What's really terrible is that we all stood around his deathbed like everyone was waiting for him to die. Here's an old man, crippled now, convalescent, dying, great, rattling breaths filling the room with stale air, one wrinkled hand clutching his neck, his bony shoulders, his throat. His lips were chapped with the effort of drawing in air, and an arid rattle of hot breath would slip a dry tongue out in an attempt to moisture his lips, the portal to this cancer that, you know, is slowly eating him from the inside out. Or once it was slow, but now it was fast, this acceleration of this disease. These little things riding his blood cells and eating this big, full life from the inside out, till the man outside was but a shell of the man that once resided in the body.
He was Edwin Wien, Eddie Wien, Sir Edwin Wien, but really just Sir, and he was always larger than life itself, at least to me. Old and wrinkled, he was a god. He was something bigger than I ever imagined, you know, than any person could ever be. His life was eventful, and yeah, I do fault him for some things, never giving them money, or not ever too much, even when you're a millionaire, a single mother all on her own, two kids, how could you do that to your daughter, should we mourn your death or just celebrate it, or some sick, strange, awkward combination of both? Where all the 'guests' just stand around trying to figure out how to mourn, or pretend to, or throw out fond memories, or pretend to? Some odd combination of the two, some way where they combine and meld, so it won't be so awkward and we can talk about how he was born a city block away from where his birth certificate said he was born, talk about it while talking about his whole life, talk about it while we're all standing around crying, or pretending to? Talking about it while we're all hovering around his deathbed like vultures, waiting, preying?
I was guilty of it too. This man who had lived through so much, who lived this whole life, experienced so much, who was God, who I was always kind of hesitant around, even in his later days, covering up the fact that I wanted to cry when I saw him because God isn't supposed to walk with a bent back and God isn't supposed to have this disease that you can't see and God isn't supposed to not be able to eat when everyone goes out to dinner. And is God supposed to talk about his own death like it's imminent? Is God supposed to die without much dignity, in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown, bony like his relatives, who, oh god, died in those camps, yes it's horrible but it happened and it's true.
Death strips all dignity from your bones; I kissed his head and I cradled his bony shoulder and I admired how beautiful his hands were, those hands, the perfectly perfect fingernails, even now, and I walked away.
Two days later he died, and the Cubs never won the Pennant, and he was cremated and not even allowed to turn to Chicago, to rest and return to Chicago, and I never really showed him just how much I loved and admired and respected him and he was gone. And this time, it wasn't just to Florida, St. Petersburg, where they lived all those years and I hardly cared but for when I saw him, he was like Jesus, he was like God, he was bigger and old and wise and bald and wizened, and now we can't just get on a plane and ride there and not be afraid of a hijacking and Cole can't throw up all over my Chicken McNuggets, and I can't go down there and impress the neighbors with a vocabulary far beyond my years and we can't put Crispix in our mouths and breathe like Darth Vader and we can't go swimming on the beach, and we can't say "Oh look oh God there's GG in her swimsuit," and we can't laugh and we can't talk about politics and we can't talk about religion that we don't have and can't find and we can't have the discussions that I need, please come back because I miss you.
It's sick, but I'm not so sure I don't miss you more than Aunt Sissie, or GG, because GG can't even remember she has kids and you didn't like Sissie because she was a bitch, and Interpol and Black Flag can't come save you or anyone else this time, and it can't control your volume, because the only volume you have is when they move your urn and you rattle in your little bronze/gold/silver/iron/steel/ceramic house.
A temple for a god who weighs less than a brick now! The closest thing to religion that either of us will ever have gotten.