freezer burned sadness
He forgot everything that brought him joy before forgetting how to breathe. I guess he would have preferred breathing be taken first, as it was pointless without the memories that accompanied the inhales and exhales.
Most of the time we don’t get to choose, withering in a broken hospital bed somewhere in front of friends and family who would eventually grow to resent us. Both seeking relief and never admitting it, steadfast in the little we still offered each other. It was no one’s fault in particular, neither the family nor the sick. Both wanting it to be over, but neither knowing how.
It was the simple fulfillment of another obligation.
I held his hand and watched his mind betray his lungs, like it had betrayed me for all of those years. The rattling rise and fall of his chest that had dutifully pushed against crumpled sheets for the last several months stopped and only the sound was the television which was never turned off. Holding on only to forget more, there was some beauty in the final act of submission knowing that the few memories that remained would remain on the cold concrete next to the furnace that swallowed and burned everything else. No more unsteady hands to unwillingly push more logs into the flames, seduced by false warmth.
A man in a white coat put his hand on my shoulder and I cried, feeling the guilt of relief and the departure of someone who no longer recognized me. Eventually it was just me in the room. I turned off the television and tried to remember the last time I was happy, the last time he was happy. The fruitless pursuit fueled more tears as I continued to look at his face, which was slackened and calm, incapable of indictment or blame.
Wiping my face off, I remembered a walk we took several months back and a moment of lucidity in which he looked into my eyes and without pretense or context said “Thank you.” Sometimes gratitude was happiness. Sometimes we had to make do with other emotions that we would never fully comprehend and that was just as well.
He cooed at a cardinal sitting idly on a tree branch, mimicking its call, but replacing its lyricless song with his own interpretation of what the words would be if the cardinal ever chose to speak instead of fly.
I sat for hours waiting for the transformation, knowing that eventually his flesh would become something else, and it required immediate attention when it happened. The handling of this passing, of this evolution was a ritual in forgiveness and permanence.
I looked at what was once my grandfather, some of his features remained, but his skin wasn’t skin, his organs weren’t organs. A crude, ground beef silhouette of his body laid unassumingly under the sheets, limply dribbling blood onto the white hospital floor.
Why we eventually all devolved into a meat that is crudely fashioned into Salisbury steak and jammed into TV dinners and brought to life by a microwave barely capable of heating a cup of day old coffee let alone a meal constructed out of lonliness.
Why we were reduced to something eaten and painfully shit out by friends we’d grown to resent at a sparsely attended Memorial Day cookout.
At least our sadness and hurt were replaced by the promise of modest nutrition.
I collected what I could and left the rest of the pillaged mess lying in the bed, putting the ice cream shaped balls into a ziploc bag and shoving them into my coat pocket, hoping they wouldn’t rot before I found refrigeration.
As I left, I saw the toothless cafeteria employee that sold me a cup of tapioca pudding hours earlier dragging a spit of spinning meat on a cart with a broken wheel down the hallway, apparently compiling what was left of the people we loved for tomorrow’s lunch special.
Years later I opened my freezer to retrieve a bag of frozen peas to place on my forehead for a godsplitting hangover.
The freezer burned patties sat with several dozen ambiguous tupperware containers, memories protruding from the crystals that covered them.
I wondered if I had gotten them there in time to save them from spoiling, to maintain his legacy in that rarely used freezer.