Besides being at a loss for what to write, I’ve also been splitting my time between here and Oklahoma. I haven’t felt like messing with the dial-up connection over there and haven’t been reading blogs except in small doses about one day a week. I’ve got to develop a new routine and I don’t know where to begin. For now, I can only offer a blanket thank-you to those who have commented or e-mailed. Hopefully I can do more later. There are lots of stories to be written, and lots of things I’ve been reading and thinking about.

I noticed a strange confluence of my thoughts regarding death and bugs.

A couple of years ago when my eldest brother David died, I wrote a story called wound. It was non-fiction. I really did wake up with those welts above my heart. In the aftermath of my father’s death it has been a little different—rather than three welts, I’ve now got dozens—mostly on my hands and around my elbows. It really itches like hell now.

The strange part of it is that when I think of my father I think of his hands. The most frustrating thing about getting older, for him, was the loss of dexterity in his hands. He still would not allow anyone to do things for him. I remember him painfully fixing a lock while I looked on last year, and just three months ago he changed a wax-ring on a toilet rather than call anyone, or ask my brother Steve for help.

When I touched his hand as he lay in the casket, it just wasn’t my father’s hand. It was like porcelain, smooth and white. It wasn’t my father laying there, it was some china doll impersonation created by a cosmetologist. They made his skin pink. My mother nearly fainted when she first saw him, because it was the same hue he had during the final moments of his heart failure. It took several calls to the funeral home to get it somewhere near normal, though still far more flush than his ghostlike appearance in these last few years. But that didn’t worry me nearly as much as the hands—his hands were never that smooth. I wondered who this strange impersonator was.

My father’s only surviving sibling, his older sister, arrived just before the funeral moments after I helped the cemetery employees set the casket in place. We opened the pine box so that she could see his likeness just one more time. I got nervous when Oklahoma’s rather persistent flies got near him. I stood close, and brushed them away. Bugs always liked my father too.

4 thoughts on “Bugged”

  1. once at a funeral for his best friend, my father made me promise that i would make sure that he did not have an open coffin.
    i kept that promise.
    but before he died, the little man i carried to the kitchen to shave and to the porch to sleep beside me five years ago was not the big tall man i knew all my life.

  2. In my mother’s case it was actually nice that she did not look the way she did before she died. It had been years since she cared about how she looked. For the first time in years, she was pretty and because I had given them a photograph from a long time ago to work from, she looked like she did when I was little. She was a cold marble statue of the Mommy I once knew.

  3. Jeff – I,ike you, have not had the time to read many blogs recently. Thus this is the first time I’ve been here in a while. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I know what you mean by the unreality of the body. My nephew died a few years back and when I asaw him in his coffin it really didn’t look like him to me.
    In my now infrequent visits home I have watched my parents age. Visit to visit it is so apparant. My father was always a strong, though not big man, now at 91 he’s grown so thin and weak but like you and your father it is in his hands that I notice the worst change. His fingers are stiff and swollen and he has trouble gripping anything but like your father wil not accept help. They are like alien creatures attached to his arms. I’m going back for a visit in a couple of weeks and I expect it will be the last time I see him alive and that’s a hard thing to face.
    Rember your father from your youth and from the good times, but also remember him for his strength of character in not letting his age or condition stop him. Take care of yourself.

  4. I was just out West visiting my father for his 88th birthday. Don’t know how long he’s got left; don’t know how he feels about his “quality of life” these days; don’t know what it’s going to be like to have no parents left. Thanks for your dispatches from the front, and hang in there.

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