Yesterday my friend’s dad died of dementia and late at night she texted me a picture of the flowers I sent her in her foyer, her bare feet in the frame, and said I was the only one she knew who knew what this was like and I said yeah, it sucks. None of the stupid boxes people think get checked when someone dies get checked. Was it peaceful? No. Was it painless? No. Was there some kind word at the end? No. No closure, no nothing, just an ending. An ending of waiting for this person you love to maybe remember who you are again.
You will never escape these scars, I wanted to but did not tell her. Your family is fucked. You won’t forget who helped and who didn’t. Who looked away. Who handed you stupid useless platitudes and got mad when you had nothing good to say about how they were, how you were. How terrible things were, for years. And the people who escaped, who despite their terrible selfishness and pettiness continue on, unscathed, healthy, able to indulge in their every stupid whim while your good and loving person is dead after a decade of shitty life they never would’ve wanted to have looked like that—you don’t get over that, either.
But she knows me. So she knows all that. And she could describe how shitty his death was knowing I’m not gonna try and spin some silver lining bullshit out of it. Except that, selfishly, privately, I thought of this poem.
The Night After You Lose Your Job
BY DEBORA KUAN
You know sleep will dart beyond your grasp. Its edges
crude and merciless. You will clutch at straws,
wandering the cold, peopled rooms of
the Internet, desperate for any fix. A
vapor of faith. An amply paid gig, perhaps,
for simply having an earnest heart or
keeping alive the children you successfully
bore. Where, you’d like to know,
on your résumé do you get to insert
their names, or the diaper rash you lovingly cured
with coconut oil, or the white lies you mustered
about the older man in the cream-colored
truck that glorious spring day, who hung his head
out the window and shouted, “Coronavirus!”
while you were chalking unicorns
and seahorses in the drive? Where
do you get to say you clawed through
their night terrors, held them through their sweaty
grunting and writhing, half-certain a demon
had possessed them, and still appeared
lucid for a 9 a.m. meeting, washed, combed, and collared,
speaking the language of offices?
At last, what catches your eye is posted large-
font and purple: a local mother in search
of baby clothes for another mother
in need. Immediately your body is charged,
athletic with purpose, gathering diapers,
clothes, sleep sacks, packing them tightly in bags.
You tie the bags with a ribbon and set them
on the porch for tomorrow. Then you stand
at the door, chest still thumping wildly, as if
you have just won the lottery—
and so you did, didn’t you?
You arrived here, at this night, in one
piece, from a lifetime of luck
and error, with something necessary to give.