Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day 2009

Maybe the last words you said to me were, "My Ami," or maybe they were an unintelligible string of consonants and vowels that meant so much to you but so little to me. In any case, there was the door opening in 2009, Labor Day weekend when I drove up to check on you, "My Ami," and I went upstairs and slept for an hour before trying to talk to you again, because I had been on the road since 5am. Second year of graduate school, I brought some books with me to read but instead you pantomimed college football to ask me -could I find a game for you on the television while your right arm hung helpless by your side? It took me 15 minutes before I gave up and you had to find a game yourself and then after that I couldn't read any books. I couldn't have imagined that ten days later, I would be measuring morphine in your syringe like my guilt. Maybe more mgs than my guilt.

I had this story laid out in my head that I thought I'd give you before you died, but then I was so sure you wouldn't die so I didn't write it out. The story was about 4th grade and the way you trained me for the 50 yard dash. When you asked me what my dreams were in 1981, and I thought that other girls at school most likely dreamed of ponies and roller skates and pink skirts, but I wanted to beat all the boys at the 50 yard dash at Game Days at the end of the year. That was my dream. So you took a can of spray paint and you marked off 50 yards on Palm Street. When the streetlights clicked on we went out and I ran sprints from spray painted mark to spray painted mark under the yellow lights. You timed me and I improved. 
We trained for three months and you told me I should think about sprinting at the Olympics. I agreed. I wore a green tank top with rainbow stripes and matching shorts that looked like a sprinting uniform. (This is all the stuff I was going to remind you of, I was going to write out this story and give it to you asap, but I was fairly sure you weren't going to die so I told myself it could wait. I couldn't have imagined squirting mgs of morphine into your open mouth for five days until you finally agreed to die, is what I mean.)

I don't know if you understood the importance of Game Days, the most dreaded two days of the entire school year in my estimation. The "Days" were a series of competitive athletic events, at which I never excelled, and of which I was so apprehensive that most years (1978-1980) I faked stomachaches in order to avoid. But this year was different due to our trainings on Palm Street after the streetlights clicked on. Spray painted line to spray painted line when the black tar of the pavement looked soft under the yellow street lights. 50 yards on Palm Street, an unused side street that ran beside the snowball bushes along the perimeter of our yard.

Anyway, the culmination of this story I was going to give you (in printed form) related the starting line, the slow motion glances between the competitors, the sound of the whistle signifying GO!  The most important part of this story I was going to write out for you (but didn't because I thought it was pretty dramatic for me to believe anyone would die after a seizure) was the look on Kevin Platt's face when the whistle blew (because he was the fastest sprinter in the 4th grade and by the way I would have laid all this out in the beginning of the story I was going to write for you), because I frankly outran him. ME, a skinny, socially awkward, un-athletic, loser of a 10 year old. Frankly, I outran every 4th grade boy on the starting line of the 50 yard dash during the 1981 Game Days. Someone eventually beat me in the final heat of the 50 yard dash but for the life of me (and for the life of you, obviously), I don't remember who. The point of this whole story that I was going to give you, had you not died, was that, no matter what dream I had, you believed I would achieve it, no matter how ridiculous (because really, I'm no sprinter, and you had to have known). Because, let's face it, I don't have much athletic ability, but I thought this story might be a reminder of the way you helped me when the streetlights flicked on at night after we watched Buck Rogers, sprinting down Palm Street, the journey my little cheap tennis shoes took night after night between those spray-painted marks that measured 50 yards total.