If you’ve ever seen someone dying, I mean literally the moment it happens or the day it happens, there’s a look to it. A very recognizable, definitive image. They stop eating because their body is preparing. Their breath begins to slow, obeying the circumstances. They keep their eyes shut because who the fuck wants to meet that head on? If you walk in the room and you know what that looks like, you can call it by name.
The first time I heard Crazy I was in the back of Nan’s Buick. The Buick was the size of a large row-boat and constantly smelt like old people, Chanel No. 5 and shit. The back windows only went halfway down and I would always get car sick because she was willing to drive 100 miles to get the lunch she wanted. Sometimes she’d shout to the back “Where do you want to go to lunch?” Someone would say “Lenny & Joe’s”. She’d reply “The Log Cabin it is!”
She only played two types of cassettes – anything Patsy Cline and the Irish funeral song Oh Danny Boy. As a result we all developed a devote love for the song Crazy. When we were kids my parents were in a band, nothing bigger than playing covers in local boozers. They didn’t want anything more. My mother would wait to see if Nan would show up for her Merlot. When she did, she’d sing Crazy. She always saved it for her.
The first house I grew up in was on the west side, chipped white paint on the outside and this deck in the back where we were once swarmed by a herd of bees. I remember being in my mother’s arms while we danced to Crazy in the living room.
The people in my family are ill. Cancer, addiction, freewill. They’re all in the same hospital so when you go to visit, you give our last name and the staff is forced to break out a memo and write down the list of names and room numbers for you. Once, of course, they get over the confusion of your reality.
There’s this barely palpable feeling of competition amongst the dying. If love is so fucked up in your life and the only way you can feel it is if you’re sick and cared for, is there a drive to be sicker? Like a survival of the fittest but everyone is rooting for the weak. In the winter time in suburbia, the richer kids go skiing. And each time they come back they keep their ski-lift tags on their puffy jackets, collecting all winter long, to essentially show the world how many times they’ve gone skiing and thus how awesome they are. They’re winning some little social battle there. My uncle treats his chemo bracelets like ski-tags.
I swung by the booze/pills/suicide section – they seem to be doing fine.
I would have bet my life on the fact that I had packed socks and underwear. Turns out I didn’t. Normally I’d happily go commando but that would mean I’d have to find a way to wash my jeans later and I have no money for a laundromat so I must be very careful about these things now. I went through my sisters old draws and found a black lacy thong with a pink bow on the front. It even had faux green leaves made of thin, folded ribbon. Disgusted by myself, I put it on and pretended it wasn’t happening. I didn’t have a belt because I’d left it at a friend’s apartment back in the city. The thong was too big around the waist so rather than fitting like normal underwear it basically hung low outside my pants like one would treat suspenders when you’re off the clock. I spent most of my time trying to tuck the strings back into my jeans and pulling the end of my shirt down to avoid looking like poor-white-trash. Midway through the rehab, ER, hospital – I hit my breaking point. I finally found a staff bathroom in the hallway, ran in – locks broken. So whatever I’m about to do I need to be content with the fact that the whole ER will see it, if and when that door flies open. So rather than head-to-toe undressing, I just stood in the middle of the tile floor and began to tear the black lace with my hands. While still wearing my jeans, I ripped the whole thing off my body, pulled it through my legs and out of the top of my pants like dental floss and threw it in the garbage and walked back out.
Nan is on the 3rd floor now. She had hopped around a couple different spots while I was there. Dzia sits vigil at her bed side. He’s a strong Irishmen. Steel-faced and worn. Despite her most often vicious treatment of him, he says he will never leave her. He spent too many years away from her, drinking, that he will spent the rest of his life making up for it. When she comes to, she tells him she’ll make his life at home a living hell if he doesn’t get her out of here. He nods.
Everyone is certain it’s quite close to the end.
I spent most of my time with Nan. She was the reason I went home. Initially she was set up in this 20 something day rehab so my mother had decked out her room with photos of us, cards, her favorite kind of flowers. Nan has this thing for watching birds out her window so my mother managed to get her hands on a wrought iron bird feeder and hammered that shit into the ground outside her hospital window. Nan’s not responding to any sights or sounds. I saw a boom box in corner of her room and I hit play. Crazy.