I entered the room. I stayed there forever or for a moment. I left. And, for the next sixty years I have tried to figure out just what happened.
“Your eyes were as big as saucers,” Ma said years later. Or maybe she said it a few days later. She wasn’t in the room. She was just there when I went ---and when I came out.
Daddy’s eyes were as big as saucers. Black saucers lost in space. I was lost in his saucer eyes as he lay there on the bed. He was propped up.
I think he spoke to me. He must have spoken to me. He wanted to see me. So he must have wanted to talk to me. He did talk to me. (Didn’t he?) For a minute or an hour or forever.
We didn’t talk that much, Daddy and I. When he came back from the war we did. We actually sang more than we talked. We sang in the car. “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah. I’ve got six pence. Rolling home. Rolling home. Rolling home.”
We sang in the car together. Daddy and me. Only Daddy and me. Rolling home. Seems like that was all we did. Did we do it once? Twice? A hundred times?
I never saw enough of my Daddy. He was busy being Dr. Bluestone in the small town where he was a counselor, a healer, a member of the Board of Education. We lived in a house on Crompound Road that had the office in front. I hated that he spent so much time with other people. But when he was around I hated that Ma spent so much time with him.
“Are you Dr. Bluestone’s son?” A curly headed girl who was six, like me, walked right up to me at lunch and asked me that. She seemed so grown up. Her name was Marlene and she became my best friend. A year or so later, we played doctor together. Of course I was the doctor. Who else? And I performed a very thorough examination.
Daddy tried to be upset when he heard that I had played doctor with Marlene. But he must have been proud that I played doctor with Marlene. After all he and my first mom had given me the initials M.D for Martin Donald. They were both doctors and here I was playing doctor. When he tried to tell me that I shouldn’t do it, I couldn’t quite believe that he really meant it. And that was strange. He always meant what he said.
The room where Daddy lay. My aunt Charlotte told me decades later that I would read aloud to Daddy. I would read from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t remember that either. She said I would read that to him for hours or minutes and that he would fall asleep to me reading him Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
“Are you asleep Daddy?”
And I would tiptoe out of the room. I think I would tiptoe out of the room.
“Are you asleep?”
Marlene and I spent lots of time together. We were always together and always talking. When we were seven we went out to Hanover Road and hitchhiked. We wanted to see what it would be like to stick our thumbs out and have a car stop for us. That would be like magic. A car for a thumb.
A car did stop. And I followed Marlene’s flouncing butt racing into the bushes. That was scary. A car really did stop.
I don’t know when Marlene moved. She just moved away with her family. And left a hole in my life that I looked away from. I had other friends—Guy, Steven, Alan. But Marlene was Marlene.
Daddy’s eyes were giant black holes. Was he scared? Was my Daddy scared? I was scared. That’s what I remember. He was lying there next to the ugly bronze bell with the claw feet that he used to ring when he needed Ma. I hated that bell. But I hated his groans even more.
He lay there looking at me. I know that. He was looking at me and only me. I was looking at him. I do remember that I would agree to anything that he said. Anything. Couldn’t we sing? Couldn’t we ? Couldn’t I leave? When could I leave? Would I ever be able to leave.
For a moment I felt like I was as much a prisoner in that room as he was. I was standing. He was lying. But I felt that I couldn’t move ever again. Not now. Not ever.
What did he say? Did he say anything? Of course he said something. He said a lot. He told me he loved me. He told me that he always loved me. He told me to be a good boy and help Ma. He told me to do as well as I could do at anything that I did. And that I could do anything that I wanted to do. Didn’t he say that? Didn’t he?
“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” He used to say that a lot. I hated that until I found that I believed it. He also said, “Too much of anything isn’t good for you.” Even at eight I thought that was redundant. I mean too much means not good, right?
But can you have too much love? Can you have too much joy?
Marlene and I would talk about life and death. Especially after Georgianne Banke’s mother died. Marlene had brought me the news with great excitement in the woods.
Georgianne Banke’s mother was crazy. She had accused me of putting Georgianne’s pigtails in an inkwell full of ink. It’s not that I couldn’t have done that if there was ink those ancient inkwells. But there hadn’t been ink in those inkwells forever and I didn’t do it anyway. She was crazy. And she was dead.
I ran home to tell Ma and Daddy the exciting news. It was dinner time. I do remember that Daddy didn’t yell at me for slamming the door. He didn’t yell at me for being late to dinner. He didn’t yell at me for yelling. He didn’t yell at me at all. He just stood up quietly and left the room. Ma told me that Georgianne Banke’s mother had been one of Daddy’s patients. I hated Daddy then for not being able to stop death. And for not yelling, like he always did. He was a doctor wasn’t he?
In his room while Daddy talked to me or didn’t talk to me I held a Roget’s Thesaurus that he had by his bed stand. It was one of the first paperbacks with cellophane over the thick paper cover. I held the thesaurus. I asked Daddy when I left whether I could have the thesaurus. He said I could. Yes he did say that. He did say that. I had peeled off all of the cellophane before I left the room. And I kept that book of words next to me all summer. I even brought it down to the lake and to sleep.
I stood at the foot of his bed. I don’t know whether I came closer to him. I was so scared. Did he give me a hug? Did he ever give me a hug?
Once he lay down next to me as I was going to sleep. That was really unusual since he was always so busy and Ma always put me to sleep. He lay down and I don’t care what he said. He was lying next to me. And he gave me a kiss good night and his beard stubble was like sandpaper on my cheek.
I stood in my Daddy’s room. I stood there for a minute or an hour or forever. And I have never remembered a word that either of us said.
It was the last time that I would see my father. . I was going to camp. He died two days before I came home. I would be away for two months and then would come home to a house without Daddy. We lived in that house for another year. I don’t remember ever going into that room again.