Labor Day sunshine? Ray-gun-in-the-face light. I drove South to my dad’s with the minivan’s windshield blasted by holiday sun and ratcheting temperatures. Even the beaches were infernos. Near Garden Grove, a little black car zipped onto the 405 Freeway, over a couple of lanes and into mine. I hit the brakes. My palm pounded the horn. I shouted the shout that immediately makes one hoarse, flashed my brights. The car’s driver held up a hand, waved feebly—baffling me—and sped into the carpool lane, hitting light speed.
My dad’s condo: sun-spackled, not dreary despite the stained carpeting he refused to have replaced, scorching (what condo by the beach needs A/C), governed by the oxygen machine’s pump. I joined my sisters, the three of us tending a felled giant who sometimes knew us from the hospital bed replacing his own, mostly not. “Hey, he needs more drugs,” my older sister told those she phoned as my dad fidgeted relentlessly and swatted at imaginary foes. “This is normal,” we were assured, and then told to up dosages.
The caregivers cried. The hospice’s priest we’d never met entered my dad’s room, nodded as he looked around (photos of us and our dad through the recent ages) and cried, quietly. The housecleaner showed up and she cried. A lot. So much crying, I remarked to my older sister. And we looked at each other, tearing up. And we looked away, at the patio, set with flowers for my dad to look at and hummingbird feeders doing their job and a birdbath my sister found at Gelson’s—a stunning luminous number with a glass bowl embedded in popsicle-orange koi.
My dad died. We thanked the caregivers, gave one of them a batch of teaspoons. She asked for spoons. The spoons comforted her. Apparently she’d had meaningful conversations with my dad over the last six weeks. Apparently he’d had meaningful conversations with all of his caregivers, and we were glad. We gave many things to the Goodwill, drove them over. We sorted and divided and divvied kindly. We are, apparently, made that way, my three sisters and I.
Confession: I did not comfort the crying hospice priest, although that was my first impulse.
To each her/his own grief.
And the grief is relevant.