The best day of my life I spent diluted, drunk, and considerably perfect. We set out early, just Julie, Callie and I, on the hiking trail that would eventually lead us to the pinnacle of what would be our concerted destiny; in the summer sun, in our youth, in the yesterdays I recall so vividly lately.
I lay here now, dictating my ramblings and distorted memories from my deathbed to Julie while she sits with perfect posture, with perky breasts and in youthful anticipation.
This is exactly the way I always imagined my last day would unfold.
“Carl, you’re rambling.” She says to me with convincing emphasis as if this was not the way I always spoke.
“I’m fine, honey. My mouth is just so dry.” I reply. “I wish I could have a smoke and sit outside with you for a while.”
“I know Carl.”
“I would do anything to be sitting on the front porch in my rocking chair right now. You know just me and you.” I say in a reminiscent state.
A reminiscent state is my only reality now until it all goes black.
Julie feigns hope for a moment of forgivable optimism.
“Do you remember the time we took Callie to the Smokey Mountains for Thanksgiving? That was the best. Remember Carl? We took that horrid trail up the foothills and ate our picnic under that warm November sun.”
The single tear that fell from her left eye made me break down. I began to sob like our daughter Callie did that day we hiked up the foothills of the Smokey Mountains and she lost her little red shoe along the way.
Callie never really lost her shoe though. The truth of the matter is that I was too drunk to notice that our three year old had worn two mismatched left shoes that day we left to hike the eight miles of foothills. I knew by the time Callie began to complain that I had neglected my duty to assure her appropriate hiking gear. I was on vacation after all which meant drinking from the time I rolled out of bed until the time I fell back into the fetal position.
Talk about biggest regrets. It's not the big things you regret on your deathbed, it’s the little things that you regret the most.
The morphine drip trickles down the IV in the sanitary purgatory between the plastic bag and my dried open vein.
“You should try to get some rest now honey. You need to save your energy for your surgery tomorrow.” Julie scratched the back of my head as she reminded me of the surgery I would never receive.
The soft scratch of her manicured nails always put me at peace. I flashed back to the day I had admitted defeat in my career and had come home unemployed. As I lay in bed dejected, Julie sat next to me and silently scratched my head. It made everything somehow okay. She could put me in a near trance with her soft nails. It’s the little things.
She also scratched my balding head the day I decided to stop drinking. It was the day after we returned home from our Thanksgiving trip to the Smokey Mountains so many years ago. I left Callie home alone while I sat drinking away my meager paycheck at the pub. When Julie came home Callie had not eaten all day and was rummaging through the cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink. Julie was furious when I got home but managed to settle down after I promised to quit drinking. I did, quit drinking that is, after that day. Thanks to Julie and her perfect fingernails. It’s the little things.
Now as my vision begins to fail and my breath draws short, Julie is right beside me. The hospital room falls away and all is pure darkness. Everything is gone now except for the vision of Callie’s little red shoe and the gentle scratch on the back of my head.
Here’s to the little things.