Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The room was thick with a type of sickness, a quiet horrible cackling bouncing off of every picture frame, bedpost, potted plant, and body in the room. My aunt looked at me helpless, he in fear.

My uncle, who was on his back in the bed, had eyes like horror saucers. His face is in almost complete paralysis, and his eyes have adapted by portraying all of himself. I had never seen this fear welling in his eyes before, a possession of panic, and I was immediately packed with rocks in my stomach. He looked like bones and his pale blue shirt made his already pale skin seem almost transparent.

We fought it, there on that bed, and he survived Wednesday night.

"You're getting good at that", my uncle said about my using his stomach tube. This is a huge admiration coming from a man who's an electrician, plumber, mechanic, locksmith, and carpenter. He took my arm, thanked me and told me that he loved me, in his vaporous voice.

His eyes tell me that anyway.

My aunt asked me to feed the horses, and looked surprised at how excited I seemed at the notion. I've ridden a horse only once, and it was here on her property. I still remember it very well. She gave me the threadbare one because I was terrified. She hopped on her sprightly one, Coors in hand, bareback. Her hair was flowing!

I hopped the fence somewhat tense. I opened the barn, and was welcomed by every conceivable type of spider. I broke a switch off the tree and flailed it about until all the real and hypothetical spiders had gone somewhat somewhere else, and finally got the grain. I fed the horses. I hopped back over the fence and felt like I was in Black Beauty, or maybe the Horse Whisperer but sad in a different way other than horses.

I picked tomatoes from the garden. I scattered grass seed in the backyard. My aunt and I spread flower seeds together. By this time, the horses were silhouetted by the slumborous yet spirited sun set. "I haven't had time to plant these yet, it might be a little late." Zenia, Daisy, Poppy, and Columbine seeds.

The nights have been effortful. A sluggish sort of sleep accompanied with waking every other hour to some sort of complication. Dreams feeling just as real, if not more de facto than reality, as I walk slowly up the basement stairs to give every fibre of my heart and energy to this man. The days passing quickly. Every quarter hour was marked with a narration from the clock in way of chimes. Another fifteen minutes, another hour.

I sit near him.

On Thursday evening, my uncle's aptitude for swallowing was getting better. "This water tastes so good", and he said this with the most pure gladness I've seen in a long time. He was tinkering with all of his equipment because he isn't happy unless he is working with his hands.

Let's get some good rest tonight, I told him. You'll feel better tomorrow that way, I told him.

"Yeah, I'll be ready to go."

"What do you mean?", and he didn't answer.

His health declined rapidly that night. My aunt and I woke up several times to help him. He was becoming unresponsive.

The following afternoon, the nurse came and informed us that his body is shutting down.
It took a while for this to settle in with me, but after some time he didn't really seem the same at all. By this point, I think that he was slipping in and out of lucidity.

Family came. My mother finally arrived.

When my grandfather entered the room, I turned away instantly and heard him fall to the floor.

My cousin Steven and I drove to town. "My dad taught me how to drive this truck", he said. We were quiet after that. We stopped at the park and sat on the swings. I felt very small.

Family was around for most of the day, taking turns kneeling at his feet, saying what they needed to.

"You have my permission to go", my aunt told Rick. "Build us another house in heaven. We will meet you there." "It was our dream to drive the open road in that Camaro, Babe. I'm going to fix it up, just like you would. I'm going to drive that Camaro, and you will be right there with me. I'll drink a Coors for you, Babe."

Everyone left. Rick was trembling, and very warm. I cooled some towels and dabbed at him, tried my best to hydrate him, and sat with him for a long while. Night fell.
and I read to him.

"And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone's eyes."

Morning came. My mother, my cousin and I sat at his feet. I held onto his hand. His breathing was very tiny, but unlike Wednesday night, there was calm enveloping.

And at 9:00am, as my aunt walked into the room, as the clocked chimed, my Uncle Rick Steven Merenghi (Always with beer in hand, the youngest of five kids, working on his Camaro, and laughing with his wife), took his last breath and died. Just as the sun came bursting through the clouds.


I'm lying down on their bed, where he slept every night. It smells like him. The setting sun is glowing orange rays through the trees.

Nights In White Satin is playing in the living room. My aunt is dancing slowly, eyes closed tight, with a pillow pressed against her.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Things were going smoothly this evening, but Rick has been vomiting on and off now, and decided to sleep in the living room chair alone. I am going to sit with him in silent company until he falls asleep.

My aunt just asked if he wanted me to stay with him for a while, to which he responded "that's up to her" in his crackly voice. This is his way of saying "yes" these days. I am glad to be here.

"Mirror neurones are a layer of brain cells which act as a reflection, both of our own actions and moods, and of actions and moods which we observe. We actually think that this is the physical basis for empathy and emotional understanding -- this is the brain structure which allows us to understand what other people are feeling and thinking, by observing them. The strength of the response of mirror neurones in the average person, however, is moderated by emotional connection. If we are observing someone we actively dislike, the response is significantly weakened; the appropriate neurons fire, but not in as dense a pattern or for particularly long. If we are observing someone we care about, the reverse is true -- the mirror neurones fire more densely and for longer. In the cases where people report feeling "sympathy pains", there is some evidence that the firing of the mirror neurones is actually having a real effect on the neurotransmitters released in the brain."

My body aches brittle.

large as life an' twice as natural

I am watching my Uncle Rick as he rests in a chair next to me. He is bone thin, with a swollen face and tubes in many an orifice. He's lightly rocking back and forth in his chair, eyes closed, hands fidgeting, and seems crumpled and tiny. Three years ago he was buoyant and even as a kid I always thought he had a very youthful face, rosy cheeks and all. Always with beer in hand, the youngest of five kids, working on his Camaro, and laughing with his wife.

As I write this my Aunt Janice is switching on his breathing machine and the

huuumm huuumm huuum

is somehow calming, although I have grown to hate just about every type of medical equipment. The way it looks, staring back at you blankly as if to say

"I've seeeen this before, it doesn't bother meee".

It smells, it smells sweet and heavily of decay to the point of taste coating your mouth.

Yesterday morning I was reading Whitman on the green expanse of the family lawn, when I realized that I had locked myself out of the house. It was humid, thick and bright in that mid-western way and I was very thirsty. After deliberation, I resolved to pick a tomato from my aunt's garden, and pump water out of the hose. I realized that it was suddenly 1907 at that moment and this gave me an excitement, so I marched down the gravel road to the creek. I passed by grunting cows fattened with summer and eyes filled with flies. I passed the red barn, and the crunch of gravel under my soles gave me a satisfied feeling. I made friends with the shade of some large tree and ran my hands through the pebbles in the clear stream. The creek is quickly becoming a favorite spot of mine.

The 70's pop satellite station is constantly spewing out songs that Rick must have liked when he was in his 20's. 'I Love The Night Life' by Alicia Bridges is playing as thunder rolls above. It's just Rick and I in the living room. It's only 4:56pm, but the heavy clouds cast a dim light. I'm checking for the subtle and gentle rise and fall of his breathing as he sleeps deeply.


"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so."


He awoke and I turned on the lamp beside him.
"Let's get some light in here, it's dim and depressing"
He nodded.
I fed him Boost and Immunocal through his stomach tube, which is the most profitable feeling.
He's had 780 calories today, with 350 more this evening.
I asked him if the 70's were fun. He nodded, with what looked like a smile.

From moment to moment, and now it's pouring rain.