On death, the afterlife and new cars

Death and dying are frequently on my mind these days because of recent events with my parents, and I assume they are topics that also preoccupy my Dad. Both he and my mom have experienced some potentially life-threatening health problems over the past couple of years, and my mother’s dementia steadily worsens. Couple those issues with their eighty-plus years of age, the death and decline of friends, various stays in hospitals and nursing homes, and the subject of death is bound to be foremost in his mind. While he’s perfectly capable of being absolutely maudlin at times, my dad’s sense of humor does extend also to the subject of death and the afterlife. He is fond of ruminating out loud to his black Lab and best companion Paco, “Paco, Paco, you have it so good. We haul the food to you and the shit away. When you die, you just die, and that’s it. When I die, I have to go to hell yet, besides.” Dad also refers to death as “going to the fields (of ambrosia).”

Despite any preoccupation with death and its imminence, my dad recently bought himself a new car even though it was probably not essential. But, who doesn’t love a new car? I take it as a very good sign that he’s not ready to “go softly into that good night” yet himself. Unfortunately, cars have changed enough in the past few years to create a rather steep curve around learning how to operate a new vehicle. For example, the lack of a key, having to depress the brake pedal in order to start the engine, figuring out how the cruise control functions, and–the biggest frustration of all–the placement of the fuel intake on the passenger side of the car. That discovery unleashed a flood of “pungent vernacular language,” some might say a diatribe, over the absolute idiocy of fixing something that wasn’t broken. Somewhere Dad believes it was written that the gas intake goes on the driver’s side, by God, and that there is no possible good explanation for putting it on the other side, necessitating walking around the car in order to fill ‘er up. Oh, the aggravation of having to take ten extra steps! A month ago I would have told him it was good for him to take those extra steps, given his very sedentary lifestyle. However, in mid-December he fell at the dump, standing right next to his car–lost his balance on icy terrain just turning around and probably broke his collar bone. I say probably because he has opted to treat himself with gin and hydrocodone rather than go to the doctor to confirm the break or not. Why pay $500 just for an x-ray and a sling? So, now I’m not so sure that any extra walking out in the wintry elements is a good thing for him, and I wish I could turn the clock back to a time when their local gas station offered full service. But, then, if I could turn back the clock to easier times, there would be no need to fret about infirmity, death, hell or cars with push buttons.

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