17 December 2010

Day 265: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

The Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody.  ISBN: 9780316118910.

While I was not a huge fan of The Four Fingers of Death, there were a few parts that really spoke to me. Moody’s narrator’s wife dies near the beginning of the book from a disease that slowly kills off her lungs. Near the end of her life, she sinks into a haze, while the narrator struggles to describe by saying there was going to be a “last time,” and that had to be important. That segment tore me apart.

I’ve been witness to some “last times,” and I’d like to talk about them a little bit here, thanks the anonymity afforded me by the Internet.

I was always close to my grandmother as a child. The woman believed in me, if there’s any better way to put it. We shared a lot of things, like a love of books and stories, of questioning things and sorting them out, and food. I think I was probably about 13 or so when she passed away after a long struggle with cancer. The night before she died, I was woken up after midnight by a crowd of people coming to our house. My grandmother, in recognizing how close she was, had gotten as much of our family as she could together so we could be together in those last hours, and she wanted to see all of her grandchildren again before she died, especially me. She hugged me with all of her self.

She brought with her a small box of things about her past; it was as if she wanted to rip back the curtain on who she was as a person before any of us were around, before it was too late to be known. The most distinct part of this memory is a moment when she got out a birthday card she had received years before, and asked me to read off her birthdate from it. Whether it was my being sleepy or what, I couldn’t read it, and I couldn’t remember the date offhand. Her face fell hard, and she held me tight against her, asking how we could care about each other so much and I didn’t know her birthdate. I know I apologized and somehow pulled it out a moment later, but I could see she was afraid that even those people who knew her best didn’t know her. She left that night, and I don’t remember what her actual last words were to me – just that bit before. I still have the yearbook and those cards she left for me after she died, and I still think about that night.

I like animals of most all types, but one of my family’s cats had a particular affinity for me. I taught her to sit, to beg, and speak, like a dog, and she would perform none of these tricks for anyone else. She slept on me at night and would wander the house crying if I spent the night elsewhere. As she got older, she developed diseases as animals sometimes do, and none of us were surprised when she started having serious problems in her early teens. After midnight, she didn’t sleep on my bed one night, and we found her crying, laying in the hallway having suffered a stroke of some sort.

My whole family was out there before I was, and when I came in and tried to sit down on the floor with them to see what was going on, she looked up at me. It has never been more apparent to me that an animal is trying to communicate; I am never going to forget how she pled with her eyes for me to do something to take the pain away. This cat scrapped to get her front paws under her and started dragging her helpless lower body toward me, crying the whole time. I swept her into my lap and held her close until she was unconscious. We took her to the vet, and she passed away before there was much else we could have done.

These are irredeemably sad stories, but they’re true “last times.” And last times are always horribly, achingly sad, but I think we need them, and we need to remember them. When we’re sad, we can grapple with the aches of being human and having all our longings in a way that doesn’t make sense when we’re happy. We have a clearer sense of ourselves in compassion, and sympathy makes us stronger people together. In whatever sense it means, these “last times” make us the humans we are.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance."  

*Post originally written October 7, 2010 to allow the regular author to catch up on her own reading and writing...or sleep.

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