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2022-12-20 - 11:04 p.m.

Strange to be back here. I guess it’s stranger for mom to still be living here, though. It’s not like she owns the place, and she’s been looking for somewhere else for so long, since before dad died.

When I carry our bags up the narrow staircase to the second floor I don’t see the stairs, the hallway, the tiny plant in the spherical bowl resting on a small ledge. I see my dad’s sunken eyes, his fear. I’m not walking up anymore, I’m stepping backwards, down the stairs while keeping him steady, Dan has his arms wrapped around dad’s waist from behind, keeping him from collapsing. I’m counting the steps down out loud, coaching him. There’s a chair waiting at the bottom of the stairs that we’re going to take a rest on once we get there, along with a bucket that he’ll dry heave into in between saying “I can’t do this,” because he knows we still have to get him to the car.

I push his hair back, matted and dirty but still thick even after the chemo, still coaching him while staring into his eyes. “Nice job, Marathon Man, you’re halfway,” I tell him. We fireman carry him the rest of the way to the car.

On the way to the hospital he asks the date, and over the next few hours in the emergency room he keeps asking what time it is. He’ll die a few hours after they discharge him, in the hospice facility, after saying “Good night, I love you,” to my mom in the cot next to his bed.

When I sit down on the couch to work here, now, I’m not sitting beside Erin. I’m sitting next to him again while he naps. I don’t tell her she’s sitting in his spot, mostly because I think that would freak her out but also because I want to divorce myself from these memories in the way my mom must be trying to. She still sleeps in the bed he spent his last month in, watches Jeopardy alone, cooks for one. Passes by photos of him as she floats through each room.

She’s happy to have us here. I’m happy to be here. Trying to not think about the rest.

earlier - later