Everyday the Christmas tree droops more, the hyacinth blooms topple farther. The air is laden with heat we can’t turn off or down. This morning I’ve cracked a window. It seems wasteful, but a little bright ribbon of cool weaves across the room.
My father’s cancer is back. We all got through the first bout in his tongue, but now it’s back in his neck and lymph nodes, and there are courses of radiation and chemotherapy scheduled. My sister leads the support battalion. She doesÂ much of it singlehandedly, driving him to and from medical appointments, making meals and doing laundry, checking on Mom. Chris and I were there at Christmas while she was out of town and helped with a few of those things. A lot of preparation for a couple of days. It was vacant-feeling holiday, my dad talking to the exclusion of general conversation, my mom not talking much at all. Nothing stays with me. I feel a great emptiness where my parents reside. I have no relationship with my father to speak of. My mother isn’t really there at all. She’s become like an irritable body without history or presence. I imagine I miss her before she’s even gone, but which her? I’m exhausted by the layers of absence.
My sister keeps busy with her family, her children’s lives, her care of our parents. She is harried and annoyed and stressed out but eloquent and largely gracious. My brothers are mostly silent until they descend with proclamations. I have no real calls on my time. Rebuilding my life feels monumental in these moments. The smallest things undo me. Today I will do laundry, and we’ll get rid of the damn tree.