He said that he didn’t want any artificial life-prolonging measures. When his time came, that would be it. He was adamant about it. The way he was adamant about everything. I nodded as if I were listening. As if that made perfect sense. But I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t begin to think about a day when he would be gone. He was 92 and had until the age of 91 been in seemingly perfect health.
From time to time, he’d make jokes about not even buying green bananas. But I didn’t listen to those either. I had no doubt he would live to be 100. Which would put me at 68. I’d deal with things then. Or maybe I’d never have to. Maybe he would outlive me.
Then one day his doctor was on the phone telling me that my father was a very sick man. He’d sent him in an ambulance to the hospital. I took the train up there and waited while they ran tests, but even before the tests were confirmed they were saying cancer. Without a new liver they couldn’t treat the cancer. And they weren’t going to be looking for a liver for him.
The whole thing took a month. The day I thought we (my siblings and I) were moving him into a residence, a day I thought was six months from the end, was the day his doctor said he was too sick to move anywhere. And then a week later he was gone.
One day before that fateful doctor’s appointment, he’d taken the train into the city where he’d visited the federal reserve bank in lower Manhattan and then lunched at Bobby Van’s. He’d had a great day, he said.
It was an astonishment to him that he could have been out and about one day, and looking at his imminent demise the next. And because of how skilled he’d been at hiding his ailments, never complaining, it came as an astonishment to me as well.
I would have done anything to delay his death, except the face the reality that he was dying.
Though it’s going on two years now, I still feel robbed of something nameless and absurd. As if he’d broken some implicit agreement we had. We won’t talk about death. And then it won’t happen.