Something I neglected to mention about that phone call with Blanche was the conversation we had about a thank you card I'd sent my father. Blanche had said she'd opened the card and that it was inappropriate and that they—she and Natalie, I assumed—had thrown it away. Blanche said, "I'd like you to write him another one, with no mention of money. The last thing Dad needs now is to worry about any of us and be bothered about money."
I knew what Blanche was talking about. She was talking about three hundred dollars. That was the amount of the discrepancy between the amount of money my father usually sent for my birthday—$500—and the amount Natalie had made the check out for instead—$200. I knew it was a shitty thing to do, to mention this discrepancy to my father in my thank you note, and, god knows, had I known how sick he was or that he was in the hospital or that my step and half-sister would be reading it or if my husband and I had had any other means of buying beer and cigarettes at the end of the month, of paying for car repairs, making rent, I never would have done so.
"Vanessa, did you hear me?" Blanche was saying.
"Yes, I heard you," I said.
"And we're clear then?" Blanche said.
"Yes," I said.
"So send a nice card to the house and I'll take it with me to the hospital," she said.
I said I would and we hung up.
My mother was smoking a cigarette, waiting for me in the Tampa airport, when I arrived. I'd called her soon as Blanche and I hung up. "I'll put everything on my Visa," she'd said. She was working as a court reporter in Pittsburgh then living in a small studio apartment. She had a hard time coming up with money for beer and cigarettes at the end of every month also. But Blanche had said I should come and my husband had a fear of flying, and a fear of many other things as well, so here we were.
We sat in a Best Western in Lakeland, Florida on opposite beds, each with a cigarette in hand, staring at the TV.
"Are you going to call first?" my mother asked.
They'd moved my father from the hospital to his house. I was surprised I remembered the phone number. It'd been seven years since I'd turned eighteen, since I'd been to the house. Natalie said she'd be there another hour. The idea was that I would arrive as she was leaving.
I saw the new Miata Pat, our paternal grandmother, had bought Natalie—some sort of graduation gift, or something—in the drive. It was red.
"Remember," Natalie said as she opened the cherry door. "No talk of money or death or funerals."
I nodded. My husband and I shared a used American car my father-in-law gave us; there weren't any keys, just a button you pushed located in the glove box. Mostly, I walked to work.
Blanche and Natalie had the same mom and Natalie and I had the same dad. When we were young, Blanche had called our father Jim but now she called him Dad, like Natalie and me.
"She was talking about where she wants him buried," Natalie said through her rolled down window. "He can still hear, you know."
I nodded again. I knew she meant Pat. Pat hadn't spoken to me in over a year. She was always not speaking to someone in the family and that year had been my turn. I watched Natalie drive off in her new Japanese sports car thinking of the times we had spent together in the pool out back, listening to the weekly countdown on the radio and pretending we were Olympic swimmers. The song I always remembered being number one was the one about having a slow hand, an easy touch. Maybe it hadn't even reached number one.
Inside, our father was lying in a hospital bed where the couch used to be. Someone (Natalie? Blanche?) had hung Florida Gators pennants all around the bed even though Blanche had said he couldn't see anymore. There was a radio turned to a sports station and Pat was standing in the kitchen, talking to a woman I took to be a nurse, given the woman's monochromatic clothing and professional mannerisms. I was really hoping Pat wasn't still talking about where she wanted our father buried because I didn't want to have to be the one to tell her she couldn't talk about those things.
"Vanessa!" she suddenly shouted. Natalie must have really given her hell, I thought. In the past, my grandmother had stood, leaning against a wall, one leg crossed over another, arms folded, as I walked off the plane. There had never been any excited shouting, any movement toward me when I was eight, nine. I couldn't remember any physical touch, either. Now I was twenty-six and she was rushing toward me. I instinctively took a step back.
"Jimmy, Vanessa's here," she said, standing at his bedside. I don't remember if she put his hand in mine, or if I mindlessly took it. His eyes had been closed and now they were open, staring, I guessed, at some bright white light in front of him the two of us couldn't see.
"Vanessa's here, Jimmy," Pat repeated. She looked about the same as I remembered: cotton chinos, white Keds, button down blouse. She'd recently taken an around-the-world-trip on the Concorde. This was the last thing she'd told me before she'd stopped talking to me. I didn't ask how it went. The answer seemed obvious.
"Hi, Dad," I said. I couldn't think of anything else to say. I realized I didn't know anything about football. I didn't know anything about golf or skiing, either. I had probably said the word Dad thirty times in my entire life. There was a lot I didn't know.
It was true—Blanche was correct—I only thought of our father in terms of money. This was because I didn't have any, and also because he'd never materialized before me in any way other than a check. Blanche and Natalie were used to him being at their birthday parties and graduation parties and Thanksgivings and Christmases. They had all these other ways of thinking of him.
My grandmother, the monochromatically dressed nurse, and I were sitting at the kitchen table when Blanche entered through the garage and headed straight to our father. I suppose it's possible she didn't see us there. I suppose anything is possible.
"Don't worry, Dad," she said, taking his hand just as I'd done (a habit we'd all learned from watching television, I supposed). "I'm here now. Blanche is here."
I remembered a summer a decade earlier, Blanche and I at Pat's beach condo, playing a game in bed in which we debated who we hated more: Dad or Pat. "No question," Blanche had said. "Jim is the biggest asshole I've ever met." A year later I understood what she meant when my mother dated the biggest asshole I'd ever met. (At the time I'd argued for Pat. Pat was the bigger asshole in my fifteen-year-old mind.)
Now our dad was dying and he wasn't an asshole anymore. Or maybe he hadn't been an asshole for a while. I hadn't talked to Blanche in years other than the recent phone call, so I didn't know. Either way, it was obvious there were too many of us in the room now that Blanche was present. Pat and I gathered our belongings. Pat stepped over to the bed to say goodbye while I hung back. I couldn't remember ever having had a conversation with my father. It felt funny to start now.
Outside, in the drive, Pat asked me to meet her back at Dad's house in the morning. "Before everyone else gets here," Pat said, nodding toward the house, toward, it was understood, Blanche. I was only in town one more day. I had decided to go along with whatever anyone asked me to do, since I wasn't planning on seeing any of them ever again.
Earlier, a woman who had the same name as my mother had stopped by the house. I'd sat with her in the formal living room while the nurse washed my father's body, cleaned his teeth. (A different nurse came by four times a day to administer morphine.)
The woman with the same name as my mother looked about thirty-five, and had large breasts and a pageant smile. Or maybe it was a Southern smile. It was hard to tell the difference if you were from the Midwest.
"Jimmy sure loves his girls!" the woman said. "I read the card you sent him in the hospital. It made him so happy."
I realized this was the last woman my father slept with. I wondered what it was like to know that about a man, about yourself. I wondered if she had been having sex with him due to some perceived idea he had money.
Anyway, she was congenial.
Pat and I were the first ones at the house in the morning. The last time I'd stayed here my (then) stepmother had locked all the rooms on the second floor. By then she'd filed for divorce, moved out of the house. I guess she didn't want me to take anything. I guess that had been the idea.
We stood on either side of my father, Pat and I, each holding a hand. I didn't know what I was doing here. He had called me two weeks before Blanche, to tell me something was wrong: he couldn't stop shaking, could barely sign his name, couldn't wait in line at the grocery store. He was either an alcoholic or suffering from severe panic attacks, he said. That was all I knew 'til Blanche called to tell me he was in the hospital. He'd lost thirty or forty pounds. The last time I'd seen him he'd still looked like Joe Namath. Now he looked like a man who'd never struck or caught a ball.
"Jimmy told me to look after you," Pat was saying, talking about my father in the past tense just the way Natalie had said she would. "He had a lot of guilt he hadn't done right by you."
I nodded. I didn't know what to say.
"Where are you staying?" Pat asked.
"At the Best Western," I said.
"That's silly," Pat said. "You should stay with me. I have plenty of room."
I thought about my mother back at the hotel, how the last time she and Pat had spoken, my mother had told her to go to hell, hung up the phone. That had been fifteen years earlier, but still.
"Water under the bridge," Pat said, when I mentioned it. So I called my mother and she packed up our things. Death makes strange bedfellows. I think that's a saying. It also makes strange enemies, but I'm jumping ahead. I think it more commonly makes enemies, actually. Now that I think about it. Now that I know what was coming next.
Pat wanted to take us to her country club for lunch, so that's where we went. We all three ordered the spinach salad and Pat ordered a gin martini and my mother ordered a glass of wine. I was a teetotaler then so I ordered an iced tea. Everything was fine until the salads came.
"Waiter," Pat said. "There aren't any eggs on my spinach salad, and there are very few mushrooms, also."
"Yes, ma'am, we do not put egg on our spinach salad," the waiter said.
"Well, you ought to," Pat said. "I want egg on mine. And lots of mushrooms."
"Yes, ma'am," the waiter said, removing her plate.
Mom and I were eating our salads without any egg and with very few mushrooms.
"I have a grave for Jimmy right next to mine in Ohio," Pat was saying. "I'm prepared to fight the girls all the way on this. There's no way he's being buried in Florida."
Mom and I nodded. We were from Ohio, too. The Buckeye State. Scarlet and gray. Brutus. I could never remember which school the Florida Gators represented.
The waiter returned with Pat's salad. Mom and I leaned over to get a look. It was loaded with egg and mushroom. I can't remember if Pat said thank you. I remember she ordered a second martini. Men in striped shirts were playing golf on the other side of the window. It was a Saturday and I knew enough about my father to know normally he'd be playing golf right now, also, if things had turned out differently.
By the time Pat and I returned to Dad's, after dropping Mom at Pat's condo, there were a multitude of cars parked in the drive and on the curb. I was driving Pat's Cadillac. It was my first time driving my grandmother's car and I wasn't easy about it. I carefully maneuvered between two smaller cars. I was as gentle with it as I could be. Pat didn't seem to notice.
The house was full of people milling about. It looked like a party inside. I didn't recognize anyone but Natalie and Blanche. Maybe a neighbor I'd met one summer or another. Dad was still in the bed with the Gators pennants all around. Adults in jackets were standing nearby, holding drinks. I think there was a tray of hors d'oeuvres being passed around. It's hard to remember; I wasn't hungry.
I saw Jackie—my former stepmother, Natalie's and Blanche's mom—standing in the kitchen. She was wearing one of her St. John knits and theater makeup. Or maybe it was Southern makeup. Her hair was still auburn, still in a pageboy. She was speaking to other Southern women with theater makeup, in knitwear.
"Hello, Pat," she said. It hadn't taken her as long as I thought it might to get to us.
"Boy, all the ex-wives are here," Pat said; an aside meant for me, I figured, so I nodded diligently. Jackie hadn't looked in my direction, so I figured it was my place to do the same.
"Maybe we should have brought your mother along too," Pat said, another aside meant for me, but I guess Jackie didn't see it that way this time, because that's when she said, "I don't think that'd be a good idea, Pat."
I remembered, then, Blanche having told me that night in Pat's beach condo, when we were fifteen and seventeen, the night of our game-playing, how my dad, Jim, had tried to kill himself and her mom by driving them off a bridge. I remember wondering what that meant, how someone tries but doesn't succeed at driving a car off a bridge. Maybe what she meant was he had threatened to, feigned swerving toward the bridge's side before recovering control of the vehicle, the desperate act of a man who believes he has lost any semblance of control with a woman. At any rate, it was after that Pat bought Jackie her own dance studio. Now all the little girls growing up in Lakeland, Florida learned tap and jazz and ballet from Jackie. Sometimes my father reminded me of another football player: Orenthal James Simpson.
My grandmother ignored Jackie, stepped closer to the hospital bed. "Mommy's here, Jimmy," she said, stroking his fingers. I'd never heard her use the word Mommy before. I'd never heard her referred to as anything other than Mother.
My father didn't open his eyes or make any movement. I was standing awkwardly behind Pat, still shy, even in his dying. Jackie was standing close by and now Natalie, too, was hovering. I guess she wanted to listen in case Pat made any more pronouncements about his grave or burial or anything to do with the state of Ohio.
"Can't I have a moment alone with my son?" Pat shouted. "Can't I even have a minute with my son?"
The house fell silent. Everyone was turned toward my father's bed, but no one was looking at my father.
"Pat," Jackie started to say, but then Natalie interrupted. Natalie was saying something about Pat not having any special rights, something about wanting Pat to leave. Natalie was studying to be a lawyer. I figured she knew who had rights and who didn't better than the rest of us.
"I just want to be alone with my son," my grandmother said. She started to say something else after that, something that might have had to do with death or money or dying. I guess we'll never know because that's when Natalie really lost it; that's when Natalie demanded we leave. Somehow I'd gotten lumped in with Pat. It didn't matter to me either way. I didn't especially want to be in Florida anyhow. I had only come because Blanche had said it was imperative I be there. Now it seemed less imperative. Maybe they'd changed their minds on what was imperative and what wasn't in the weeks since our phone call. (Later, Blanche explained to me how they—Natalie and she—had found out Pat couldn't legally write any of us out of the will, as she'd threatened to for years, on any number of seemingly innocuous occasions, such as one of us oversleeping as a teenager; how Pat's father had left a generation-skipping trust; how Pat was living off the interest of that trust, had no special rights or powers concerning it. I supposed it was this information that boldened Natalie.)
A friend of my father's, a man who'd once been accused of bringing a nail file to a World Series ballgame, had his arm around Pat. I hadn't seen him in the room earlier. But now here he was, escorting Pat, and, seeing as how I was acting as my grandmother's chauffeur for the day, me, toward the front door. I trailed along behind while remembering having accompanied Natalie to a birthday party for one of this man's children many summers earlier. I recalled a large, glassed-in plant atrium in the middle of the house that signified to me a wealth, a level of success, my father had yet to achieve.
"Can you believe this, Rock?" Pat asked my father's friend, the baseball player. "A mother being thrown out of her dying son's home?"
"Everyone's just a little emotional right now, Pat," Rock was saying. "Why don't you go home, calm down, and come back tonight when Natalie and Blanche leave for dinner."
We were standing outside now, close to Pat's car. Natalie's cherry red Miata was there, too. I was still somewhere behind, affording them some semblance of privacy; I'm not sure why. I was studying the lawn, the grass that had always felt to me, to my Midwestern girlhood, like artificial turf, like the fake-grass carpet people installed in their back porches in rural Ohio.
"By the way, why isn't John here?" Rock asked, suddenly, injuriously.
"Johnny?" Pat said. "Johnny just had open-heart surgery. He can't be here."
"Well, if it was my brother, I'd be here," Rock said. He wasn't sucking a piece of straw or tall grass, though I wouldn't have been at all surprised if he were.
"So you want him dead, too?" Pat said. "So I should have no sons left?"
"All I'm saying," Rock said, reiterating his position, questioning, I supposed, the character of my uncle, a man I'd met once, at a wedding. "If my only brother were dying, I'd be here. Heart trouble or no heart trouble."
Rock was helping Pat into the front passenger seat as though he were an admirable Boy Scout, rather than what he actually was; I wasn't certain. I'd noticed that his eyes were bright blue like my father's, like an actor's everyone talked about. Years later, I would study those same eyes as I watched a video of Rock being interviewed about the nail-file incident on a late-night talk show. He was grinning then, too.
"Go home, eat, rest," Rock said. "Call back in a couple hours and see if it's thinned out."
Pat didn't say much on the drive to her house. She gave me directions, but other than that, she sat silent. I knew it didn't matter; I knew my father wouldn't have been at my uncle's house had he been the one dying in a hospital bed in his living room. I knew my father wouldn't fly to Ohio or Michigan if I were dying, either. There are just certain things you know. I knew my father in this way, and, maybe, in this way only.
I'd never known my grandmother to be a passive person. I'd witnessed her call a waiter over to change the temperature of my father's steak. I'd watched her demand new theater seats, new hotel rooms, agreements from her children, their spouses, in return for something monetary, something tangible. I'd never seen her concede ground. I'd never witnessed her silence. It was unsettling, unnatural. The whole thing made me uneasy.
As soon as we got inside, Pat walked to the bar, made herself a drink.
"They made me leave my own son's house!" she shouted. "They wouldn't give me a moment alone with him!"
"Who wouldn't?" my mother asked. I wondered how much of her interest was genuine, how much an act of politeness. Maybe it was neither. Maybe it was a way of passing the time while we were in Florida.
"Natalie," I said. It'd been a long time since I'd said my sister's name aloud to another person.
"She told me to leave. That I wasn't welcome," Pat said. "Then Rock McGee said to me, 'If it was my brother, I'd be here.' You heard him, right, Vanessa?"
"Yes," I said. "That's what he said."
There were photographs somewhere in a cardboard box back in Michigan, photographs from my father and mother's wedding, Rock McGee and my mother's brother both groomsmen. I couldn't remember my father's brother being in the photographs. I couldn't remember if my mother had told me he'd been there. When I was introduced to my uncle at the family wedding, years earlier in Ohio, in a corridor of another country club, what struck me about him was how little he resembled my father. He was short like Pat, like his mother. He didn't look like Joe Namath, like a football player, like an athlete. He didn't have piercing blue eyes. He wore glasses. He looked like a picture I'd seen of Truman Capote dancing with Marilyn Monroe. He shook my hand and walked back down the carpeted corridor. I never spoke with him again.
"They want Johnny to come here and have a heart attack," Pat was saying. "They want him dead, too."
"Well, let's just sit down and relax a minute," my mother said. She sat next to Pat on the couch, what my maternal grandmother sometimes referred to as a divan. I sat across from them in a chair at the table. The wall behind them was made up of mirror. I could see my hand holding the can of Diet Coke in the reflection; the bright silver body, the red lettering. Soft drinks still felt like little luxuries to me, then, in 1995. I had drunk three or four cans of Diet Coke a day at my father's house the summers I visited; no one seemed to notice.
We passed an hour watching golf on TV. My dad golfed, my mother golfed, my maternal grandparents golfed, my mother's brother golfed, my former fiancé, Will, golfed. I was the only one who didn't. But I knew the names of the golfers—John Daly, Freddie Couples, Tiger Woods—because everywhere I went, golf seemed to be on TV.
"He was good in bed, though, wasn't he?" Pat, my grandmother, said. I turned to look at her; she was looking at my mother. It was an odd thing, of course, for a mother to say of her son; odder, even, given the timing of the question, on the brink of the son's death.
"Pardon me?" my mother said.
"Yes, they always said Jimmy was good in bed," Pat said, nodding to herself or to us, either way. "Jackie's been sneaking over to Jim's when her new husband's out of town. She always said that was the one thing."
The phone rang then. Pat got up to answer it. I exchanged a glance with my mother. She'd been nineteen when she met my father; they'd separated when she was twenty, before I was born. I wondered what a person remembered twenty-five years later about another person they briefly believed themselves in love with. I didn't think sex would be what you remembered, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe it depended on the person you thought you were in love with, the person you thought you were then, also.
"Hello? Yes. Oh, thank God," Pat was saying. "It's Johnny," she said to us, her hand briefly over the phone. "What? No. No. No! Johnny, they threw me out of the house! No! No! How can you believe them? I'm your own mother, Johnny! And they were saying you should be there—in your condition! What? Look, Johnny, if you choose to side with them…Well, then, you're no longer my son! You can go to hell!"
Pat hung up the phone. I was happy not to be my uncle in that moment; happy not to be Johnny, though I'd been Johnny before. I'd been hung up on. I'd been told to go to hell, also. It was a funny thing to say to someone, to your child, your grandchild, anyone. But family members on both sides of my family seemed fond of saying it, often with a cocktail in hand.
"They went and called Johnny," she said. I watched the clear liquids swirl inside her glass as she spoke. "They've turned my only other child against me."
"Pat," my mother said. "I'm sure when everyone calms down..."
"No!" Pat said. "He's with them now. They're all together fighting me."
I sat silent, twirling slightly in a wicker chair. I was an observer, an outsider. I wasn't here with my grandmother on principle; I just as easily could have been with them, in my father's house. I didn't have a side to take. It made things easier. I only had to pretend another few hours.
"Vanessa, you call Johnny," Pat was saying. "Tell him what really happened. Tell him how mean Natalie was to me."
"No," I said. "I can't." I didn't have a side to take.
"Vanessa's right," my mother said. "She shouldn't call now. Everyone's too heated up and emotional right now."
"Yeah," Pat said. "Maybe later. I'll give you his number."
I didn't say anything. I knew I was never going to call my uncle. I knew once I left Florida I would be done thinking about him.
At seven, Pat and I drove back by Dad's house, but there were still a lot of cars parked in the drive and on the curb. We didn't stop. We drove on to Dad's favorite restaurant. It was a steak house down on the main strip in town. It was where I remembered Pat calling the waiter over to change Dad's order. It had been his birthday. I think he was forty-five.
There was a large family seated at the table next to us. Some small children and a baby. The baby cried sometimes. One of the younger children ran from his mother to his father and back to his mother.
"Children should not be out at this hour," Pat said.
"I never took my children out at this hour," Pat said, fifteen minutes later.
"Children should be home in bed at this hour," Pat said, fifteen minutes after that.
"I'm sorry," the children's mother said, finally, turning toward Pat. "Did you say something to us?
"Oh, I was just saying," Pat said. "It's rather late, and the poor children must be getting tired."
"Yes," the mother said. "It's a special occasion. We don't normally have them out this late."
After this, Pat began talking to the little boy. On our way out, she leaned over and cooed at the small baby. I stayed out of it. It was hard to imagine her as a young mother, pregnant, holding my father, comforting Johnny.
I drove us back to Pat's. My mother was drinking a glass of wine. Something was on TV. It wasn't golf anymore, but something else. Pat started making herself a drink. She'd had a couple at the steak house too. She was getting used to my role as chauffeur. The phone rang and Pat asked my mother to answer it.
"It's Blanche's fiancé, Oscar," my mother said, holding her hand over the phone. "He says the end is imminent."
"Tell him we're not coming over," Pat said.
I heard my mother tell him.
Twenty minutes later, he called back.
"We're not going," Pat said, nodding.
My mother relayed the message a second time.
"I'm almost glad things worked out this way," Pat said, after my mother had hung up again. "I don't want to be there when he dies. But I'll let Natalie think it's because of her."
An hour went by. It was eleven o'clock. Mom and I went upstairs to put on our pajamas. Maybe he wasn't going to die tonight. Babies and death never seemed to come on time. We each got in a bed, just like at the Best Western. There was a nightstand between us and I opened it. There was a black Victoria's Secret bra, size 34DD, inside. I knew it was Natalie's, though I couldn't imagine her staying here.
The phone rang, letting me know I didn't want to be here anymore. I wanted to be back at the Best Western. I wanted to be back in Michigan with my husband who didn't know the names of golfers.
"Vanessa! Connie! Get dressed, he's dead!" Pat called up the stairs. "Oscar's coming to pick us up."
"I'm not going with you!" my mother yelled down.
"Okay," Pat said. "Come on, Vanessa."
I looked at my mother. I was envious of her choices, of her autonomy in this situation. She'd divorced my father years ago. I was leaving in the morning, but tonight I didn't have a choice. I was still his daughter. I put back on my clothes.
Pat was downstairs in the living room with The Bible open on her lap. I'd never seen her read The Bible. I was surprised she had one in the house. She was reading the whole Lord is my shepherd part. He maketh me lie down in green pastures, and all of that. I was surprised she'd known how to find it so quickly. She wanted me to read along with her. I sat next to her, pretending. I was really just mumbling. I wasn't saying real words.
When Oscar arrived, Pat got in up front and I sat in back. I hadn't been introduced to Oscar and he didn't say hello. I don't think we ever said a word to each other.
At the house, Natalie and Blanche were crying and holding each other on the couch. They didn't look up. Pat went to the hospital bed, took my father's hand. I knew I had to follow. Oscar and Natalie's boyfriend, Nick, another person I hadn't been introduced to, were standing nearby, talking, as though the party were still going. I didn't want to see my father but I couldn't stand talking to Oscar and Nick. I'd never seen a dead body. I didn't know how much rage you could feel. I cried anyway. Rage can make you do that too, I found out.
In the morning, Pat made coffee and eggs. Mom and I were smoking cigarettes on the patio. I didn't feel like eating. I didn't as a rule eat breakfast anyhow.
"Vanessa," Pat said. "I've been thinking. Why don't you stay a few extra days, go to the funeral here, then..."
I'd slept fine. I hadn't had any trouble falling asleep after Oscar dropped us off. He drove us back ten minutes after we got there. It wasn't long.
"I can't," I said. "I have work. I have to get back for work."
"You can call them," Pat said. "They'll understand. I'll buy you a ticket."
"No," I said. "I can't. I have to get back today."
That was all there was to it. Three hours later I was on the plane. I had work in the morning. I'd never been so happy to go to work.
There were other phone calls after that. Blanche called to tell me about the will. They needed me to sign off on it. Pat called to ask me to come to the burial in Ohio. I went.
In the meantime, my husband had been hospitalized. It'd all happened in the days after I got back to Michigan: his "break from reality," them strapping him to a bed, the ambulance ride to a rehab hospital near the mall where I worked...He was locked up six weeks. I went back to Ohio for my father's burial in part because we needed money. Pat gave me a check for five thousand. I folded the check, slid it in my wallet. I watched as they lowered my father's casket into the ground. I stood next to Pat.
After that, I got in the rental car, drove back to Michigan. I drove to the hospital where my husband was waiting in a corduroy robe and slippers. They still let you smoke cigarettes in rehab hospitals then. That was one good thing. Also, the check folded in my wallet. That was another.