6 Weeks in Florida
Carrie Lee Grinstead
The sun is rising. It´s going to be a scorcher. The rays on the back of my neck are already teasing my northern skin. You’ll get burned if you stay here. Where’s your hat? My parents´ voices forever in my head. The waves tumble and rumble in urgent persistence, pushing one another to the shore. They foam and stretch and grab for the sand, trying to hang on but, retreating, they slip and dissipate, pulled back to their source.
The cancer has spread, spread from the lungs, spread from the brain, to the spine and now the liver. We are driving, my father and I, to radiation treatments. Treatments to control pain, no more are we fooled into believing they can cure. He must know. He will not be able to outlast this thing. He is tenacious, but he is also smart and he must know he will not win this battle. We talk about everything but. . . We talk about his grandchildren, about my son, the aspiring actor.
My father says that he wishes he could stick around and see how that all turns out.
I say, “I made him promise to take me with him to the Academy Award ceremony, when he gets nominated.”
My father looks out the window, muttering, “He’ll look good in a tux.”
“Dad, you won’t miss it, you’ll have the best seat in the house.”
As I walk, I work to draw strength from the power that commands the waves. You can do this, you can do this, is their rhythmic chant, you can do this for him.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’m glad you’re here too, Dad.”
“What is a five letter word for autumn flower?”
“A four letter word for ‘analogy’?”
He sleeps more and more. I sit on his bed and watch the news. A black man is running against a white woman for the Democratic ticket. What a different world this must seem to an old WWII pilot. But, he is distant. His focus changes daily, moving away from the events of this world.
The sun is overhead. The sand squishes in the places between my toes. The waves lap, lap at my ankles, filling my footprints. They fizzle and foam and drawback, taking the evidence with them.
My father’s dog comes to get me for the fifth time tonight. His nose urges me awake telling me, he’s on the move again.
“It’s OK, Dad, I’ll help you. You don’t have to do this alone. Lean on me so you don’t fall.”
“I’ll be alright, I’ll be alright,” he repeats.
“I know you will, Dad.”
Night is day and day is night.
“Dad, it’s three am. Why are you dressed? Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. I guess there isn’t anywhere to go, now.”
Back to bed. Back to bed.
The waves push and roar and shove their way to shore and defeated, draw back, back to their source. Don’t go, stay. Stay here with me. Don’t go.
“Are you in pain, how much?”
“I’ll be alright.”
“I know, but on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst and zero being no pain ... more morphine for you.”
“I’ll be alright.”
“I know, I know, Eat something, you’re skin and bones.”
Not hungry, but if you don’t eat you’ll ...
The waves stumble and groan and pull away and combine and disappear into the whole.
He is agitated. If I grab his hand tight and sing, he is calmed, so I sing:
"The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures."
I am aware of the wetness on my cheeks, I must be crying. I hear my voice as if someone, not me, is singing.
"Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever and ever."
The waves mutter to one another. The sun is setting. It looks like the sun’s fire is being extinguished by the ocean’s water. It isn’t, though. The sun will circle back this way, and the waves will continue to be shoved to shore and will persist in being drawn back, back to their source.
It’s OK. You can go. Thank you for being, for being my wonderful Dad. You can go. I’ll be alright. I’ll be alright.