This letter begins on a night just before my father dies. Back when he could still walk, we might have been on the porch sharing a cigarette, confessing our last words before sleep to a congregation of stars. Instead, we’re in the living room of the ranch house in Arizona. The credits roll on yet another episode of Succession and that improbably, mystical soundtrack swells forth from the television set . This night, he predictably asks if we should watch another. And I tell him, I have to go to sleep. My youngest daughter is eight weeks old, nursing. I wonder now, why I couldn’t give him this? This last indulgence. What does another hour of sleep even mean beside the scale of my father’s life? TV is all there is left for me to do with my father. He is so weak. He is the kind of thin that shouldn’t be allowed. Twice, toward the end, I take him for a drive—all of his life he loved going for drives—precariously moving him from the walker, into the passenger seat of my car. The first time for a slice of pizza, which he doesn’t touch, and a pack of smokes, which he does. And the second time to the hospital, when his blood pressure drops, then drops more. That’s a day I can’t forget, watching a monsoon rise over the desert, and from the hospital windows, seeing the sunlight eclipsed by a sudden dusk, a rainbow in the distance particularly poignant against an otherwise charcoal sky. Someone in the lobby was playing the harp. Okay habibti, he says back on this night. Make sure the front door is locked, he adds. He doesn’t plead with me to keep him company, or say, I can’t sleep anymore from the pain. Or, What good is sleep? I’m dying. (Almost, all he does is sleep). And so, begins the goodnight ritual, which was so long his (how many times had I fallen into dreams to the shuffle of his footsteps dawdling around the house, locking, unlocking, locking the doors, closing the windows, […]
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