Wednesday, May 13, 2020
The Goodbye (Frucht)
I’m a little embarrassed to say that ever since I had cancer my fondest fantasy has been of me on my death bed with my sons sitting near me, holding my hand, maybe reading to me, straightening my pillows, the two of them weeping every so often but gently and never with drama, just enough to show they’ll miss me and that they know I’ll miss them too, even when I am dead. The bed in this fantasy is my bed in my house to which I’ve been sent home to die in peace, where it seems I must be medicated, since though I’m not pain free, I’m not suffering either, not enough even to need to be brave. Instead I float in a swell of happy emotion, the soft ragged hem of some nightgown I don’t own drifting around me. I don’t know if I can’t muster the energy to speak or if I just don’t want to, since so far I’ve stayed quiet all of these years, responding with sighs when they stroke my arm and with a smile that comes to me even as I sit here conjuring it. When they bring me cups of water, I tilt my head to drink it but mostly they talk, remembering things. My younger son, J, will be first at my bedside, because the older one makes himself harder to reach and often doesn’t text back until a day or five later. If he’s not here yet, he will be; their blue eyes fixed on mine and then on each other’s, a game of chess on the dresser just within reach and downstairs in the kitchen some meal on the stove that they’ll eat while I’m sleeping.
When J and his wife had their baby, my first grandchild, back in November, I found myself required to modify, in theory, this scene a little. They live in St. Louis, they both hold jobs; it might be reasonable for me to suppose, I supposed, that A, who has no child, might make it to Wisconsin more quickly than they. It’s not some vigil they’ll be flying toward; it’s not so dark as all that; there’s no clergy in the background and if there’s someone from hospice, she never butts in. We’ll all three be together, and I’ve had a good life and they were the smartest, coolest, proudest, funnest and most astonishing parts of it, their fingers interlaced with mine. There was no reason on earth, I have for years believed, for this fantasy not coming true someday.
I don’t believe it, anymore.
Abby Frucht is the author of eight books of fiction and numerous essays. Her new book of poetry, Maids, explores her reckonings and recollections about the women who cleaned house for her parents when she was a girl on Long Island in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Posted by susan grimm at 8:07 AM