by Ann Liska
Daddy D is home from the hospital after weeks of “cobalt” treatments. I don’t know what they are, but they must be really bad.
Dad is driving us all to Detroit to visit Daddy and Momma D. Mom’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa V, are in the middle row of our station wagon, me and Liana in the back. My parents are arguing over a cake.
“We’ve never done anything before, for their anniversary,” Mom says. Dad doesn’t answer. Mom opens her window. She gets carsick because of her pregnancy.
When Momma D sees the cake, she cries and holds onto Dad, burying her head in his shoulder. Dad holds his mother awkwardly. “It’s ok, Mom. Everything is going to be ok.”
“May we pray with Earl?” Grandpa asks Momma D, his voice solemn and serious; his preaching voice when he gives “talks” at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“You go ahead, Hon,” Momma D says. “You girls want some a this cake?”
In the next room a shrunken, silent version of Daddy D lies motionless in the bed. Grandma has her well-used copy of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with her, as if she and Grandpa were out on one of their calls. From behind the closed door I can hear the low murmur of Grandpa praying.
I bet Daddy D hates this. The only time he goes to church is for weddings and funerals.
All of us except Mom have a piece of cake. It’s beautiful, like a miniature wedding cake, sitting on a fancy mirrored tray. But it’s one of those kinds that looks better than it tastes.
After only an hour we are saying our good-byes. Liana begs to stay over, but Momma D says, “Not tonight, sugar.”
To me she says, “You be good now, you little booger.” She always calls us either sugar or booger, with equal affection.
“See you later alligator,” Grandpa says to Momma D, who laughs her gentle laugh.
“After while, crocodile,” she says.
Momma D lived to attend all of our weddings and came to all of our baby showers. At eighty-six she died peacefully, having declined a life-saving surgery. “I am ready to go,” she said, and indeed you could see the peace on her still-beautiful face. By then she had been a widow longer than she’d been a wife.
But the day of the cake was the last time we saw Daddy D alive.
published 18 September 2016