A Difficult Conversation

So I’m late and flying down Beltway 8 here in Houston to meet some friends for brunch at their country club.

It’s the usual Christmas thing. Food, booze, bratty kids and photos with Santa Claus.

My phone rings. I answer. It’s my father. He wants to talk about the Christmas plans. My mother isn’t doing well. He thinks maybe she can handle an hour with the family Christmas Eve and another hour Christmas Day.

Something is not right. His voice trails off. I ask if my mom is awake. He says she is and passes the phone to her.

Her voice is weak. Her phrasing sounds tired.

She begins by apologizing.

“I’m not feeling well at all. I am sorry but I’m not sure I will still be here come Christmas.”

“It’s okay,” I tell her. “I understand.”

“I know you do. I just… don’t have any strength left.”

“Okay, but you might feel stronger tomorrow, right? I mean, you just don’t know what might happen tomorrow.”

“I’ll try. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

And then I cried and quickly pieced myself back together in this fucking parking lot because I had to show up on time. Because, you know, my friends expected me to be festive, to entertain and make everyone else feel good. It’s what I do. I lay joy down upon others.

She never really made it to Christmas.

Nothing has been the same since.

In fact, everything has been simply awful, all of the time.

The Last Words Sent

I wasn’t going to post this on here. It was just, I don’t know… too personal.
So it’s been sitting in my email for a few weeks and I’ve come really close to accidentally deleting it (those that know me know I delete just about everything I ever send or recieve). The thing is, I want to make sure it’s safe so I can go back and read it. This is probably the safest place I know.
Of course, the downside is that it’s now public and no longer private.
So here is the last email sent to me by my grandmother and my reply back to her.
Dear  Lazlo,
I’m sorry to have let so much time pass before answering your E-mail.
I liked your story very much (She’s talking about the Juniper Tice story http://lazlofiles.com/2012/07/19/juniper-tice-and-the-shooting-star/ ).
And it will be good for some nice girl to do the art work for it.
In the meanwhile , we’ve had the terrible news about (your mother).
I wanted to call you immediately but I just couldn’t do it.  Sometimes you have to let these things sink in a while.
Then  (your grandfather’s) cancer came back to my memory and I had to live that over again.
Poor Bruce and Mary to have to go through this again.  They are strong people and they will handle it  but it will not  be easy.
They plan to come to see me but will you do something for me? Don’t let them come if it’s about my old age.
They have enough things to worry about .  And you and your sister – how sad this is for all of us!
So I write back….
Dear Grandma Dottie,

No, they are coming to see you because my mother loves you very much. You’ve always been much more than a mother-in-law to her. I can’t tell you how many times she would say “When I grow up I want to be just like Dottie.”My dad said the doctors do not think she will live past a year, even with the chemo.My mom keeps saying she is sorry for getting sick again so soon.I’m so sad about this I can’t even begin to explain it except to say that I’m crying all the time for her and for my father.It just doesn’t seem right or fair at all. So please encourage them to come see you and please help them enjoy their time with you, the (my aunt and uncle) and their friends.I love you very much and you can call me ANYTIME you feel like it.– Lazlo

She called me two week later and we talked about what to get my father for his birthday. She had a stroke a week after that and died one week later.

From the hospital, she had my aunt call me. She wanted to hear me sing “Ring of Fire” for her, just like I did as a 5-year-old.

So I did it right there at work, complete with the faux Tijuana brass fills. Because, ultimately, you do whatever whenever you can for people you love.

I don’t know…

What would she tell me now?

She’d say…
People worry about love and life and where they are going and what they are doing. Do not worry so much. Honestly, the worrying is what kills you. If you love someone, smother them with it as much as you can. You never know when that light will burn out. So use that illumination to learn as much about yourself and others as you can.
Don’t ever stop trying. Just give it all you got as much as you can all the time.
Be a scholar. Be a poet. Be a scientist. Be a thinker. Be something with what days you have.
That’s all.