In memory of Jaroslava Blazkova, 15.11.1933 – 20.2.2017.
We are laughing so hard that her shaking arm knocks off her glasses and snot smears on her cheek and she begins a body-wracking cough, and I expect a nurse to give me the evil eye and then she stops and says, “It’s not even funny, Adam,” and bursts out in laughter again.
It isn’t, damn it. I’ve peed myself. That’s not funny either. A man in my sixties with incontinence issues. Does the support group meet in the hospital cafeteria, close to bathrooms?
I’ve brought glitter and hair color and feathers and squeegees and when I started pulling them out of the bag and putting them on her bed, she pointed and said, “You,” and for her I’ll tell jokes and do pratfalls and even transform myself into a drag queen, so I spray a wild purple streak on one side, and glitter all down the other, paste on enormous eyelashes, geyser some strands of hair straight up. I slide huge angel wings over my shoulders, flap, jump, don’t take off, stagger and then we are beside ourselves.
It was in remission for over a year — now we are counting days, hours, minutes. Yesterday for three hours she never opened her eyes, wove in and out of sleep and I watched her chest moving gingerly up and down.
“Get me a beer,” she rasps and I pop the tab, pour half into a Kennedy cup, hold a flexible straw to her lips. One swallow. She cannot force down any more. Even liquids are hard. No, it’s not funny. I flap a wing. She forces a smile. Her small table holds her worn Bible, rosary beads, a small prayer card of Karol Wojtyla, half a tangerine. A parish priest must have visited. I doubt she has used rosary beads in forty years but I don’t remove them. Gold glitter flutters onto my pants. Is my second act dropping plates and colored balls or is it curtains? She may have just received last rites, cleansed her soul with a good confession but I don’t ask. She may not remember.
At Thanksgiving she told me she is giving serious thought to getting married again, lots of grey-haired bucks in the neighborhood, she’s sure to enjoy the company. I dropped my tea cup, busied myself picking up the shards. A week later she had a fall.
Her lips are moving now but no words are audible. Could be prayer or curses or a demand for more beer. I don’t ask her to speak up and the movement stops. I massage mentholy cream into the black blotches and bruises on her sagging skin. Outside her window small visitors chitter, looking for feed from her outstretched hand.
She closes her eyes. I take deep breaths, listen. Her clear voice says, “I will see you…later.”
The work of Andrew Stancek has appeared in many fine publications including Tin House online, FRIGG, Jellyfish Review, Peacock Journal, and Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. His novel, set in the Tatra Mountains in 1944, is nearing completion.