Tag: Wife

The silence of the dead is deafening

When I was twelve years old I rode my bike twenty miles to sit at my brother’s grave. I talked to him through the earth. I asked him if he could hear me.

He was my older brother, twenty-four when he died on the side of the road, his head cradled in the arms of his best friend. His best friend had been driving the car and took a bend in the road too fast.

I have never received an answer from my brother.

When I was in my forties I sat on a balcony in Miami and asked my son (a Star Trek fan) to send me a signal from space, a sign that he was aware in some unknown dimension or otherworld or æthereal state of wave-being.

He was twenty-three when he swallowed enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

I have never received a signal from my son.

Now I am in my seventies and I sit in an armchair in the living room—now known as the dead room—of my bungalow on County Road 9 and pray to my wife to send me a sign that she can hear me, anything will do I tell her, the slightest hint, the briefest sensation, the merest brush of some sort of presence of her spirit.

For a day and a night I sat at her bedside in Intensive Care and held her hand in mine. She was deeply unconscious but her hand was warm in mine. I took that as a sign of life, of hope. I sat there for hours. Her hand grew cold.

I am still in the dead room, praying for a sign from my wife, a glimmer of hope that she is aware in some empyrean sphere.

My hope-beyond-hope spiritual longings appear to be hopeless. I conclude from these futile attempts to commune with the dead that if you wait long enough, nothing happens.

‘Nothin’ lasts forever Even cold November rain’

SAVED BY A GREEN-EYED GIRL FROM DETROIT

When a son dies it rips your heart out. When a son kills himself it rips you all to pieces.

Grief has been joined by anger and guilt. Anger because a young man of twenty would throw away the gift of life. Guilt because you didn’t pick up that last phone call.

It was late, you were in bed with your second wife Susan. The phone was in another room.

“Do you want me to get that?” Susan asked. “It might be Will.”

Will was your son from your first disastrous marriage. He lived in Toronto with his mother. You lived in Miami with Susan.

“I just talked to him earlier for two hours, he wore me out,” you said to her.

You had talked to him several times that week, each time for one or two hours. He was confused, lonely, totally fucked up. In the last call you told him you were exhausted and that you’d call him the next day and talk about his situation some more.

You felt like you were on a not-so-merry fucking merry-go-round. His mother had said in a separate phone call that you were “coddling him,” that he’d never make it on his own in life if you kept doing that. She told you it was time to use some “tough love.”

You let that last call go to voicemail.

The next morning you checked the phone. There was no message.

You were sitting down to breakfast with Susan when the phone rang. It was your ex-wife. She said: “Prepare yourself for a shock.” She told you outright. “Will is dead.”

There was no immediate shockwave. Only a surreal numbness in the mind. You got the details. Enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

You hung up the phone and that’s when you cried. You wailed, you screamed. Susan held you tight.

The anguish was replaced in the next days by “arrangements.” You took a plane to Toronto. Your older brother was one of the pallbearers. A beautiful voice inside the church sang ‘Ave Maria.’ There was a lonely ceremony on a hill outside Toronto. You took a plane back to Miami. 

That’s when the horror set in. You woke every morning to the same nightmare. Your son was dead. Your son killed himself. “I could have saved him,” you said over and over to Susan.  

You kept hearing the phone ringing, ringing, that last call, you didn’t pick up. You didn’t pick up. You told Susan you were going to kill yourself. She held you firm and told you straight: “You can’t do that to the rest of your family, you can’t do that to me.”

The nightmare went on for a year. The only reason you survived is Susan kept you alive. She saved your life.

The two of you went on and had a life together, thirty years. You travelled—to Europe, Australia, Canada, all over America. It was a turbulent marriage, great and grisly, but always steadfast. 

Now it is many years later. The rest of your family is dead. Susan is dead. The love of your life.

You live alone in a bungalow with ghosts. You drink a lot. You live the 80-proof life. You smoke purple haze.

On this night, two days before Thanksgiving, your first without Susan, a voice in your head says, “Do you know why you’re still here?”

“No, I don’t,” you answer. It’s a question you have asked yourself many times.

“To honor your son and your two brothers and your mother and your father, and most of all to honor Susan for giving you the strength to go on.”

With thanks to Renata and Outosego.

-30-

Hoping for a ghostly kick in the rear

CASE STUDY NO. 665

And then he realized — it made him laugh, bitterly of course — that his being totally alone was Cosmic Justice, Karma, Payback from ‘God,’ whatever you want to call it.

Example No. 1: The one time he didn’t call back when his troubled son made a phone call to him and got his voicemail was followed by a disastrous tragedy.

The father was stupidly following the advice of the boy’s mother. “You’ve been coddling him,” she had said some days earlier. “If you keep doing that he’ll never make it on his own.”

Tough love, she called it, a phrase that was popular at the time, although you don’t hear it much anymore. Probably because it doesn’t work.

Two days after his son made that unanswered phone call, the lad swallowed enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

Example No. 2: He was a caregiver to his wife — not the mother of the above-mentioned son, he would quickly note — for the last five years of her life, the last three most intensively. He loved her totally, but there were times when he became impatient under the stress and did not treat her with the respect and concern he believes she deserved.

She had said to him, at different times, that he was (1) the love of her life, and (2) that he treated her like shit. In his heart he believes the first statement more than the other, but nonetheless, the other comes back like an arrow through his heart.

Example No. 3: His older brother, who died recently, was the total opposite of him. His brother was leveled-headed, responsible, organized and ambitious — all the things the younger brother was not. He could describe several incidents that now leave him with guilt, but he just sums it up by saying, vis-á-vis his older brother: I was a total asshole.

So where does that leave him? In an isolated void of guilt and sorrow.

He misses them all more then he can ever say. Most of all his wife. And he cries that to the rafters of the old house in which he now lives alone. It does no good, of course. Their spirits don’t visit him, their ghosts don’t even haunt him.

He would be overjoyed if their ghosts would come into his house and give him a good kick in the ass.

But it’s most unlikely to happen. He can wail and yell until all the gin bottles are empty, it won’t do any good.

They cannot hear him. They are all dead. Oblivious. No sensation. Non-existent now. No communication possible, no spiritual communion, and, empirically, no ‘Heavenly’ reunion.

It’s just him now, and the emptiness, and the gin.