Monday, May 11, 2009


I've been in DC for a while, being with and, to the extent possible, taking care of my father. He was hospitalized with pneumonia and sepsis last week, which, on top of the maybe-inoperable pancreatic cancer, seems like overkill. So to speak. He was released and sent home finally but remained very weak.

Yesterday, he called for me from his favorite chair and when I went in, he didn't need me to fix the TV or get him another Vitamin Water. He wanted to talk about his estate.

The only thing worse than thinking about death is thinking about the intersection of death and money.

Pots, books, jewelry, art. What did I want? What are things worth? How should they be sold? I started welling up almost immediately so he couldn't really look at me while he gave instructions.

"I'm sorry to make you sad," he said.

"I'm not crying," I retorted. "I've got heavenly dust in my eyes."

On Sunday, my mom heard from another woman in the building that there was a garage sale of sorts going on downstairs. She and I and Mr. Ben, who had come down for the weekend, all trooped to the fifth floor, where we found a tall, tired man selling his mother's things. "She was very smart," he told anyone who asked, while they picked up pillows or kitchenware. "PhD in Chemistry. Fluent in French."

The neighbors said, "She didn't suffer, God forbid?"

He said, "No. No, she didn't suffer."

I discovered I loved her jewelry. None of it was valuable, but it was eye-catching and funky. The rings fit me perfectly. Looking around, I could almost conjure up an image of this little Egyptian doctor, puttering around an apartment filled with rugs and tablecloths, books and colorful dishes. All three of us left with our arms full and our hearts overflowing for a man who had to spend Mother's Day watching strangers bear his mother's life away.

My father has always been morbid, so it is hard to know whether when he says he has "months" he can be trusted. The word blasted through me regardless. There is space between the words "sick" and "dying," important space, space I want to curl up in for the next decade at least. With a puppy, if I can arrange it, and maybe a child. The idea of losing a parent makes me irrational. I want the book published, a beautiful baby born, a bank account full of money to display, all to say, See? You don't need to worry. Everything's fine. Everything's fine. You've given me all I need already.

Instead of sleeping last night, I re-read Little Women and cried so hard this morning I had a nosebleed. But I'm okay. I'm trying to be okay. Please don't ask me how my father is.


drz said...

Oh Ester,
I retain such strong images of your parents that trace back to the third grade. I'm so sad to hear that your dad is struggling through cancer. I can still remember both his and your mom's voices, which is a whole lot more than I can say about most elementary school friends' parents. I'm sending so many good wishes to you, Adam, Judah, your mom and of course, your dad. Please send my love.


ester said...

Thanks Dina. That means a lot.