May 18, 2007

They Do

Rarely but vividly when they do, half-sketched figures from dreams appear, or else ghosts, even of people I've never met. Once, I was driving across the upper level of the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco, one afternoon, and the ghost of Margaret Lesher appeared in the seat next to me. I was writing a story about her murder, which my friend Mary and I solved but there wasn't enough information to convict the man who did it, that buffalo riding-husband of hers who let her drown in an Arizona lake. She wanted me to go on with the story, I was an at early point, and deeply frustrated. Go on, she kept saying and I could see just her outline, not even that, but let's just say a presence, an assurance that she was there. I totally believed it. She was there and she asked that I not give up with her case.

Now, of course, this is all a projection, a romanticism, a wishfull visualization. I suppose. And perhaps that's what's happening lately when my father keeps appearing in dreams. "Put me back in my bed," he keeps saying. "Let me die in my bed."

When he was dying we put him in his den, a small room with a fireplace, a sofa, a leather lounge chair and footstool — the closest he ever got to a leather pig, which was very popular in those days, particularly among people of a different social class and people he detested — a book case, a TV, two closets, one filled with old Montovani and Herb Albert records, a desk, and next to it on the wall, the letter he got from JFK thanking him for campaign work. There was also a bathroom just off this room, with a nude Modigliani above the toilet, one of the many copies my father made of impressionist paintings.

At the very end, at 84, but I can't remember which year, 92 or 93, having had his toe amputated, no longer able to conduct those long dinners when he would raise a toast and say, "Isn't it wonderful out here on the fan deck. I love being on the Titanic, don't you?" Or sometimes he would say the Lusitania.

A short bad death. With Dylan's merlin on the bedside table and the very end he whispered to me, 'put me back in my bed'. He had a traditional wooden framed bed in his old office. He hadn't slept with my step mother in years. Neither of them could stand sleeping with the other. So there he was in his room, with a gun in his underwear drawer, and on most nights in that last year, listening to religious broadcasts of one sort or another.

"I want to die in my bed," he said.

But I didn't. It was more convenient where he was, to take care of him, next to the bathroom, a high hospital bed... and then the next morning he died.

How his words keep howling. And lately he's there, in that room, in the late afternoon, in the fall, that was his best season, with the light coming in through the trees and the wooden blinds, he's there, on the edge of the sofa, with his dark glasses, watching the telly, alone, waiting.

No comments: