One More Week
At night, when he couldn’t sleep, Vincent searched the Internet for painless and quick ways to die.
“I won’t end up like my father,” Vincent told his wife on a daily basis, more as an angry declaration than a concern.
But he couldn’t rely on her to be around when the time came. He had 20 years to catch up to his father, and his wife’s health was already fragile. If amyloid plaque stippled his brain before that—even if he noticed the slightest change to his speech or memory center—he would be ready.
He wondered why his dad didn’t simply give up and die. Vincent would, if he were in the same situation: diabetes, failing heart, deteriorating brain, day after day in this narrow nursing home bed, staring at old family photos. If Vincent were him, he would rip off his own nitroglycerin patch and speed up his demise. If that didn’t work quickly enough, he would find a friend or relative to give him benzos and booze. Fall asleep and let the nurses collect his Superman sheets, give them to someone who believed in superheroes.
This evening, his father was an inverted shadow atop his blanket: colorless and vague. He tried hard to see the man his dad used to be, so tall and muscular, a golfer’s tan and eyes as green as tiny seas. But there were the larynx and throat, rising from a deflated neck. The human framework that was nearly invisible for 80 years now rising like a phoenix through dissolving flesh. Vincent resented it. How could he hate bone structure? The sternum and clavicle taunted him.
“Why am I here,” his father coughed. “Everyone is sick.”
“You’re here to get better.”
“No, take me home.”
“Just one more week, dad, ok?”
A few minutes later, they had the same conversation. Vincent hated lying to his father, but the promise of one more week—approaching freedom—calmed the old man down. This “week” would last the rest of his father’s life.
After dinner, Vincent helped him into a new pair of pajamas. The papery cotton couldn’t hide his materializing bones. He swore the ribcage was growing; his shoulders looked like billiard balls.
How could anyone this thin be alive?
He tucked his father under the blankets and turned on the news. They sat through reports on two high-speed car chases, four murders, and the discovery of a deformed newborn in nearby Turner Woods.
“No regard for life,” Vincent’s father said, suddenly.
“Who?” Vincent sat up. Was his father referring to him?
“People don’t appreciate it until they start to die. Then they see.”
His dad traced the bridge of his own nose with a skeletal finger, fascinated at its slope and design. Rediscovering his face, his life, with a child's wonder.
Vincent turned off the television and watched his father’s profile, glimpsing the soul beyond his bones.