My mother and father had three children together. My sister, Chrissie, is five years older than I. My brother, Kevin, is 11 months younger. I was the only one of us who went to my Dad’s when he was dying. Chrissie doesn’t handle death and dying very well. Kevin wanted nothing to do with my father. He wasn’t interested in his side of the story. As far as he was concerned, my father had, indeed, abandoned us.
Sofie came to me and said that it was my father’s last wish to at least speak with each of his children one last time. She tearfully asked if I would call Kevin, try to get him to talk to Dad. I knew it was futile, but I agreed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but how do you tell your father’s grieving wife no in those circumstances? I didn’t know how. I called my brother.
“Hey, Kevin. It’s Gringa. Um… I’m calling you from Dad’s house. He’s in pretty bad shape. He doesn’t have much longer. Sofie asked me to call you because his last wish is to speak to each of us one more time. If I bring the phone to him, would you be willing to speak to him for just a few minutes?”
I was a little taken aback. It wasn’t the fact that he had refused. I expected that. It was the way he said it, as though I’d asked him if he would like a nice cup of tea. I recovered, and I tried again.
“Are you sure? It would only take a few minutes.”
“Well, Ok. I’ll talk to you later. Say hi to everyone for me.”
“All right. Bye.”
Later Sofie asked if I had talked to Kevin. “I called him a little while ago. I’m so sorry, Sofie. He said no.”
“He said no?”
“I don’t know, Sofie. I tried. I really did.”
She went away, bewildered and hurt. That was Thursday. Friday she asked me to try again. I don’t know if I was surprised or not, but I agreed. In the meantime, I’d called Chrissie as well.
“You should come and see Dad. It’s the last time you’ll be able.”
“It would be too expensive to fly all of us there.”
“Well, just you come then. Frank can stay with the kids for a couple of days. You know he wouldn’t mind.”
“If I came out now I wouldn’t be able to come to the funeral. I can’t afford two trips.”
“To hell with the funeral. See him now while he’s still alive. Everyone will understand if you can’t make it for the funeral.”
She didn’t come. I called Kevin again.
“Listen, Sofie wanted me to call one more time. Are you sure you won’t speak, just for a minute or two? Just to say, ‘Hey, it’s Kevin.’ He can’t even respond at this point, so you wouldn’t have to have a conversation with him.”
“No. I’m not going to talk to him.”
The next day was Saturday. Dad’s hands and feet were purple. The hospice nurse had told us that when we saw the extremities turn blue or purple we would know the end was near. Circulation was pulling inward, protecting major organs as death approached. I called my brother a third time.
The first two times I called were on Sofie’s behalf, but that third time? That was all on me. At some point my stepmother had asked me to be strong, and I was. But I wanted my father to have his last wish, and I began to feel desperate about it.
“Hi, Kevin. It’s Gringa again. I know you said you don’t want to talk to Dad, but… I wanted to call you one more time. He isn’t going to be with us much longer. In a few hours no one will ever ask you to speak with him again, because he’ll be gone. Are you sure you won’t say just a few words to him? It’s your last chance.”
“I told you no. I meant no.”
I did not know I’d lost two family members that day, but I did.
That’s all I want to talk about today. I’m still very tired, and I just don’t have the energy to say anything more.
Thanks for listening.