We’re standing in the Florida night outside the hospital where my father is dying so Christine can have a smoke. She pushes back her Farrah Fawcet hair with bright sculpted fingernails I imagine floating above the typewriter keys at her receptionist job. Both middle-aged now, she is reminiscing, laughingly, about the first time she met my father twenty years earlier when her big sister Mimi, now his wife, brought him home for dinner.
He was such a character, so funny, fit right in with the family, attributes apparently any daughter should be proud of. Christine had been especially taken with him, she tells me, because she was only fifteen at the time. I stare at her blankly. She keeps on talking.
If Christine was only fifteen at the time, I realize, I was only fifteen. I was only fifteen and waiting for my father to come home. Waiting for him, and he was with another family, a big, sprawling, messy family that parked their many cars on their lawn. What was another plate for dinner at that house? We never added another at ours. When would he come home? What shape he would be in, fumbling the front door handle? Who needed the embarrassment? And then the later years when you hoped he wouldn’t come home at all.
But we’re together now, Christine and I, waiting for death. The heartless rhythm of disco music pounds from a car leaving the parking garage. We stand with our separate memories, my father upstairs becoming only memory, while the flat humid air holds the cigarette smoke around us and doesn’t let it go.
Copyright, 2016, Linda S. Buckmaster