By Darcy Lee Malone
There are pictures of our family all
over the room, but the one that catches my eye is the
one of Dad and Jeanie, a portrait from a cruise they
took a few years ago. They both look so stiff and
so formal and, somehow, so happy. Jeanie is
wearing a brightly printed gown full of pinks and
purples and blues and she is wearing her “picture
smile.” Dad is wearing a white tuxedo with a blue
bow tie that matches the blue in Jeanie’s gown.
His head is tilted to the left, toward Jeanie, and he
has a look on his face I had never seen before – I like
to think of it as the “I love this” look. He
really does. He loves cruises and he loves
gambling and he loves eating and he loves Jeanie.
It is all there in that picture.
“Hey, Hon. It’s time for Wheel of
Fortune.” Jeanie comes into the room, leans over Dad,
grabs the clicker, changes the channel and then puts the
clicker back. She knows, as we all do, the clicker
stays with my dad. Period.
I can tell she’s been crying. And
probably searching the Internet for some
last-minute-miraculous-cure for late-stage small-cell
lung cancer. She sits down in the chair next to my
Dad. “Darcy?” Jeanie looks at me expectantly, knowing
that I will know exactly what she wants me to do.
I have been doing it ever since I got here over two
I get up, sighing more for the effect
than because I am annoyed. I want to help and I
know Jeanie is feeling needy. I know she is truly
in pain: in her back, in her hips, in her heart.
So I lean over and take her sneakers off one at a time,
then her socks. I prefer putting her socks and
sneakers on, which I will have to do in the morning.
I worry about who is going to do this for her later.
After Dad is gone and I have gone back to my life, to my
husband and my children.
I sit back down on the sofa, put my feet
back on the coffee table and get ready to play Wheel of
Fortune with everyone in the room. We are a
competitive family, my dad most of all, and as we start
calling out letters his voice is noticeably missing.
He is staring at the television, but I don’t think he is
really seeing it. Or maybe he doesn’t remember how
to play. I don’t know which it is and I don’t want
to know. I stop watching the TV. I don’t
want to play anymore.
The silence is making me sad. As I look
around the room, my attention focuses on the “other”
sofa. It’s the one thing that is different, the
one thing that doesn’t belong here. It is blue and
green and red plaid and it clashes with the soft, pastel
floral of the sofa I am sitting on, the one that does
belong here. But the plaid sofa had to be moved.
It was in the spare room up against the wall where the
hospital bed will be going and the hospital bed is
coming in the morning.