By late morning, our car was wobbling down Whitney Street towards New Haven and the hospital. There are two many arteries that take you to and from the city, one being Whitney and the other being Dixwell. Our preference was the former and I asked why, because it didn’t seem to make a difference to me. My sister said, “we just don’t.”
Whitney is a pretty avenue, green and flanked by some pretty nice homes. As you reach the border with New Haven, you get the feeling this was where the city’s elite once and may still live. Stately Victorian homes always give it away. The road allows you to kind of glide into the Yale area.
I pulled into the hospital and let the valet service do the rest. It was a Monday and there was no advantage to parking in the street. Plus, I had taken enough heat from the family for being a cheapskate the day before. I don’t know how to approach these things. The service cost $15, not too bad, plus the obvious tip…the natural amount being an extra $5. It wasn’t the end of the world. But maybe I could use it for other things. Dad wasn’t a corner cutter by any means in this sense, but he did like to save here and there where possible and put the cash towards something more to his liking.
But there was something that made me think that if we were going to let Nature take its course on Dad, it wasn’t the kind of day to skimp. The vehicle limped into the semi-circle. I could almost expect a loud bang and the back bumper to fall off to add to the effect. The poor valet service man who had the misfortune to be next in line winced as soon as he realized which car he would be parking, but politely tended to us and made sure Mom exited from the car all right.
We paused at a Starbuck’s in the lobby, the goddamn shops are everywhere, and I purchased my second cup to accompany to the room.
Dad pretty much looked the same. His heart rate had settled at the same number as the day before, so that was encouraging in a relative way. Nonetheless, we didn’t want to take any chances should there be a turn for the worse, and called in a priest to issue Dad’s last rites. His last rights. Actually I had phoned my parents’ parish that morning and spoken to the pastor, whom Mom had insisted on performing for Dad. He knows us, she said.
He couldn’t make it in that morning but promised another priest, one who was currently staying at the parish during his stay, was on duty at the hospital would be more than happy to stand in. I figured that if the man was sleeping in a bed at the residence of the same church, that it probably was good enough. I don’t know.
“Now,” said the priest over the phone. “What was the last name again?”
The clergyman who arrived at the room was a frail-looking man. His face was gaunt, his complexion soft and pinkish, half feminine half alcohol in tone and aura, his eyes sad and even saddened, quite possibly from something that hadn’t quite worked out in his life or from watching too many people fade away. His hair was thin and his voice even thinner. I had a sense he might go any minute himself and considered having Dad scoot over to make room for a new patient. But he seemed a genuinely compassionate man. A man who listened and spoke only the very words he felt were necessary. Not a syllable more. He carried out the ceremony gently and stayed for what I reckon was longer than his normal duration. He took the time to learn about Dad and to personally meet each one of us. Then he departed. I had the feeling he didn’t sleep very much in that bed in parish residence. Not without the help of some aid.
Dad had been cleansed. That was a good sign. He was free of sin, though I imagine not much of that had been going on of late. As we get older we become more pious, but possibly by default. Maybe we don’t have the energy to be as evil as we’d like to be anymore. The window of opportunity shuts.
Before the priest would have to make several rounds to ensure that the soul was a pure as possible before floating away from the body and ascending into some place. The 21 grams someone mentioned. Dad was in no condition to sin in body and, going by what the doctors had to say about his current condition, even if something malicious did slip into his mind, even if he managed to concoct some misdeed, the message would crash a wall of rubber dead tissue at the brain stem and ricochet worthlessly around the miles and miles and miles of cerebrum. Lost in a cloud without internet connection. He couldn’t even throw a baseball or pick up a spoon.
We met with the doctors again and the reiterated the message they had conveyed the day before. This time there were more doctors and greater insistence…without insisting at all. “What would Brian have wanted in a situation like this?” The angle was as reasonable as it was brutal.
“I know what they’re getting at,” claimed one sister. “I can read between the lines.”
But there would be no sacrifice that day. The volcano could be left simmering without the benefit of 190lbs of flesh and bones. We went down for lunch and Mom said she had to ask some questions and give things some thought. The onus was on her. From downstairs in the cafeteria, we ate quietly. Thought. Upstairs, lost, frustrated thoughts bounced around the barriers our father’s cranium. Useless.
I’ve look at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s cloud illusions that I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all.