This was originally intended to be crammed into the last chapter, but then that one ran long. Hopefully this one will be shorter for all that? Who knows!
Hey, we’re all experiencing this together, more or less.
Now, where were we… Ah, yes. I was gowning up in the hall and my father was inside his room, bellowing for a priest.
CNA: (fleeing from the room like startled yorkie) (pulls up short) Uh. Your father. He. Uh. He wants… he wants a priest? I don’t… I mean… Do you think I should get the chaplain?
ME: (peers around him) (spots thrown items on floor) (blandly, continuing to tie gown) My father wants to talk to a priest. I would suggest you go get him a fucking priest. (does scary stare just for fun)
CNA: (yips) (flees)
ME: (shakes head) (enters room) Good morning, Daddy!
DAD: I want a priest!
ME: (reaching for gloves) Okay. You want a priest, we’ll get you a priest. Any particular flavor? Would you like a Franciscan, or… I’ll bet if you’re patient we can scrounge up a Benedictine just for y—
DAD: (roaring) Don’t be smart young lady!
ME: (raises eyebrow) My father wants to talk to a priest. This doesn’t happen every day; I think we should celebrate with—
DAD: (subsiding) Do you know what happened?
ME: (goes still) No.
DAD: (holds out hand) Come here.
ME: (ignoring icy pit in stomach) I need my gloves. Got to glove up. (stares at glove boxes) I think I’m going to try the large today. Between my nails and the ring, it was just too many sharp points in the mediums and usually I don’t mind—then again, usually I take my ring off if I’m wearing gloves, haha—
DAD: Chase… come here.
ME: (tense, bordering on manic) Now, Daddy… I need to get these on. (shakes head, eyes down) I swear, I’ll get the hang of these stupid sleeves before I’m done with this trip—probably just in time for you to clear contact protocol, right? Isn’t that always the way? But you know me, any little gap and I’ll be fussing—
ME: In. A. Minute!
ME: (runs out of things to fuss with) I brought you a protein cookie—these are great because they’re super chocolaty but they’re loaded with protein and—
DAD: Put it down. I need to tell you what happened.
ME: (brightly) With what, Daddy?
DAD: (broken) Marsha.
ME: (reassuringly) You spoke to her just last night, don’t you remember?
DAD: (tears up) (reaches for me)
ME: (nods) You did, and she’s fine. You told her that you love her and she loves you and she’s fine.
DAD: She’s gone. This morning.
ME: (stares, dead-eyed)
DAD: (recognizes stare) (reaches for me) I called the house—
ME: (steps back)
ME: (harshly) Not right now. (walks to doorway)
DAD: Don’t leave!
ME: (reaches arm out, in all its contaminated glory, to wave in front of passing RN)
RN: (stops short, eyes wide with panic)
ME: (briskly) My father’s wife just died.
RN: I’m so—
ME: (viciously) Save it. My father wants to talk to a priest. (still not moving contaminated arm from path) You will go get him one. Now.
RN: I… I can go call the chaplain?
ME: Is your chaplain Catholic?
ME: We need a priest. Make it happen.
ME: (retracts arm)
RN: (scurries off)
ME: (ponders) (shouts after fleeing RN) PREFERABLY A JESUIT!
ME: (returns to room)
DAD: You came back.
ME: I was getting you a priest.
DAD: (relieved) Thank you.
ME: They’re going to fetch a chaplain first—I told them to make sure he’s Catholic, so if they send you a protestant I’ll kick him out myself—but the chaplain should be able to call in a priest.
DAD: She made… she made me promise that if she ever died the first thing I’d do would be to talk to a priest.
ME: She wanted you to get square with the Church.
ME: (shrugs) It hurt her heart that you left. I told her I never believed you turned your back on God, but that you and the Church—
DAD: The Church has some apologizing to do.
DAD: To dissolve a marriage of twenty-seven years, erase it like it was nothing, and make bastards of seven children who were born of that union—
ME: I get it. You’ve got legitimate beef. But do you think it’s possible that you’re angry at the Church because it’s easier than being angry at the people who made hurtful decisions? Easier than being angry at your father?
DAD: (stubborn) Nope.
ME: (sits back) Fine.
SOCIAL WORKER: Knock knock!
DAD: I WANT A PRIEST!
ME: (rolls eyes) They’ve all heard you, Dad.
SOCIAL WORKER: I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.
HIM: I need to talk to a priest.
SOCIAL WORKER: And we’ve called our chaplain—
ME: It really does need to be a priest.
SOCIAL WORKER: And we can call one of those as well. But I wanted to come in and chat with you—
DAD: (shouting) Where is the priest?
ME: I asked for one, Dad. And this nice lady (gestures to social worker) was just about to go check on that.
ME: I even requested a Jesuit, if you’ve got any up here. You know they’re called God’s Marines?
DAD: (mollified) Just so long as I get a priest.
ME: (to social worker) (firmly) You’re getting a priest.
He did get a chaplain first, but she was catholic at least and educated by Jesuits (and so sweet that at one point my father forgot all about her vagina and asked why she’d never been ordained, which gave me the opportunity of a lifetime) so I appreciated the compromise. A priest was rounded up later that evening, and apparently he and my father had an interesting debate. But the chaplain was lovely and went a long way toward soothing my father—enough that the social worker was able to return without fear of bodily harm and discuss the Power of Attorney forms my father had requested. I left the room for that bit, but when I returned he claimed he had not decided anything.
ME: Why not?
HIM: (puzzled) Do you really want that?
ME: Um… yeah. I really do. I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.
HIM: (smiles) Then yes. Go get her back.
ME: You really thought—
HIM: I wasn’t sure.
ME: (shakes head) You’re ridiculous, you know that?
HIM: Yeah, but you love me anyway.
ME: I do at that.
But before the social worker could return, who appeared like those flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz?
The brothers. And Kenny.
Now, this should have been a quiet, solemn family moment, right? I mean, three of us just lost someone dear and the other three just lost… well, someone they didn’t really know all that well, if at all, but their brother’s wife and their niece’s stepmother, so you’d think they’d show respect—or at least some fuckin’ restraint.
You’ll have to forgive me but what happened next is still a bit of a blur. Somehow, some way, Mark managed to bring up the topic of the medical PoA.
MARK: And now that Marsha’s gone, that Power of Attorney falls to me.
DAD: (pointing at me) I want my daughter to have it.
ME: (holding his hand) (smiles) T—
MARK: Marsha was real clear on that. She didn’t want Chase to ever get it.
ME: (is gutted)
MARK: (mean mugs me)
DAD: (shouting) Now look—
MARK: No you look! Now I haven’t said anything about her being back here after what she did—
ME: What did I do?
MARK: (meanly) Oh, you know what you did.
DAD: (looks to me)
ME: (confused, wide-eyed)
MARK: (to Dad) She called (rehab) and told them that she had your Power of Attorney—
ME: (shakes head)
MARK: … and that she was the only one to be contacted. That we weren’t to be called or allowed to talk to anyone. She had us cut off.
ME: That’s not—
MARK: Oh, you’re gonna deny it?
ME: I… will say that it didn’t happen. Because it didn’t.
MARK: See how she lies!
DAD: (raises hand) Now hold on just a second!
DAD: Let me ask you… what is the gain for her?
MARK: She’s a—
DAD: No! What is the gain, for her, in having a medical Power of Attorney for me. What does she gain from that? She won’t get any money, she can’t —
MARK: I can’t say why she wants it.
DAD: Then why do you—
MARK: It’s about the lies. Her constant lies. You should have heard the vile things she said to me! (to me) And that text you sent, missy.
DAD: What text?
ME: (calmly, to Mark) I already told him about the texts, and the phone call.
MARK: (ignoring me) Oh, she sent me this text ordering me to kick people out of the house so she can stay there, telling me that everyone else can pay for hotels because she had to last time and it’s her house—texts me that her panties are all over that house—
ME: (pulls face)
MARK: —and I’d better have it ready when she shows up.
DAD: (looks to me)
ME: (quietly, to Dad) I asked him to make up the third bedroom.
MARK: THERE AIN’T NO THIRD BEDROOM IN THAT HOUSE!
MARK: It’s just more of her—
ME: (glances at monitor) (pats hand) Daddy, calm—
DAD: No, I will not! (jerks hand away)
ME: Okay then.
MARK: (sneers at me)
DAD: I’ll ask you again, what is the problem with her—
MARK: It’s her constant lies, Lee. It’s the lies and the lies on top of lies. That’s all this girl does is lie.
DAD: (sighs) (falls back in bed, stares at ceiling)
ME: (pats hand again) (stares at monitors, bites lip)
MARK: (storms off)
KENNY: (takes call from funeral home)
DAD: (to me) Do you know what this is?
ME: (weakly) What is this, Dad?
DAD: This… is classic Chase.
DAD: (over roaring in my ears) You get a big head and you—
ME: I can show you the texts. They’re exactly what I described to you. And I have—
DAD: Now, now—
ME: —an app on my phone that records all phone conversations. You’re welcome to listen to any of them. Any. I have nothing to hide.
KENNY: I have no opinion.
MARK: (returns, Brothers in tow)
DAD: I don’t want any more of this fighting. (holds my hand in death grip)
ME: (looks away, toward door) (prays for strength to flee)
MARK: I’m not fighting. I just can’t stand liars.
DAD: Enough! You win, she’s not gonna get the Power of Attorney. (points) But you need to promise me that you won’t ever cut her off. That my daughter will always be able to contact me, and get medical information about me.
ME: (weeps silently)
BROTHERS: (murmer in agreement)
MARK: Even if that’s not what Marsha wanted?
ME: (whips head ‘round)
MARK: Marsha was real clear, Lee. She wanted Chase to never again have any access to your medical anything. She never wanted her (points accusing finger at me) to be able to speak with a doctor or a nurse or know anything about you.
ME: (freezes solid) (heart cracks open)
DAD: (apologetically, avoiding my gaze) Marsha had her blind spots when it came to Chase—
ME: (face crumbles)
MARK: Oh, I think she saw her just fine. She wanted her far away from you.
DAD: (gently, to me) … and she could be… vindictive… where Chase was concerned.
ME: (begs him with eyeballs for explanation)
DAD: But she’s my daughter.
DAD: (to Mark) And I want you to promise that she won’t ever be cut off.
MARK: That’s not what Marsha wanted!
BROTHERS: Marsha’s dead. Lee’s alive. What difference does it make?
DAD: How hard is it for you to just call her and keep her informed?
ME: (looks away) (prays for everything to be different)
MARK: I’m not gonna call her—why should I make two phone calls every time—
DAD: BECAUSE SHE’S MY DAUGHTER!
ME: (chokes back sob)
MARK: Who lies—
DAD: I’m not sayin’ she’s perfect—
DAD: YOU’RE NO ANGEL YOUSELF, ARE YOU?!
DAD: Yet I forgave you, eventually, didn’t I?
MARK: That’s dif—
DAD: After your drugs and everything you did to this family, I forgave you and trusted you—
MARK: THAT’S DIFFERENT!
DAD: HOW?! HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?
MARK: She can call the hospital. Or wherever. I won’t stop her from that.
DAD: Why can’t you just call her? Why make them make two calls?
MARK: What difference is it, them making two calls or me making two?
DAD: You honestly don’t see a difference?
MARK: (storms out)
ME: (begins panting) (still locked on doorway)
DAD: (clutches my hand tighter)
BROTHER: (clears throat)
BROTHER 1: You know how Mark gets…
BROTHER2: He’s just…
BROTHER 1: He likes his control. He just wants things just so in his little…
ME: (keeps head turned toward door) (cannot face anyone, door is too appealing)
BROTHER2: He wants things his way.
BROTHER 1: But this is unreasonable, you’re right.
BROTHER2: She’s done wrong, there’s no doubt about that.
DAD: No, she’s done wrong, but—
BROTHER 1: She’s done wrong. But she’s still family.
ME: (leans toward beautiful door)
DAD: (clamps down harder on my hand)
BROTHER2: And she should be kept in the loop.
BROTHER 1: No matter what she’s done.
BROTHER2: No matter!
BROTHER 1: That’s what I said!
BROTHER2: I’m sayin’!
DAD: (tugs hand)
ME: (looks back at him)
DAD: (now very blurry) All right.
ME: (shakes head) (wills him to understand it is not all right and never will be again)
DAD: (to brothers) Go get him back.
ME: (gasps for air)
MARK: (re-enters, escorted by his flying monkeys)
DAD: No more of this (gestures between us)
MARK: I don’t ever need to talk to her or see her again after today.
ME: (relaxes) (squeezes Dad’s hand, trying to remember Morse code for “this is the best news EVER!”)
MARK: I can come ‘round when she’s not here—
DAD: THAT’S BULLSHIT AND YOU KNOW IT!
ME: (slumps at loss of good news)
MARK: I don’t ever want to see her after what she—
DAD: No! I’m the one in the hospital and I shouldn’t have to only see her when you’re not here or you when she’s not here.
ME: (attempts Universal Squeeze for “why not?”)
DAD: I’ll ask you again, what do you think she has to gain by—
MARK: I don’t care about that, Lee—it’s all the lies!
MARK: (to me) You gonna deny it?
ME: (braces self)
MARK: You gonna look me in the eye and tell me that the director of that facility made the whooooole thing up? That they made those notes all on their own, without any direction from you?
ME: (coldly) No. I don’t think they made that up.
MARK: (huffs) You see? More lies. I can’t…
ME: (shrugs, done)
DAD: Enough with the fighting!
MARK: I’m not fighting, I’m just asking her for the truth!
ME: (opens mouth to test theory)
MARK: (roars) AND SHE JUST LIES NONSTOP!
ME: (closes mouth)
DAD: (closes eyes) Fine.
MARK: We’re done here.
ME: (sits quietly while Mark and Brothers file out)
KENNY: I talked to the funeral home, and we’re setting up a meeting for next week when everyone can be here.
DAD: (points) You are the executor.
KENNY: That’s right. Now, they do want to know who has financial Power of Attorney?
DAD: (surprised) You do.
KENNY: No! I’m just the executor.
ME: Mark has it, Dad. Remember?
DAD: But that was before…
KENNY: Mark has it?
ME: (nods) He got it while Dad was in the LTAC.
DAD: But now that Marsha’s gone…
ME: It’s still two different things. The day-to-day finances are still on Mark.
DAD: I could give it to—
KENNY: Don’t want it!
DAD: (looks at me) I could give it to—
ME: (primly) No thank you.
ME: All I wanted was to be able to take care of you. And to never again be cut off from you. And now… (turns away again)
DAD: (pats hand) He won’t, honey.
KENNY: … (squirms)
ME: He will. When people tell me their plans, I believe them.
ME: I just don’t know why he’d say those—
DAD: You’ve got a very sharp tongue, young lady.
ME: I’ve never denied this. I’m not going to be able to take anyone in a fair fight; words are my weapon of choice.
DAD: And you wield them (chuckles) with deadly accuracy.
KENNY: I’ll say.
ME: (cuts look)
DAD: (pats hand) Let’s just leave it.
ME: … ?
KENNY: (stands) I should get going. (leaves)
ME: … I’m gonna go too, Dad. It’s been a… day.
DAD: (grips hand again) Hey.
ME: (tiredly) What, Daddy?
DAD: Come here.
ME: (leans closer)
DAD: I do love you.
ME: (flatly) I love you too, Dad.
DAD: (smiles) Things are not so bad as they seem, Little Girl.
ME: Sure, Dad. (removes gown)
ME: (scrubs out)
ME: (leans against nurse’s station post)
ME: (whispers) They’re worse.
How much worse can it get?
 Look at that—there were seven of them. I’ll probably forget again—don’t hold it against me.
 I detest this expression and the people who use it.
 Yes, I know his phrasing here was odd. Believe me, it’ll come up again.
 Sound familiar? Projection is real, y’all. I never believed in it until I watched it happen, but… wow.
 Note to self: must remember this trick. Because somehow a room full of people were falling for it.
 Um… ew?
 This is news to me, who has had three different bedrooms in that house while we did various remodels and shuffles. And my father, who paid for and did most of that work. And the realtor, who sold it as a three bedroom house. I’ll admit, I didn’t actually count the rooms the last time I went through (a few weeks ago) but I do clearly remember poking my head in all three bedrooms and finding them present and accounted for.
 Let us be clear: since the age of seventeen, my father and I have spent less than twelve cumulative hours in each other’s company. We’ve had a few phone calls, on Obligation holidays. He—and I don’t mean this to be hurtful—doesn’t know me well enough to say what’s “classic Chase.” I mean, now that I’ve spent a few weeks more or less constantly at his bedside he could… if he’d taken the time to pay attention. But he’s convinced that because he took me fishing when I was a toddler and to Disneyland when I was 12 he knows me better than anyone in my life. Nevermind how very little time he spent with me between those two occasions, either.