|photo by Hilary Kline|
We were two brothers and two sisters, and I am the last.
Mildred was bossy but she looked out for me pretty good. Louisa liked to tease me and laugh. Owen was my hero, and almost like a father after ours took off. They have all long since crossed over; and my wife Adele even before them. That was a lifetime ago. She went too young. Different back then, there was nothing you could do.
Our kids and even now our grandkids are grown and done well for themselves and take good care. Put me in this nice place. Come and visit. Buy me stylish new clothes, this nice jacket, so I don’t look so old-fashioned. It fits but it don’t fit, if you know what I mean. It don’t feel right on my skin. I put on this fine jacket and sit with the other fine folks in the dining room, even chat a bit, because I’m supposed to. But it ain’t really me in that chair, and it ain’t really me talking. Once a working man, always a working man, and a working man don’t truly feel comfortable in none but are stained with grease and dirt and the sweat of his labor.
I appreciate what my kids done for me, but I’m biding my time. This place, the whole world is for them now, not me. They care so damn much, with their talk and their opinions, typing so fast on those cell phones. You’d think the world was falling right apart without them to hold it together. You’d think any of it mattered a whit. They don’t know I sneak out. Not through that fancy lobby they’re so proud they can give me, but out back, out to the loading dock. I shoot the shit with the drivers and they laugh and give me a cigarette. I smoke it even though the doctor says no and it gives my nurse Renee a heart attack when she smells it. Renee reminds me of Mildred that way. She scolds the hell out of me and says she’ll get fired and it will be all my fault. I sure don’t mean for that to happen, but some days I just can’t stay a minute longer. Some days, I think if I wouldn’t get all out of breath doing it, I’d climb right up in one of those trucks and just keep going.