Sunday, April 24, 2011


He is helpless, incoherent, so dehydrated he needs an IV, a kind and harmless old man stumbling through the snow. He needs someone and has no one but me; I am trapped and a monster. This situation is turning me into a monster.

I raise my voice for a moment in the doctor's office, and hate myself for it even while the anger boils and the voice inside my head wants me to scream, Why should I bother to take care of you? When you never bothered to take care of me? I want to pummel him, kick him while he lies doubled on the floor; the desire is excruciating, the possibility visceral and tangible. He is so helpless. I was helpless. I try soften my rage, to remember times when he did take care of me, and discover that I am returning his quality of care; enough to be sure he'd stay alive. Almost. I hate myself. At this moment I don't care what happens to him. I'm sure if anything did I'd feel guilty, but it's far more important to me that I have turned into this thing so worthy of hate.

The neighbors are around, shuttling back and forth from their Wednesday night church meetings, and I consider them helplessly, but they have never been any help before and I don't see why they'd start to bother now. I try to remember that I don't have to be doing this, don't have to be here, but somehow I can't remember the place where I had a choice. I will go, as soon as this is done, as soon as there is someone else who can take care of him, and explain to one of my sisters that I can't do it ever again. I feel guilty about future refusal. Try to remember again; why exactly do I have to? He is not a child I chose to bring into the world. This is why I should never have children. This is why I shouldn't exist.

On the way to the pharmacy I contemplate new addiction. There might be enough liquor at home to give me alcohol poisoning in one night, but I don't think it would help. I am searching the shelf to see if I could find something that, properly overdosed, could cause intense vomiting for several hours, when I turn and see my aunt standing a few feet away. I've had perhaps half a real conversation with her. We lived with them, some of us kids, for a time when I was a child, for--why exactly? No one can quite remember. Because we didn't have a house. No, that was another time.

"Day!" she says.

For a moment we make small talk. She's looking for protein drinks; my uncle is ill with something I've never heard of, and apparently their mission is delayed for it. I feel vague regret and encompassing alienation. They are nice people, and this is bad for them, even though missionary work isn't something I can support or relate to.

"So. . . is there a reason you're standing there crying and staring at the Prilosec?"

They knew; they explained. "We tried to set an example for your parents." We know, but this is not our fault. You were not our responsibility. We tried to do our best. I decide to tell her. Somehow in her surreal and perfect kindness she must have a solution--

But she doesn't, or she has no chance to dispense her miracle because I'm explaining that my father is sick when my cousin-in-law, a perfect stranger, walks up to rejoin her. After brief introductions I flee. It's helped anyway, a stuttering disclosure and three or four hugs, and I'm reduced to weeping in the pet food aisle till the prescription is filled.