He’s Gone

Infectious. Some kind of disease. Maybe it was her heart. Not sure what the death certificate said. She took that fall back earlier in the year. Broke her hip. There was some kind of infection from that. But, then again, she wasn’t the healthiest of women. Didn’t exercise. Never ate right. Kind of did whatever she wanted to. Kind of. Never followed doctor’s orders.

And now he faced death. At sixty-five he had made a lifetime of mistakes; same as she had. Lined up medicine bottles every morning. Cholesterol, blood pressure, thyroid, diabetes, over-weight, smoker, drinker, sleep apnea, all these ailments, the pills could only do so much. It was a breaking down of the body. His temple. And no, the Lord did not live there.

He’d stay up all night watching cable news in his recliner. A bag of chips on the stand next to him. Sometimes a bag of little donuts sat there. But, always a cold one. A tall boy of Budweiser with sweat pouring down the can was his drink of choice for TV watching; in the mornings, it was a high ball.

His son warned him, told the man straight. You’re going to die an early death, he said. All this is going to catch up, he’d watch the old man light up another one. You’re going to go just like mom did, the son shook his head.

And you don’t have Jesus in your heart, the boy pointed out. You don’t believe in anything. You’re a sitting target for the devil, he said. Better change your ways.

That was the last conversation the young man had with his father. They didn’t talk about baseball, or, movies. Never spoke of books. He just scolded him as the dad sat there in silence; watching Burt Reynolds on television; some report on his life and many loves; Dinah Shore, Sally Field, Loni Anderson, the old man just sat there watching as words went in one ear and out there other.

Maybe he was on some kind of death wish trip, the boy told his minister. Maybe that’s all he ever wanted, the son said. You think there’s folks that just want to die from the get-go? he asked.

Perhaps, the preacher said. They don’t take in all the things around them. The good things. Too much bad. It’s a slow death, he placed his hand on the son’s shoulder.

The old man was cremated. His ashes kept safe in a vase by the television set.

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