I might have to come back to this one. I’m a bit sad and the notion of last call strikes me as something that could send me off the edge. However, I did just write two days ago about diving deep, so here we go.
Whenever I fly, I cue up the phone number of the person I want to call if the plane is going to crash so I can make sure that the last breath in my body is used to tell someone they are loved.
I think about the last call I made to my father. The last time we talked. He had gone to the clinic to learn how to regulate his pain meds because he wasn’t. He was dying and even the fear of the end couldn’t inhibit the fear that he might become dependent on addictive substances. He would wait to take pain meds until the agony got to be so intense that they weren’t really doing anything. And so that day that he went into the hospital for a lesson on how to manage dosages, they gave him enough that for the first time in months, he wasn’t in any pain. And his body immediately started to shut down. What was planned to be a quick trip to the doctor’s turned into an instant transfer to hospice.
I was thousands of km away, across the country. My mum phoned and told me to come home. I hesitated.
This is why. I used to have a dog named Auberon. He was the best dog. Ever. Sorry, all the other dogs, but it’s true. He went to live with mum and dad when he got older because my transitory existence wasn’t really enjoyable for him anymore. Mum phoned me and told me that he was dying. I raced there from wherever I was only to discover he was fine. “He threw up some grass and that’s all he needed.” I was told on my arrival. He ended up dying very peacefully in his sleep while I was living in Berlin. He waited until I was well away, too far for a summons home, like the very good boy he was.
After mum called me about dad, I hung up with her and hesitated. Fortunately, my friends didn’t and immediately went online and booked me the next available flight which left in the morning to get me home by early the next afternoon. But I was wary, and decided to call the hospice nurse, not because I thought my dad was going to puke up some grass and be fine, but because I needed to know that it wasn’t a false alarm. Or if there was a possibility I’d not make it in time.
I said to the nurse, you know what death looks like. Is it in the room with him? Do I have time?
She said, how about I put you on the phone with him?
It was the last time we talked. We said all the things, he slurred a lot because opiates but he was clear. I told him he didn’t have to wait, but he did. He held on until we were all together, though he was uncommunicative by that point. I have no idea who that nurse was who put me on the phone with him. Who held the phone to his ear so that the last thing I heard from my father were words of love and joy and pride, of thanks and gratitude. I imagine it’s not the first time she had done that, nor the last, but it was everything to me. And what a gift it was, to have the last communication be a simple one of love.
My desire to be the most clever person in the room comes from watching shows with my dad. The characters he seemed to enjoy the most were the ones who had the snappy comebacks, the scathing wit, the intelligent and timely responses to everything. And so I wanted to be that person, for him. What I told him in that phone call was that everything good about me is his fault. That perfect blend of snark and sentiment proving that I am indeed my father’s daughter.
Best last call.