What was a hospital visit has become a vigil here in Nyack. So much has happened this week in Rockland County. So little of it was good.
We’re all bracing for what’s next. Here’s my story:
Dad is dying in Nyack Hospital and I needed a drink. The hotel bar was closed. I made a deal w/ God (no DWIs tonight) and grabbed my car keys.
I opened Maps Google to find the right, nearby bar. O’Donoghue’s found me first.
I needed to think. Just stare into the bar mirror and find some answers between the bottles. And every bar stool was taken. Every last one. I ordered at the bar, took the booth, turned my back to the bar and stared at the empty space.
The Knob Creek was biting back. I loved it. The porter was delicious. A mile away, Pop was dying and holding on and dying. I wanted him to fall into the abyss and just go. I felt like a coward. I didn’t want to let go of him.
Pop and I have warred, two stubborn alphas under the same roof. His roof. Sniping, angry. Neither of us able to express love for each other in a simple or normal way. He’s watched me fail but hasn’t let me fall.
Sitting at my booth, I just began crying. Just short of bawling. Tears down my face, blurred vision and so much snot in my head. I asked God for help. Help me understand.
And then there they were. The three people who could help me most.
Granpa sat straight across from me, his shock of white hair standing straight up and over. His loopy grin was beaming. “My boy. How are you.” I was named for Granpa and my dad. But he always called me Boy. The Boy.
Next to him was Granma. She seemed shorter and hunched over. Her eyes disappeared as she smiled. “Let me look at you. Let me look at you.”
And right next to me on my bench was Mom. In all her glory. The Queen of Hearts. I was stress hallucinating and I didn't care. I was loud sobbing now. I knew our time was short.
“Mom, Dad’s dying and I don’t want to let him go. Lisa’s been working so hard to keep him well and I don’t want to let him go.”
Mom squeezed my shoulder and said, “He’s been gone for a while now. Find peace. He’s in pain. Let him go.”
Well. Well. Well. My mind blown, a snotty mess, I turned back to Granpa. “You’re a good boy.” He held both my hands and looked directly in my eyes. His were clear. He was present. “Tommy, you’re a good man.”
I slid him the rest of my bourbon. He smiled, eyeing my porter.
I looked to Granpa: “I don’t want to let go.” She said, “I love your children so much. Let go. You’re going to be alright. He’s going to be alright.”
I was desperate now. Panicked. I turned to Mom: “I can’t let go.”
She stroked my cheek and kissed me. “He’ll be with us.”
And then they were gone. I was alone again in a booth for four souls.
I was frightened and I was angry and I was alone and I didn’t want to be wrong and I didn’t want to be a coward. I ground my heels into the floor, inhaled slowly and deeply and...
And I let him go.
I was dizzy and I was relieved and just wiped out and felt so much better and was so, so sad.
I put a twenty on the table and reached for the bourbon. It was empty. As was the porter.
God help us. God helps us all. Thanks, God, for O’Donoghue’s.