My father looks even worse than this woman who just passed away from cancer…
My father complained to me tonight that the tip of his nose is ice cold, so I touched it, and he was right, it was ice cold, “why Teddy, why, why is my nose so cold?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I know it was part of the dying process. I lied and said it was probably related to the pressure in his sinuses. I guess it was a semi-lie, because I think the pain in his sinus is most likely the cancer spreading up into his head, though I didn’t say that either. I said it’s probably a sinus infection and I offer to take him to see Dr. Au…even though I know (and Dr. Au definitely knows), there is nothing that can be done for my father, but I feel like, if it makes my father feel better to go and see Dr. Au, than I will take him to go and see Dr. Au.
We sat in silence watching another movie tonight. This time, it was a mediocre Kurt Russell film about the LA PD, made in 2002. The sound design was so bad it hurt my ears to watch the movie.
I almost said something to my father about how bad the music cues were, but then I realized I don’t think my father has thought a lot about how to break down films, so I decided again to stay silent with my thoughts…
It was more important to enjoy the moment for what it was, than to get all heady about it…
As I stood up to leave, he gave me an ice cream, and suddenly I had a flashback to one of my earliest positive stories about my father, a story I told at my first day of film school at USC–
“Paw, do you remember, back when I was five years old, I used to make you buy me all of those bazooka bubble gums? The ones wrapped with little comics, with a prize in the lower corner?”
My father thought back for a moment, then smiled. I wasn’t sure if he was smiling because he remembered, or if he was smiling because he wanted me to finish the story.
“The reason I wanted you to buy me all of those bubble gums, was because I was collecting enough for the camera prize.”
(Because they had so many different prizes, it took hundreds and hundreds of gum pieces to get enough for the camera.)
“I used to keep stacks of the different prizes, hidden away safely in my closet. Then when I had enough for the camera, I saved up the $2.75 for the shipping and handling.”
Now my father was really smiling.
“When the camera arrived, I was so excited, I took it immediately out into the neighborhood–I was so proud and happy to have my first camera.”
I paused–should I continue?
“Then the bully down the street took it from me and smashed it onto the ground, shattering it all over the sidewalk.”
My father’s face immediately fell. Shit. I probably should have ended the story a few moments earlier.
“I ran home crying, and I couldn’t stop crying, nothing could console me, until mom handed me a little old 110 camera to use.”
He then rolled his eyes. I was definitely now ruining the story bringing my mother.
Kindly, awkwardly, defensively,
“It was really one of the nicest things my mother ever did for me. I was very very upset.”
He nodded, understanding. A quiet understanding, like, here even in his final moments, an unspoken reminder ripped through the air–my mother did raise me, and it was my mother who made a shit ton of sacrifices for me and my sister.
It doesn’t mean my father and I are not close now though, close in our own special, fucked up dysfunctional, way–
“Thanks Paw. Thanks for taking me to buy all of that bubble gum. It meant the world to me. It made me really happy.”
And the truth is,
who knows when I would have gotten my first camera, if my father hadn’t bought me all of that bubble gum. It probably would have been cheaper for him to just buy me the camera (I threw most of the gum away), but in my 5 year old way, I enjoyed working really hard for that camera, I wanted it so bad, and I still remember the feeling I had the moment I realized I had enough little comic strips to order the camera, and the feeling I had when the camera arrived in the mail. I remember those feelings vividly.