Monday, January 10, 2022

Microstory 1796: Rounded

I love round numbers. Truthfully, I probably only held out this long so I could reach my hundredth year. Tomorrow is my birthday, and when that clock strikes zero, I plan to die. Where I live, the new year begins in the middle of the day, so my family is here to celebrate with me. They didn’t have to do that for me, squeeze into my nursing home room. I’m sure the younger ones would rather be at a party, and the older ones are too exhausted to spend this much time out of the house. I appreciate it, but I worry about how awkward it’s going to be when I pass. Only my youngest grandson knows what’s going to happen. He’s only six, but he’s so smart. He doesn’t think I’ll be able to pull it off, so I bet him a hundred dollars. He pointed out that he won’t be able to pay me if I end up being right, but it wouldn’t matter anyway. I don’t need money where I’m going, and I’m going soon, whether it’s at exactly 0:00, or not. He’s going to get a hundred bucks out of this, and it will teach him to focus his attention on safe bets. That’s the kind of lesson I’ve always tried to teach my kids. You don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen in the future if you rig it in your favor. Don’t play it safe, or you won’t get anywhere, but have an ace up your sleeve at all times. Don’t let others stack the deck against you. I’ve been unresponsive for a few hours now, but what my family doesn’t know is that I can still hear everything they’re saying. They’re talking about me, of course, and not even watching the clock. The elders are sharing stories with the youngsters. Man, I had a fun life, and I die here with no regrets. My son is talking about how I taught him how to get the job he wanted by basically not taking no for an answer. He snorts as he laughs. That’s not how it works anymore. Employers don’t like pushy people. Anyway, it worked for him in the 1960s, and he’s where he is now because of it.

They don’t notice when I pass at precisely when I meant to. My grandson positioned himself next to my vitals machine. I told you he was smart. So alarms don’t go off, he sneakily switches the little device on my finger to his own. It just keeps measuring, thinking that he’s me. He places his finger against my neck, waiting for a pulse that never comes. Still he tells no one. He lets them tell their stories, blissfully unaware that I’m gone. His parents think it’s so sweet that he’s holding my hand, but he’s really only doing it to maintain the lie. I taught him well, I tell you. They continue to tell stories for another thirty minutes until the nurse comes back in to confirm what she suspected. Grandson doesn’t apologize. He says he wanted the family to enjoy the beginning of the new year, at least for a little bit. The nurse leaves to begin the process. Meanwhile, my family decides that he’s right, or maybe they don’t want to argue about it. I was old and it was my time. There are some tears, even from those I wouldn’t have thought would produce them on this occasion, or didn’t think they would themselves. They keep going with the stories, though, trying to keep it light for the younglings. They know what’s going on, and the adults want them to feel comfortable with death, rather than being afraid of it. It takes a long time to get my body out of the room. My son’s wife is relieved. This kind of behavior would not have been tolerated on her side of the family. Death is something to be feared and ignored. She felt it was disrespectful for them to stay in here with a dead body. She tried to stay quiet, but everyone felt her disappointment. Me, I’m happy. I’m so happy that they stayed with me after I was gone. I felt so loved in the end.

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