We sat in the parking lot of the closed liquor store where we had been the day before. Phone service was good here I’d call my god parents back, see what the urgency was. We all knew that my dad was declining, but my stepmother sounded optimistic every time we spoke. Our daily texts were full of promising signs. I dialed the number without thinking, if someone had asked me to say the number it would have been impossible. Soon my god-sister was on the phone….. We were ordering tickets for that night. Alder and I would fly out after Thanksgiving dinner there were still ribs to make. Kevin, stuck working a double was hard to reach but eventually we found him, he wouldn’t come right away.
Six o’clock the next morning we were standing in my childhood home still not sure how we got there. Unable to rush any long we rested, napping after a long flight at midnight. I lay on my parent’s bed inhaling the scents of childhood- steam heat, clean sheets, and dead skin.
Once we were up and fed we joined my stepmom at the hospital. The city that indeterminate gray, both bright and dreary, passed by from the back of the cab. The construction from the Second Avenue Subway made it endless. The hospital warm and reassuring, all too familiar for me. Foreign and upsetting to Alder.
That day my dad recognized both of us, he recognized the Calder Print card we gave him, but mainly he slept. Hours we sat with him, stepping out to talk to various doctors. There was still a tiny string of hope….or was it relief.
As the sky darkened, the winter sun still hidden, Alder and I walked across Manhattan, running our hands along the wall of the Empire State Building. Alone in the apartment that night we stared out across the river. The phone rang continuously as we coordinated with our “kinship group”
A brilliant sun slashed the city at late autumn angles. I left Alder with family friends and returned to the hospital with a stack of short stories to read aloud. My earliest memories are of my father reading.
The day was too short, I sat holding his hand reading Paul Auster and AA Milne, between discussions with doctors and a few visitors. Eventually, it was just me and my two cousins, sitting with him talking food and life and politics. And that was it, without any violence, holding my hand he slipped into death.