Those were the last words I said to my father-in-law. He was surrounded by concerned daughters hoping to find the optimum pillow configuration for his knees — so much attention — so I just kind of called it in from the hallway. His eyes moved to acknowledge me.
That was yesterday, and I did not see him today, and I won’t ever again.
I believed it when I said it. Mostly. He was going downhill fast, but I had created a moment in my head, just for us, tomorrow, without four daughters pestering us, when we could just sip beers for a bit. Not talking. I’m not a talker in times like that, I have learned.
I imagined a time of peace, for him, for me. Saturday night the sons-in-law had gathered around the bed and Rick just wanted a beer. I failed that night, though maybe Rick did too: He could have had all the beer he wanted if he only leaned on someone. That night I could have, should have, said, “it’s going to hurt like a motherfucker but I can prop you up and you can lean back against me and have your beer.” Rick didn’t want to be propped up. He didn’t want to lean on anyone. But I think right then I could have talked him into it, and I think he would have been glad I did.
A pretty little alternate history.
After that night a new bed was installed in the house, one that could allow him to sit up, and one of his final memories is being carried from his bed to another room, and I know he hated every moment of it. But no one wanted him on that magical bed more than I did. Lacking the cloud of daughters, I would have hoisted him up and carried him myself. I was a tiny incorrect minority, who thought his life might yet go on awhile and this action might make him more comfortable for the duration. People linger beyond expectations, sometimes, when they want to. Sometimes even when they don’t.
And I thought that maybe, in a quiet moment, one without words, I could snap open a cold Budweiser for Rick, ease it into his hands, then open one for myself, and say goodbye the way I know how. But that is not what happened, so I will simply say again,
See you tomorrow, Rick.