Just over a week ago, when he would normally slip into his favorite chair to enjoy a game and a Bloody Mary, the father of a girl I once knew passed away from cancer. Before Sunday, I had not seen Jenny, the girl I once knew, in over 25 years, but since her father was a long-standing Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (commonly known as a Eucharistic Minister) at our church, the priest said a few words in his honor after mass and her mother stood up to thank the parish for their prayers over the last nine months. She was there to support her mother and remember her father.
From the corner of my eye I could see The Mister quickly wipe away a few tears. I just sat there, steeling myself inch by inch so that by the time her mother finished speaking, I was a block of ice from heart to limbs. Sometimes, a lot of the times, I almost wish everyone I love would just die and get it over with. The pain of the anticipation of the pain will kill me long before anything happens to them.
I lay awake at night and worry about who might get sick or might get hurt. And then, because I am almost asleep and am perilously close to losing the ability to control my own thoughts, a flash: all of us in a horrible car crash; The Mister dying of a heart attack while we are sitting at the dinner table; a car barreling out of control while Mikey and Nico play in street. It’s always the same ending, even if the scenarios vary. The seat belts break apart in the crash; I can’t find the phone to call 911; I am too late to pull the boys out of the street.
As the endings play their familiar end, I shake my head, sometimes violently. If it’s an especially bad one, I’ll knock the heel of my hand against my head as if I can shake out the grit of my thoughts like an errant pebble in a shoe. Death is the control freak’s greatest nightmare because we have no way to predict or diminish our imminent agony.
I spent the weekend clearing out my parents’s storage unit. Piles and piles and piles of 70s and 80s memorabilia, most of it hilarious. At around box 7, I found pictures of me and my brothers when we were still kids. My parents, just ten years older than I am now, looked like children caring for infants. The outfits were priceless, and they had a good chuckle over them last night over dinner. Thankfully, the boys were able to recognize a few of me as a teenager because I can only take so much devastation in one weekend.
There were a few pictures of me in my prom dress. When my parents put their heads together to look at it more closely, I stared at them and tried my best to memorize every feature, every wrinkle, every hair on their heads. Then I steeled myself before the tears came on and gave a prayer of thanks that I have them both here with me.