May we love one another fiercely.