If she could have gotten two seats on a flight I think Carynne might have gone with me. But as it was the best option had only one seat left. The plan was to fly me to Atlanta and then I got on a puddle jumper that had only like eight rows or something? And which bounced all around in the turbulence while sounding like something from a World War II movie. For all my flight to LA had been relatively stress free thanks to me being asleep for nearly all of it, this was the most nerve-wracking flight I’d ever taken and it was only like 50 minutes long. But of course the whole flight to Atlanta I’d also been just wondering if I was going to get there in time.
Let’s put it this way. A race against death is a lose-lose situation. But you still hope you’ll win.
Not to keep you in suspense. I made it. The plane didn’t crash and Claire was still alive, but in the hospital. I took an incredibly expensive cab ride to get there so Court wouldn’t have to leave her side. Could you imagine if she had come to pick me up and Claire had expired in the hour or two she was gone? No no, she stayed put and I shelled out a pile of cash. Over a hundred bucks, but it wasn’t like I cared about that. It wasn’t like I was thinking to myself, shit, years from now when you’re starving or trying to make a mortgage payment you’re going to wish you saved that money. No, that never came into my head.
I mean, the whole point of earning money is so you have it when you need it.
When I got there, Court was waiting for me. We sat down together in a triangle shaped waiting area that looked like it had been carved out of the leftover space not being used by the rest of the hospital. The TV in one corner was off and we were the only ones there.
“I think we just had a close call,” she said, looking tired and exasperated.
“Meaning what?” Cancer doesn’t fire and miss.
“Meaning we’re lucky she’s not only alive, she’s not in jail.”
“Maybe I’m exaggerating. But there was a cop and they had all kinds of questions and I didn’t know shit about anything.” She yawned.
“Um?” I still didn’t know what she was talking about.
Court finally realized I had no idea what any of that meant. “Oh, Jeezus. You still need to be brought up to speed, don’t you.”
“I’ve been on planes for the past ten hours or something. Has something changed? Is it a bowel obstruction again? What exactly is going on?”
She sighed. “No bowel obstruction that I know of. And I’m not sure what complications might crop up because of her condition. But.” She gave me an exasperated look. “She OD’d.”
“On pain meds?”
“Yep.” She shook her head like she still couldn’t believe it. “And the police are all interested because of course she wasn’t supposed to be able to get her hands on that much.”
“Okay, but would that be her fault or the care facility’s fault? I mean, if there’s something criminal going on it shouldn’t be that a terminal patient took too much medicine, right? Unless she stole the meds from someone.”
“I don’t know. They’re going to want to talk to you. But they weren’t going to hang around all night, either.” She yawned. “How was your lawyer meeting?”
The change of subject startled a laugh out of me. “Fine, I guess? Digger called me a sissy and a momma’s boy.”
“Lovely. I would expect no less.” She yawned again. “Now we get to decide who stays here and who goes back to the room to sleep.”
“Are we allowed to sleep here?”
“What do you mean?”
“The last time she was hospitalized, they let me sleep in her room. They do that when they think the patient might be terminal.” That sounded so much less dire than “when they think they might die.”
“I didn’t ask,” she said.
“Can we see her?”
“Yeah. I’ll show you.”
“Show me, and then you go get some sleep. Come back in the morning and we can switch.” I don’t know what time it was. After midnight, I think.
“All right. Come on.” My sister led me down the hall to a room. Inside, Claire was on an IV and she was asleep. Court gave her a kiss on the forehead and then left. I sat down at her bedside and took her hand in mine.
Claire gave me a weak squeeze. Her voice was weak, too. “When did you get here?”
“Just now. From LA. Digger sends his regards.”
That woke her up a little. “Oh, does he?”
“Not really. I saw him at his lawyer’s office in LA. Briefly. Before I got the call to rush over here.” I wasn’t saying it to guilt-trip her. I really wasn’t. “I was glad to get out there. But you gave us a scare.”
“Oh, pooh,” she said, and drifted back to sleep.
I sat there holding her hand and listening to the sounds of the hospital. Like every large building, you can hear it breathing. You can hear it hum.
A couple of minutes, or maybe it was an hour, later, she opened her eyes again and said, “I’ve been thinking.”
“About what, Mom?”
“I’ve been planning my funeral. Do you think…” She broke off suddenly, to catch a sob in her throat. “Do you think Remo will come?”
“I know he will.”
“Okay, good. I’ve been writing down a guest list.”
As if it were a wedding and not a funeral. “All right.”
“It’s back in my room.” At the care facility, she meant. “I’ve also picked out a couple of Bible readings.”
I had no idea how that worked. Was I supposed to give the list to the priest or something, like requesting songs from a deejay?
“Will Ziggy come, you think?”
“Unless he and I break up before then, I’m sure he will.”
She squeezed my hand harder. “You don’t think that’s going to happen, do you?” She sounded far more alarmed about that possibility than the fact she was going to die.
“No no’ we’re fine,” I assured her. “Just a bad joke on my part.”
“We’re getting along fine.” There was still some friction over some stuff, sure, and there was the whole looming fight over Japan that I was expecting, but generally speaking, I felt good about the relationship. And it felt good to feel good about it. Which I think meant that despite how much depression and anxiety I might have been experiencing over the lawsuits and Claire, my relationship with Ziggy was actually stronger than ever. Which was a very validating thing to realize. If a kind of weird time to realize it.
She had fallen back to sleep. I realized I should call Ziggy, but it could wait a little longer. She opened her eyes again a little while later and continued talking like she hadn’t drifted off in the middle. Maybe she wasn’t even aware of doing it.
“Daron?” She said my name like a question, like it was a question all unto itself. “Will you do something for me?”
The direct question was more startling than hearing my name. “What is it?”
“I want you to do something for me.” The way she said it the second time—do something—made me realize this was a more serious request than just getting her a drink of water, or even a Vicodin.
“Sure, of course,” I said, without knowing what I was agreeing to.
“For the funeral.”
“Besides invite everyone on your guest list and tell the priest what Bible verses you want?”
“Yes.” She looked right at me. Her head was deep in the pillow and her wispy patches of regrown hair were baby fine. “I want you to do a song.”
Oh. “What song, Mom?”
“Write me one.” Her eyes seemed very bright and wet in that dimly lit room.
I didn’t know what to say to that. I wasn’t about to try to explain a year’s worth of writers block or the state of my injury or anything. Not when I could hear the counter arguments — in her most disappointed voice — about how even if I couldn’t play, I could sing, and if I could play all over South America I could play for a couple of minutes in the middle of Tennessee. Instead, I said, somewhat shakily, “Um, what kind of song do you want?”
“Oh, you know,” she said, and then maybe drifted off again. Some time later she went on, “Something poignant.”
Poignant. I was thinking, What the hell does that word mean, anyway? But what I said was, “Okay.”
She fell into a deeper sleep after that, and I got into the empty cot in her room to try to catch some z’s myself. But I lay there for a long time just thinking, shit, write something poignant, yeah right…
Worst night’s sleep in my life.
(Hey folks! Did you realize that in 2 short months it will be the TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY of DGC posting online?? Ten years!! Shall we have an online chat to celebrate? What else do you guys want to do to celebrate? LMK! -ctan)