About 4 years ago I lived with my godparents, Ruth and Harold. A few months prior to my moving in Harold had been diagnosed with a pretty aggressive cancer and as they are two of the most important people in my life and both in their 80’s I offered to move in and help out where I could. Towards the end of Harold’s life he was in bed full time with Hospice folks coming in and out to help take care of different things.
As Harold began to swing in and out of consciousness the amount of care he needed became an around the clock job. Eventually, day and night became of no use or matter to him and so, being on his schedule, it had little to do with my life either.
Sometimes at night, after Ruth would go to bed, there would be this eerie moment of quiet normalcy about the house. For a few hours, around 10 or 11p.m. we were all doing what everyone else was doing. Ruth and Harold would both be sleeping and I would go off into the TV room and try to unwind a bit before I went to bed. I’d try to zone out on the TV over a few beers or some of Ruth’s Wild Turkey that I found hidden up high in the cupboard above the stove.
As I’d watch TV at night I learned to divide my attention in half, so that I could relax a bit. Half of me would watch television and the other half stayed tuned in to Harold’s oxygen machine, making sure it was always a consistent rhythm. That oxygen machine became a strange and soothing lullaby of sorts: as long as I could hear it fill and release I could relax and with my bedroom across the hall from Harold and Ruth, that machine became the song that put me to sleep.
One night in the TV room I ran into the show, Six Feet Under, that I had never heard of before. I caught an episode in the middle of the third season and was instantly swept away. It quickly became the only consistent appointment I kept. At 10p.m. on Thursdays I would settle in to catch the latest episode. The show absolutely fascinated me. It was a strange show that came at strange timing on a strange subject and it felt like a strange mirror that I held up to see a bigger picture than I would have found on my own, in that little house. And every once in a while there would be a bit of dialog that would unexpectedly break me, make me cry, making more room for what I was in for.
Harold passed away about a month after I moved in and I ended up living with Ruth for about 8 months after that (in which time I met Violet, stories to come). Harold died in a sort of peace that I would not have imagined possible.
Every once in a while I’ll re-watch an episode or two, just because it is such a great show and in an admittedly strange way, I start to miss the characters now and then. Last night I watched an episode and heard one of my favorite exchanges between David and his dad (his dad has been dead for a few years at this point). I heard it for the first time about a month after Harold passed away.
(both staring out of a sunny window in David’s house)
Dad: The point is right in front of your face.
David: Well I’m sorry but I don’t see it.
Dad: You’re not even grateful are you?
David: Grateful? For the worst fucking experience of my life?
Dad: You hang on to your pain like it means something, like it’s worth something. Well, let me tell you, it’s not worth shit. Let it go… Infinite possibilities and all he can do is whine.
David: Well, what am I suppose to do?
Dad: What do you think? You can do anything you lucky bastard, you’re alive. What’s a little pain compared to that?
David: It can’t be so simple
Dad: What if it is.