And tonight I aged twenty years.
His last trip landed him skipping and tripping down the stairs and onto broken glass which he himself dropped mid flight. He bled for fifteen minutes on the kitchen floor before he could convince my poor frazzled mother to get out of bed and see that he really was hurt. In the hospital they actually had to ask my mother as to whether the severe wounds exposing my father’s kidneys to fresh air could possibly be the result of a domestic dispute. My mother, stabbing my father, HA. He could only be so fortunate to die by the hand of another after slowly killing himself with alcohol and pills for the entirety of my life. Funny.
Tonight a similar feat occurred. I stood in my Grandmother’s kitchen, having just helped make four old-fashioned cream pies, cleaning up a mountain of sticky sweet pans when the phone rang. My aunt wrenched herself from the dent she’s permanently dug out on the couch and caught it, probably more because it was disturbing her nightly ritual of watching old movies and being unproductive more than for any other reason. Now, considering the time, I was already a little concerned; no one calls the home of a senior citizen after ten o’clock unless something really tragic has occurred.
I can pretty much gather that she’s talking to my mother by the way she’s responding. Everything sounds alright. And then I see her mouth the most horrifying words anyone can ever witness from the third party position of a phone conversation. “Dead.” And everything just, stops. So quickly in fact, that my stomach reverses itself a little bit and I’m staring and silent and racing through every probable scenario of what he could have done to himself. I get that wonky vertigo feeling and sit down, I don’t want to listen. I don’t want to know anymore, don’t tell me, I’m going to bed, stop talking. And I’m vaguely aware of my Grandmother hugging my head to her middle and saying it doesn’t look good. How do people think of things to say? Where do all the words go when something inconceivable happens? I start to yell at my Aunt to put me on the phone with my mother. Who is she to be telling me this news? Why don’t I get to hear it, why is the fucking phone still in her hand and why can’t I talk to my mother? She finally hands it over and I’m listening to the stone cold expression of my mother’s voice. Wait, why isn’t she crying? Wait, why is she so calm? No matter how burdensome a human being my father is there is no way she could be handling his death this well.
“He was dead when I found him,” she says, “fallen on the floor and bleeding from his head. And no one was answering the phone and no one was around. So I finally broke down and gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation. He made this awful rattley noise, and then he was breathing again. I called 911 and they were here twenty minutes later.”
I’m suddenly aware of my surroundings again and I, am, livid. “Why would you let me think he was dead!?” The story, now righted, ends the way it always does. He was drunk. It seems a private practitioner diagnosed him with a severe allergy to wheat. Wheat is in beer, so this woman, of course having no idea that my father was a struggling alcoholic, told him the worst thing anyone could ever suggest. “No more beer, but liquor and wine are fine.” She might as well of given him a loaded gun and said, this is a really good idea. So he goes home, unstable as he is, a dozen prescriptions already coursing through his veins, and downs a quart or so of straight Smirnoff.
And somehow, he lives.
Filthy, unintelligible, inebriated, Charles Mcgill, a walking talking medical anomaly. Men of greater constitution have dropped stone dead from mixing lesser forms of medication with that fucking alcoholic vice of his. They’re both still at the emergency room. I’m out of things to say. I’m out of explanation and criticism and anger. I’m just so god damn tired.