Months To Years Winter 2019 Months To Years Winter 2019 - Page 14

Before my father’s passing, like most kids, I 21-year-old nephew whose undiagnosed depression seldom thought about death, but when I did, ended him with a newly purchased pistol. my ideas came mostly from movies where things always seemed sad but beautiful, where everyone As an adolescent, I bore these losses with a was prepared for the inevitable. In East of Eden, sure faith in God, and later, as an adult, with a Raymond Massey lay on his deathbed and surer sense of what Camus called “the benign reconciled himself with his wayward son James indifference of the universe.” With faith and Dean. They were both redeemed. In Pride of the without it, I was never any more prepared for Yankees, Gary Cooper played a Lou Gehrig who death than when my father died. No one, I’ve bravely stared down death and called himself “the decided, is ever ready for the end. Death is always luckiest man on the face of the earth.” a surprise, a shock, a roaring thunderclap you can with what had happened to me. For my dad and day I felt lighter. me, a there was no scripted magined tall, scene when we both said rong man who just the right thing to ease uld arrive in the our pain. There was no morning. moment In my of transcendent understanding gination, he wore to replace the future we wouldn’t hite uniform, like have. I would never see his n old-fashioned pride in what I became, erly. He’d and I come would never bring him his grandchildren. I in, assess the angry for a long time. uation, was and act. “ But as decades passed, anticipate but never be ready for. That year, 1959, I was 14, and because she love me and wanted to protect me, my mother followed the doctor’s instructions to keep the truth a secret, especially from my father and me. “ These portrayals didn’t fit “ there were other deaths: my mother who “ Maybe the doctor was right. Cultivating denial may be best when facing the worst. But I try to avoid it. What I experience now is more like denial’s opposite, a sense that death always hangs nearby. It is a presence I ponder every day. When I say good-bye to my wife each morning, when I see my daughter off at the airport, when my son leaves on a transcontinental cycling adventure, in the back of my mind a stubborn spider clings to a dark web. succumbed at 53 to an aneurysm that finished Something may intervene before we meet again. her in two hours, my mother- and father-in-law Some catastrophe or contagion may wipe them who both died in ICUs after years of decline and from my life. But I would never banish this grim weeks of suffering, my aunt who floated for years imagining. It is vital to my appreciation of life in a demented fog and died in her sleep, and my itself. ’s not just the Lynda and I began se of breathing our housing search at bothers me. a year before the My chest burns. fatal diagnosis. y lungs, I guess. When she entered cause I am out treatment, we Paul C. Dalmas is a freelance writer who has made his living as a boilermaker’s helper, a fry cook, and a hape. Or because continued looking, high school English teacher. His work has been broadcast on KQED-FM and published in Newsweek, The the cancer is she in was San Francisco Chronicle and California believing Magazine. He lives Berkeley, California. progressing? going to get better, 14 purchasing this home “