Cindy, Cindy

August 22, 2015

My pops loves cantaloupe. He eats it then shits it out for the next two hours. He is dying, and all he wants to eat is cantaloupe. “Get me some cantaloupe, Cindy. They still got cantaloupe?” And I don’t know how I am going to get through this.

My sister lives three miles away, but she don’t have anything to do with taking care of our pops. I will not put him in a nursing home. He is proud, and I will be there for him to the end.

I gave him a bath this morning. Do you know what it feels like, to wash your own dad? To listen to the inside noises of your dad’s broken body? I put a washcloth over his lap—I can’t bring myself to touch his private parts—and he sat on the safety bench and stared straight ahead, biting his cheeks, and no words was spoke, and I just bathed him like he did me when I was a baby, and now he is my baby.

I have to leave the house, for food and stuff, but I can’t leave him alone. He insists on walking, and he always falls down. The neighbor comes in, don’t say a word, just sits and waits for me to get back.

I gave Pops a urinal to use, but he won’t. He pees and don’t tell nobody. Or stands to go to the toilet and falls on the floor. I never felt so alone.

He had a double lung transplant. They are rejecting his body. He is on rejectment— what you call it—meds; he can barely draw breath. I see him coming home from Nam, a proud, strong warrior. And now the VA says hospice.

What is that? What can I expect: hospice. They say they will wean him off all meds, and nurses will come and attend to him . . . and he will waste away. What does that mean?

Mom died at forty-nine. I am forty-nine. I weighed five hundred pounds, and I took control over my life, and here I am, still working on it. What good does it do? I am destined to die young. I held my children together when their dad catted around in motels. I was the strong one. This is my reward.

My son, my sister, they talk nostalgia talk over the phone. Remember, Sis? We did that, we did this? Remember, Mom? The snow forts we built, the trips to Branson?

But do they come here . . . where I am desperate just to get out for an evening, have some drinks, flirt? Do they come here, see Pops melting away? At least the VA pays me to care for him.

What will it be like? Will I see a shadow of him rise above his body? Will he say his last words? Will he just stop breathing? What? I have never been so scared.

What does it say, when Nam is your best memory?

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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