So I’d gone to AA because I couldn’t drink anymore without stopping. Their plan to fix it was to fill me up with catch-phrases and secret terminology like “these rooms” and “let go and let God” instead of booze, which I found to be a piss-poor substitute. I did what they said, though, and had stopped drinking. I was just a lazy sot and my living room was still a sea of empty beer cans I never bothered to clean up. Every day I would clank, clank, clank through them while getting ready for work. I was told I should get them out of the house. That would have involved actual, manual labor, so I didn’t.
Now at AA you’re supposed to find a sponsor; someone with whom you find an immediate rapport and is pretty much an instant boyfriend who will keep you from drinking without all the good stuff that usually goes along. You talk to that person every damn day and spill out your deepest secrets.
Thing is, you’re supposed to pick THEM. This did not happen for me. A man just showed up and announced he was going to be my sponsor and asked for my phone number. You would think I would say, “Get lost, nutjob” but you would be wrong. Instead I gave the man my phone number and he called me every day to talk about not drinking. That was fun.
My mother was dying. She had Alzhimer’s and here’s the thing: It starts with the person acting confused and it’s kind of funny but it ends with them in a hospital bed looking like a living skeleton and it’s not funny at all. It had gotten to that point and I was going back home to watch my mother die. AA Sponsor Man told me, “Look, you have to call me every day.”
”No. I don’t,” I said. “It’s not about you and me and the goddamn bottle right now. My mom’s about to croak and I’m going to have to watch it.”
”You need to call me every day,” he said again. Fuck this dolt, and goodbye.
I showed up at the nursing home and my mom looked like a skeleton covered with flesh-tone paint. My two brothers were there; we hadn’t all been in the same room together in decades. My middle brother works in a hospital and he fools the rest of the family by acting like he’s a doctor or some shit; they buy it and the rest of us just roll our eyes. His thing with Mom was this: the nurse would come in and move her and because of her condition it would cause agony, she would gasp and middle brother would grab her wrist, take her pulse and stare at the clock like he was keeping her alive through his own eerie powers. Every goddamn time. It was clear, fuck, that whenever my mother was moved it caused her physical pain, but middle brother jumped on the bed, grabbed her wrist and announced she was dying. Much like his religious predictions about the end of the world, it did not come true.
But hell, he was living through it like the rest of us and coping however he could. He was playing doctor. I knew I would write about it on the Internet someday. Neither one of us are all that good at life, I guess, and do weird shit just to get by.
My Uncle Bill showed up with his wife and some girl far less than half his age who he claimed was a relative and kept calling him, creepily, “Daddy.” He was my mother’s brother and for most of his life she hated his guts, and for good reason: he was a dick. In later years they mended their fences, somehow, but yeah he was still a dick.
This woman he’d brought along: Whore City. Tits out to there in a low-cut shirt designed to show them off. His wife acted like she didn’t even notice, but I think everyone else did. And she kept calling him ‘Daddy’ in front of my dying Mom and yeah it was pretty horrible.
Middle brother has a flair for the theatric surpassing even my own. He’d brought along his church pastor, a doctor of divinity (Kind of like a doctor of poetry) and said, all casual-like, “Say, Pastor, weren’t you humming a tune earlier today? I wonder if you might do that again?” It was some kind of damn song about flying up to heaven or whatever, some maudlin piece of tripe, again I say he deals by doing that and I deal by doing this. So the pastor started to sing and we all held hands and looked at my mother like as if at any moment a bright, white light would burst out of her chest and she would be ushered into the Kingdom of God.
Uncle Bill’s companion started passing out business cards. Oh gawd, I knew exactly what it was. She was a franchised representative for dildos and sex toys. It was called Love, Inc. or something very near that. “Why thank you,” said the pastor as he took her information in case he wanted to buy a butt plug.
My brother kept grabbing my mom’s wrist and announcing her demise, but she refused to die on his watch. I went back home and the first thing I did was buy a 12-pack of Milwaukee’s Best. AA Sponsor Guy was right, things got weird and I turned to the brew to cope. The next day my brother called me, once again going all drama instead of just telling me outright:
”That’s not even a sentence.”
”Eleven P.M. Your mother died at eleven P.M.”
”And you didn’t call me last night?”
He’d fucked it up. “Er, uh, Eleven A.M. I mean. She died an hour ago.”
And then he went on to tell me how he’d watched her die and wouldn’t let anyone else in the room and was calling all the shots. People deal and grieve in their own way.
I went back home for the funeral; I was a pall-bearer. I couldn’t help but notice how lightweight the coffin was; damned Alzheimer’s. It was closed-coffin, per her wishes. A month or so later I got a commemorative card from the funeral home honoring my mother, Maria Lopez.
Who the fuck did we bury?