A Short Story – Bernie’s Choice

Daddy's Girl

Daddy’s Girl

A couple years before my dad died, he gave me a gift. He told me he had a story idea about an old man’s date with destiny. He described the scenario vividly and I could picture every moment of this man’s journey as my father transferred the story from his mind directly into my brain. When Dad died, I searched his computer, wondering if he had written this wonderful story. I wanted so badly to find his words so I could print them out and share them with the world. But, the words were not there.

So, it was my turn to give him a gift.  I took the words he etched on my brain and wrote his story honoring almost every detail. I say almost because I did make one change and I think he knows why.

Here’s to you, Dad!

 

Bernie’s Choice

 Bernie opened his eyes as he did every morning sharply at 8:00 am. He was alive for one more day, and the butterflies in his belly sent a message to his brain that something good was on the horizon – perhaps the sun. After an extended absence, the sun had indeed emerged from behind the clouds and found an opening in the drapes, targeting Bernie right between his watery brown eyes. The hot ray of sunshine on his face demanded his attention as it warmed his chilled body from the top of his hair-challenged head to the tip of his arthritic toes and as it sent its heat through his body, it seemed to illuminate each object in the room with an ethereal glow. The floral print on the curtains went from dingy pale pink and yellow to a deep fuchsia and saffron with leaves and stems as green as the grass of St. Andrews. And the petals of each flower might have been moving; he wasn’t sure. Were his old tired eyes playing tricks on him? And, why did his body respond so profoundly to a silly ray of sunshine? Of course, he did live in Seattle where a sun sighting was rare, but still, this reaction was over the top for that one sunny day in December.

Bernie had been feeling crappy for weeks – forty-seven weeks to be exact – and if that warm beam of light could to bring him out of his funk, he would embrace it. He sat up slowly, preparing himself for his morning trip to the bathroom. It had become a struggle to move his heavy, aching legs into the waiting slippers and shuffle to the room he knew so well; the room in which he struggled to relieve his swollen prostate; the room that held the putrid remains of each small meal his body refused to digest after chemo; the room he had come to hate. God knows why I’m optimistic, Bernie thought. The prognosis was not promising, but Bernie always looked for the good and still found humor and joy in his life in spite of his circumstances. He wasn’t supposed to survive this cancer, but he knew if anyone could beat the odds, he would be the one. And, when he got that final miracle declaring him cancer free, he would buy himself a Mustang convertible. It would be red to match his favorite golf sweater and cuffley cap. That was Bernie – always hopeful, always dapper and always full of life. He was not going to give up!

On this exceptionally bright winter morning, he felt more hope than ever. He reached for his pain pills 413SCxjl0tL[1]then suddenly realized he felt no pain, in fact, he felt better than he’d felt in fifty years. Crazy what a little sunshine/vitamin D can do for an old body, he thought. He had barely left his bedroom in the last month and now he was ready to go to the dealership and buy that Mustang. Had he turned the corner? Was the chemo finally working? He felt like dancing! How could this be? From handfuls of oxycontin to feeling like a young man again, it didn’t make sense.

Oh, God, it really didn’t make sense! Something was wrong – very wrong. Oh, God, NO! This couldn’t be happening to him. “Damn it, God, I’m not ready for this!” Bernie shouted. He ran to the window. It was not sunny outside. It was dark as hell. But, inside his room that bright light glowed like a lighthouse beacon. There was no ray of sunshine, no ray of hope. It was the end. He was heading into the proverbial light everyone told him he would see when he died. He didn’t even believe in that crap and now he was living it – or more accurately dying it. God Damn it! There was so much he had missed in life and now it was over.

 

“God doesn’t appreciate you using his name in vain, Bernie. ‘Damn it’ is not God’s last name.”

“Who said that? Saint Peter? Am I at the Pearly Gates?” Bernie blinked and his room was no longer visible. He was floating on a cloud, talking to God’s right hand man. “Sorry about the ‘Damn it, St. Peter.” Continue reading

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National Sibling Day?

If I had known last Friday, April 10th, was National Sibling Day I would’ve prepared this post last week. Thank you, Facebook, for making me aware of yet another ‘holiday’ I had no idea existed. I’ve been wanting to write about my sister and this would have been an opportunity to honor her on our special day, but alas, the IRS felt it was more important for me to sift through my receipts to determine just how much money to pay them on National Tax Day (April 15th, of course).

So, I missed National Sibling Day and was feeling pretty blue. Then, my son informed me that April 12th was National Only Child Day. Okay, I guess those without siblings should have a day, too. I barely had a chance to enjoy my sibling when all the only children demanded my attention. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV and found out the 12th was also National Grilled Cheese Day. Somehow the importance of National Sibling Day lost its pop, diluted by all the other damn National (you-fill-in-the-blank) days. Did you know that there is something for every day of the year?

IMG_3960But, the truth is I do want to write about my sister. I love my sister. I really couldn’t ask for a better sister—now—but it wasn’t always so rosie. After all, we’re siblings and we were not expected to get along in our childhood years. You can’t tell from this picture, but honestly, my sister was probably thinking, “Why did they bring this little brat into my perfect life?”  She had enjoyed being an only child for four years and then they brought me home. At that point she packed a suitcase and headed out the front door telling Mom she was moving to Seattle (100 miles away from our small town of Sumas, WA) to live with Aunt Jean and Uncle Bob. Of course she expected Mom to stop her and promise to get rid of the offending bundle of baby poop and spit up, but when Mom said, “Okay, but why don’t you come have lunch first”, she realized she wasn’t going to get her way.  And, after all, she was hungry, so she ate her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and never spoke of leaving again.

As I said, I love my sister, Sue. She taught me so many valuable life lessons. The first thing I learned from my sister was that dog biscuits are edible. My friend and I idolized Sue and her friend, Suzanne, and can you believe they took advantage of us? They told us if we wanted to play house with them we would eat what they put in front of us. It turned out the meal they prepared was Friskies dog biscuits. Luckily I survived that—Haha, or should I say ‘woof’.

A few years ago...As the years passed, I kept trying to catch up to her, but of course, that never happened. I matured at a much slower pace, so there was a great distance between us in our youth, but by the time she moved out at eighteen, we were actually starting to like one another and only a few years later we became roommates and found out that the space between age 19 and 23 is much less than the cavernous gap between 9 and 13.

And now, as we face a few life challenges, including the loss of our dad and the illness of our mom, we’ve grown closer than ever. She’s been there for me through my divorce while others removed me from their social calendar because I was no longer part of a couple. She and my brother-in-law, Lucky, include me whenever they do anything and I am truly grateful. I didn’t know until five years ago that being single had such a stigma, but my sister never makes me feel left out.

So, thank you, Sue; I couldn’t have made it through these last five years without you! In fact, I couldn’t have made it through life without a great sister like you!

I wish I could say Happy National Sibling Day, but I missed that boat. I also wish I’d have posted this yesterday on National High Five Day—that would have been a close second. But, it looks like I will have to settle for National Bat Appreciation Day, and although I think this was meant for the creepy winged bats hanging upside down in someone’s attic, in honor of my sister and her love of baseball, let’s just pretend it’s the Mariners’ bats. Go M’s!!

My Son is the Best!

This is my boy, Brett, at nine months. He was an awesome little dude—and he still is!  Awesome, that is, but not so little any more. At twenty-six, he is still wielding a hot bat and wearing red shoes. Not only does he play competitive softball, he writes about all sports at www.wcoastbias.com.

IMG_3922Perhaps his interest in sports began the day he came home from the hospital when his dad read him the sports page—the first of many readings. I believe the DNA from his dad implanted the sports bug in his brain, but his grandfather’s genes (and maybe his mother’s?) gave him the ability to write about them. Or, could it have been the 1995 Mariners making a run in the playoffs when he was seven years old that spawned his interest—our DNA may have had nothing to do with his talent.

Brett has never been shy. I say that as I recall him pulling down his pants to show our favorite grocery clerk his Power Rangers underwear in the middle of the aisle at QFC. As the years passed, he learned to temper his enthusiasm, but honestly, not that much. He keeps his pants on these days, but his fervor for the game of baseball cannot be denied.

IMG_1662As I ended my marriage five years ago, Brett’s love of the game probably saved my sanity. Our trips to Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and San Francisco reminded me that life could go on—we had shared this journey with his dad in Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Baltimore and Boston, but it was clear we could continue this trek on our own. We still have lots more to see and experiencing the game through his sharp sports mind has increased my enjoyment ten-fold. Continue reading