All parents die
October 31, 2013 by Thomas Wictor
Got an e-mail.
What are you so upset about? All parents die.
Indeed. All humans die. However, there are different ways of dying. Would you rather die in your sleep at the age of eighty-five, or would you rather be flayed alive at the age of thirty?
I’m upset at the manner of my parents’ deaths. That may be a concept too difficult for you to grasp. If so, don’t worry about it. My writing isn’t intended for you. I write for people who can think. It’s best you not come here anymore, if my writing makes you feel emotions that compel you to send me silly, worthless e-mails. Instead of visiting thomaswictor.com, might I suggest this? Or this? Or this?
As of yet I lack the power to force people to read my writing. To read the posts here, first you have to come to the site, then you have to click “News” in the menu, then you have to click the post at the top of the list, and then you have to run your eyes across the page and scroll down. For my offensive thoughts to enter your consciousness, you have to put them there. Informing yourself of my offensive thoughts is entirely volitional. Blame your own brain, eyes, and hands.
As I said before, I’m going to keep writing about my parents’ deaths until I no longer have to. You’re under no obligation to read my posts. But I paid thousands of dollars for this Website, and I’m going to use it. This is now my journal.
The latest entry in my journal is about…my parents. If this offends you, STOP READING NOW. Bail! Bail! Bail!
When Schiffer sent me the PDF for German Assault Troops of World War I, I used one of Dad’s two computers to show it to him and Mom. I was very proud of the book, since it offers a different take on an oft-covered topic. As Colonel Mesut Uyar, University of New South Wales, Canberra, wrote, “In short, this book is probably best study that any reader could find on German stormtroops of the First World War in this format. Highly recommended.”
After just a few seconds, Dad began yawning ostentatiously. He yawned the same way the entire time I knew him: “Ohhhhhhhh, ho-ho-ho. Oh boy,” pronouncing the “boy” as “woy.”
“Ohhhhhhhh, ho-ho-ho. Oh woy.”
He then announced that he was going to bed. At eight p.m. I wasn’t hurt; after I sold my first article, I called my parents to tell them. Dad answered the phone.
“I just sold my first article!” I said.
“Whattaya gonna do for eatin’ money?” was his response.
“I don’t know!” I said. “Let me talk to Mom!”
She laughed and told me how proud she was of me. Dad’s response was knee-jerk. He didn’t think about what he said; he just said it. I was already makin’ eatin’ money by being a full-time Field Representative for a document-retrieval company, copying documents—medical records, insurance records, government records—that people used to sue each other. Dad knew I had a job, but his instinct was to belittle.
He learned that from his own father, Frank.
I write that to neither condemn anyone nor seek pity for myself. The intent is to explain my father. Frank learned it from his father, who learned it from his father, all the way back to Luxembourg. I’m sure that at some point in the Middle Ages, some Wictor kid came home to the cottage with his bladder pipe and told his father, “I just sold my first ballad!” And his father said, “Haal de baack! Wou as Gromper? Äddi.”
Mom told me that when Dad was a teenager, he once had to pick up Frank at the train station. On the way there, the truck broke down. Dad pulled over to the side of the road to fix it. After an hour of waiting, Frank got impatient and hitched a ride with someone. They took the same road as Dad, so they saw him working on the truck. Frank had the driver stop; he got out and went over to see what the problem was.
After Dad explained what he thought had happened, Frank said, “Sure hope you fix it. Good luck.”
Then he got back into the car with the stranger and rode home. Dad worked on the truck for hours, until long after dark, and finally fixed it.
More than sixty years later, Dad came over to Tim’s house, during one of the daily conversations Tim and I had. Tim was scheduled for surgery to repair an umbilical hernia. Dad asked Tim about the surgery, listened, and then said, “Sure hope it works out. Good luck,” and went home.
As it so happened, the surgeon punctured Tim’s bowel. By the afternoon Tim was experiencing severe abdominal pain. We went to the emergency room, where they made us wait for about six hours while they saw headachy, sniffly people who didn’t speak English. A Chinese woman with a constipated father bedeviled me the whole time, telling me her life’s story. She was a beautician, a real-estate agent, a medical assistant, a teacher, and a lawyer. Earlier in the day, she’d found Jesus and ended eight months of seclusion in her bedroom. The price of canned soda infuriated her.
After six hours I told Tim to brace himself because I was about to run amok. He told me to go ahead. As I moved to an admitting station, preparing to pick up the computer and throw it across the room, a male nurse looked at me, went white as a sheet, and instantly took us in to see a doctor.
By this time Tim had a full-body infection. The same people who’d made us wait for six hours now told me that he was within an hour of death. They stabilized him and tried every antibiotic known to science. We were down to the second to last one before they cured him. He spent three weeks in the hospital; the first night he hallucinated that armed Air Force guards with German shepherds patrolled the halls, nationally syndicated radio talk shows were being broadcast from the next room, and Alton Brown from the Food Network was there to do a documentary on the hospital vittles.
I was convinced that he was going to die, but I made him laugh on my twice-daily visits. It was necessary to conceal what I was thinking. Later Tim told me that my fear didn’t show at all. I came across as relaxed and confident, which Tim says helped save his life. Tim’s survival saved many lives. Several obese, indifferent people who wear scrubs don’t even know how lucky they are that Tim lived.
Dad never visited Tim in the hospital or even called him. He couldn’t, because he was too afraid of his own approaching death. We realize now that he already knew he had cancer.
When Dad was dying and insane, Tim and I took care of him twenty-four hours a day. We decided to break several cycles once and for all. Dad wasn’t able to break the cycles. He paid for it with his emotional well being, then his mind, and finally his life.
Tim and I exist in a state of complete clarity and self-awareness. In other words we live in total freedom. I hope someday my father gets to experience what it’s like to not be trapped in the past.
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