Saturday, September 27, 2008
The Stain that Grief Leaves Behind
I am the ghost in the room, the barely-there fingerprint smudge left on the coffee table. A small full-moon stain left after a mug of cocoa departs the table and meets the lips. I leave little traces that I'm here, but largely I am somewhere else, holding a vision of my dad as he lays dying. Tonight, when the room is filled with wit and humor, half of me dissolves into the carpet fibers where I watch myself offer my dad morphine drops and wait for signs of his feet turning purple. And sometimes, even when I offer a funny story or a genuine smile, a part of me is with my father in the radiology waiting room as he gags down two bottles of his contrast shake, throwing up in between bottles. Or, I am draining his abdomen of lymph fluid and pouring two liters of the opaque white liquid down the toilet. As the conversation turns to politics, I sink through the blue over-stuffed chair and hear my voice ask, Dad, tell me how you really feel.
You don't want to hear it, he says.
Yes, yes I do, I say, You can say anything, you can tell me anything.
He says, I want all of this to be over. I take a deep breath.
I hear you, Dad, I say. That is the only thing to say. Message received.
I am the stain that grief leaves behind. Watch for signs of me around you--the tomato sauce splatter on the wall, the coffee droplets in the carpet, the arced scratch on the hardwood floors, the rust ring circling the sink's inner rim. Look carefully or you may miss me.