Sunday, December 3, 2017

Do Not Resuscitate

Today our childhood babysitter came by the parental condo to write up a new will and some personal directives for the aged relatives.

If that ain't the realest shit that ever got real, whatever takes that title has my respect.

The last time I saw E, she was 14 and seemed like the most glamorous creature on earth. She was already a published author (in that she had written a personalized story for me when I was ill). She played pretty good baseball. She helped me learn to ride a bike. She was the owner of Ol' Slobbersides, the first dog I ever loved, and would actually pick up his soaking wet tennis ball in her bare hands and throw it down the park for him to fetch, my first experience of the Power of Real Love.  She would let us stay up playing hairdresser until the moment the Buick headlights came up the driveway and then supervise nightgowned pelting down the hall and into the white bunkbeds with matching purple quilts. We would listen to her assuring our parents that everything had been really quiet and boring and mentioning nothing--nothing--about the popcorn battle or the human pyramid or the go-go party. Chanel No 5 and the rustle of the silk lining of our mother's Persian Lamb shorty coat, a whiff of cigarette smoke, the sound of the door opening and closing and then opening and closing again as dad returned from walking E home five houses up the street. That sense of complete security that accompanied the return of mother and father to the bungalow, the reassurance that the glamorous pair who had left us behind had returned and would by morning be just themselves again.

45 years later, I see E's freckly long-legged girlhood--and mine--now transformed by sensible cardigans, good shoes and fashion-forward spectacles. Her prisoner-of-war father finally succumbed to the shrapnel in his brain, while my deafened-by-artillery father nods and smiles in his leather chair, pretending to hear the legal options being proffered him. Now unable to do more than fondly pat her stilettos, my mother wears a velour track suit and asks the same question about Do Not Resuscitate directives multiple times in a row. We explain in detail about who gets to say Enough should she or dad be on life support. We talk about who gets my share of the estate if I die before my parents, who gets my childless sister's share if she should die first, and we all shudder with the memory of a much-too-close brush with death three years ago.

I find myself longing for just one shot of Bols Apricot Brandy, in one of the cut-crystal glasses that used to live in the china cabinet beside the picture window.

How strange it is that this pretty middle-aged lawyer with good skin should preside as surely over the ending of it all as she did over it all beginning.

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