Kenny Robertson’s dad had a tough death. Towards the end, Kenny moved him into Kenny’s house and set up the hospital bed in the living room. Kenny arranged him so he could see the TV if he turned one way and out the picture window if he turned the other way.
Their fights went something like this.
“Bring me a beer.”
“You can’t be drinking beer with your pills, Dad.”
“What? I might die? I’m fucking dying, Kenny. Bring me a god damn beer.”
“Bring me a god damn beer. Fuck it.”
“We’re out of beer.”
“Can’t I have something better than this shit to eat? What about some chips?”
“The doctor says you can’t have all that salt.”
“Kenny, I’m fucking dying. Chips don’t make no god damn difference.”
“It makes a difference to me. I have to wipe your ass.”
“You think that’s easy for me? Letting your own son wipe your ass? You just wait until it’s your turn.”
“I’d shoot myself.”
“It’s easy to think so,” his dad said, finally sighing deeply, and turning towards the window.
The fights were not easy on either of them, but Kenny preferred them to the long periods of silence, when his dad would just stare off into space, like he was practicing being dead.
When he finally did die, he was asleep. He let out a loud, surprised yell that woke Kenny up, but by the time Kenny got into the living room and got the light on, his dad was breathing out for the last time.
“There’s nothing that can prepare you for it,” Kenny said. “I mean, you say ‘he’s gone’ but man, until you see it, how it’s like he’s there one second and then… I don’t know. it was like I couldn’t recognize him. Like his whole face changed. They said it’d be like he went to sleep. But when you sleep, you still look like yourself. I don’t know. It sucked.”
After the funeral, Kenny came home, opened the fridge, took out a beer, and settled onto the couch. He hadn’t had more than four swigs from the beer before he was asleep.
“You know how it is,” he said. “It’s like, you’re just doing this and going this place and that place. I mean, it was like the first time since he died that I really got to stop and just be still. I crashed.”
He has a strange look on his face as he starts to tell this next part, as if you can be amused and afraid at the same time.
“When I woke up, every fucking cabinet in the kitchen was wide open. The refrigerator was wide open. And that case of beer was set right in the middle of the floor.
“Yeah, I guess, I could have been so tired I sleep-walked. But I woke up with my beer still in my hand. I somehow sleep walked and didn’t spill a drop?
“I think it was him. I think that son of a bitch was like ‘No beer? I see plenty of beer, now that I’m not stuck in that bed.’ Shoot, he was probably searching for chips.
“Nothing like that’s happened since. I think that was just his way of saying goodbye, and, you know, letting me know he knew I was a liar.”