We’ve adopted some pugs. Fosternapped I guess is a way to put it. They were in desperate need of care and we were in a place to provide it. They’re good boys. I’ve decided one of them is the reincarnation of my paternal grandfather.
I suppose I should talk about Hank. I never really grieved him proper.
The man he was was dead before I knew to give a shit, and only in glimmers and drabs before that. Alcohol. For many years it was his focus to get fucked up. Early in the morning, early in the evening, fucked up at suppertime. We’d joke about his repetitiveness, his forgetfulness, his mindless marching toward the granite-etched dinner schedule. Dinner in my childhood home was a variegated feast of delights, we could have anything any night! We decided together and stared into the fridge conspiratorially calorie-stacking its contents in our shared imagination.
In Hank’s house there were dinners that you got on days of the week and you decided on them in advance. In case anybody forgot it was written down on a yellow pad of paper, pages curled and feathered from his constant handling. Next to it an endless punchbowl of miniature snickers, in case touching the meal’s name didn’t ease the pain. If you were to go out the place was decided upon in advance (Shangri-La); its menu constant and Henry Marvin’s meal invariable.
That’s what happens when the days of the week start to drift on you. When you wake up and can’t remember if today is a Tuesday or if that was yesterday. Yesterday a presumption more than a recollection. The sun has risen so a day must have passed. Perhaps we read a book. Definitely we took a nap. Probably we jerked it to some porn.
And when it turns out to be Monday all along you panic. And when you panic, you drink. No matter that the crisis was booze created, you drink. First. Early. Beer for breakfast and all day long. Malt liquor, actually. He took a disastrous step into hard liquor for a very short time before ending up in detox, then AA. He died sober, long sober, and somewhat more than he had been. But I know I never met the man himself.
Angry, I have deduced. Perturbed. From his participation in this country’s wars and a thousand other equally valid reasons, I’m sure. But I know the liquor softened him, all of him. The intellect and the presence. I would play with his crispy-gelled hair while he snoozed in his armchair, his weiner dog snoozing quietly beside him. And wonder at the play of light through his bubbling beer. His constant companion. His true love.
He died while I was on vacation. And we didn’t even go back. It was a relief that it had happened. Poor timing, to be sure. And I regret not going back, a bit. But who was I to make that call at the time. We kept on truckin. His funeral is a blur in my memory. Sad family members. My grandmother’s horrifying dandruff, her spontaneous grief alopecia. Corn flakes of it. A wig maybe? I didn’t come home when she died either.
He asked me for a cigarette, begged me for one. Shoulda tried to. Regrets, I’ve had a few. Something monstrous going on with his teeth, tartar like a dog, thick, or maybe just what a dying man’s maw looks like when you can’t get him to let you brush em. He was strong too I wouldn’t wanna fight him at any time he was capable of standing. But when I touched him he was so frail. His skin was so soft. Fragile seeming, it drooped on him translucent over boiled-soft meat. Dying from the outside-in. Wet eyes, sometimes here, sometimes far away. Hell of a thing.
I don’t remember what suit he was buried in. Memory missing. I see him there. Well, not there, in some platonic coffin. Some perfect personal funeral. One where I spend the time to grieve. I see him in every fancy clothes he ever owned. The frilled tuxedo shirt from my parents wedding album. The awful purple number from the reception. The never quite right on him suits he wore for numerically significant anniversaries and birthdays. Unfamiliar closed collars bringing the waddle of his neck together.
If they loved him they’d have buried him in a plain white t-shirt. Worn so thin you could read newsprint through it. A pack of cigarettes, can’t remember his brand, tucked in the pocket. A pair of cutoff jorts so short and ragged they bordered on scandal at the bottom. Waist set fully belly button height, midway up the curvature of his avocadoesque abdomen. They’d have folded his hands on his chest. And made a special coffin, so he could prop his knees up like he liked to do when he took his naps. Those orthopedic looking black shoes, and gym socks that stretched to his knees. They’d have cinched his gut in his weight belt and put his typerwriter down by his feet.
Shit, if you made room for a spaceheater and sprinkle some daschund bones in – you wouldn’t even have had to have an estate sale. He could be buried like a Pharaoh with all his worldly possessions intact. A Colt 45 in place of casks of mead. Henry Marvin will likely be thirsty in the next world too.