The week surrounding my parents’ estate sale was, perhaps, more eventful than I might have liked, a trickster deity’s bulleted list of “what can go wrong, will go wrong.”
Leave Atascadero for my parents’ shuttered house. Just south of Ventura the RX-8’s Check Engine light flits on.
Waze gets me to a Mazda dealership in Thousand Oaks (I have learned the hard way not to trust the finicky Wankel engine to strangers).
Give thanks once again to the twinkling celestials of Global Positioning.
Mention to service manager that my father has died, but am vague as to when; if he wants to believe it was today and jumps me to the front of the line I am slow to correct him.
By evening I’ll have the decency to be ashamed of this. But for now I’m feeling stressed over the organizing-my-parents’-life-for-sale-to-strangers ordeal to come, and in an hour I want to be anywhere but on the 405 when the afternoon rush begins.
For the past few months I’ve thought about little else, and I think about it gingerly: Dylan Thomas meant something more noble than this.
My eighty-three-year-old father is doing plenty of raging. My mother calls five, six, seven times a day. He won’t feed me. He won’t help me cut our pills. He says he’s going to leave and never come back. He’s outside walking, he says he’s going to walk himself to death. He doesn’t want to unlock the door for the caregiver in the morning. You have to do something. I can’t live like this.
When we pull up in front of my parents’ house I notice the trees first. The almond whose slender shimmering leaves splashed my bedroom walls with pale green light as I studied Eliot, then Heidegger, then Knuth. The ornamental plums that stood at sober attention in a row along the side of the house, cracking their burgundy study only for a brief riot of pink in the spring. All cut down to stumps now. The fig and trumpet vines obscuring the chain link fence have been uprooted. The lawn has gone to crabgrass and the beds once full of impatiens and azaleas lie forlorn and empty.