After I Hung Up – Suzanne Crain Miller
November 28, 2019
“I wanted to be concise.”
My father said about his obit
That he emailed my sister and I on a Wednesday
with even an LOL somewhere in the chain
of emails about it when, upon reading it, we said
just because you say something isn’t morbid
doesn’t make it not morbid, Dad.
“It’s $76 a line in most papers.” he went on
as if newspapers will still exist when he passes,
as if he’ll be saving us $ and trouble even from the grave.
I told him I’d like him to run off things like that
and put them in a lock box rather than email them.
He can even show me where the box will be kept this
Christmas when I visit.
“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas”
and that will be less morbid than it popping up
in my inbox while I’m working when he’s not even sick.
He continued to explain that you think about these
things more when you’re old and with our mom
passing this year, it’s been on his mind.
I admitted to him that it reminded us that
we all know it’s never been off his mind.
That he’s been drafting it since we can remember.
As we talked more, I realized he’s scared we won’t
think about him when he’s gone,
that’s what’s driving all his melancholic morbidity,
at least these days, but he’s never been lacking
for a driver behind that wheel.
I felt guilty in that all I can think about as
I read his obit mostly about where he worked, who survived him,
is that I’m more scared he’ll never be dead,
at least not the parts of him that I’ll wish were.
The parts that saw the sun and immediately
Thought, hide it’ll burn, or met someone and shied from knowing them
because others only serve to hurt you and in the end
you’ll just be their obligation.
No, those parts of him will endure, living on and on and on
in me, in my head.
And he’ll still be emailing me from the beyond,
on those rainy “artist” days as he used to call them.
But there won’t be any LOL in those chains.
I got one question –
1 to ask you about something so huge it
would later engulf me like the black hole
that it is.
Book in hand, you sat me down
to read it on my own.
to look at bodies, well archaic drawings of bodies,
curved in all different ways I’d never seen them curved before.
I knew so little then,
but you worried that I knew a lot,
seeing as my sister was five years older.
You assumed I’d heard, oh that I’d heard.
Maybe you should have asked me a question,
assessed if I was even needing to know at the age of 8.
That’s silly though, right?
Why would you have asked?
You never wondered about what I needed,
just dished it out like that ziti you’d make
in that huge pan, night after night, leftovers upon leftovers
until our father calmly sighed and said
“ I think I might be sick, if I have to eat this another night.”
Ask me a question…how foolish.
Why would you have started then?
Why when you never asked about what we put into our bodies
would you ever ask about what we’d like to do with those bodies?
And, don’t get me wrong, your book was informative.
Oh, it explained in depth where things went and
what would happen if we didn’t protect where the things went,
What it didn’t tell me was anything about the very question that would be
so important, so very, very life giving, or life shattering .
Not a single word about the question I’d neglect to ask that first person
I ever experienced with, in real time, any of those things
the pictures so graphically laid out.
The most vital question that would have left me feeling
so differently about what I later did, what it ignited
and who I was for doing it.
That one essential question:
“Do you really care about me at all?”