It was well past time. You knew. Months ago it tumbled from that top shelf, scattering silk flowers and spewing a wide swath of powdery paper crumbs. You rehomed the flowers and vacuumed up the detritus, but set the carcass proper in that corner, where it waited. You hoped, foolishly, didn’t you, you might repair it – or still more irrationally, it would vanish itself, relieving you of responsibility – but it just stared, unobliging.
Years ago it came in the mail, postmarked Federal Prison Camp Nellis and you marveled, wondering how much time it took to build, almost a foot high and half that at its widest point, before realizing time was all he had. Lots of it. There were perhaps hundreds of painstakingly folded, interlocking paper chevrons widening from its base to a spherical bowl, then narrowing to a slender neck, a stripe of yellow winding diagonally through the white, an origami vase created from dribs and drabs of note paper and time, minutes upon hours upon days upon months.
Hot, humid weather is ideal for death cleaning, when the air is so thick and heavy it inspires divestiture of any objects extraneous to the day-to-day. On an unseasonably warm April morning you muttered Just rain already, why don’t you, sweat stinging your eyes, droplets rolling down your chest and back, when you spied it again, sullen, accusing. He introduced you to Silk Degrees, didn’t he, and now Boz was reassuring It will be all right. You plucked the fractured halves from their purgatory, eyes streaming tears that oddly, mercifully soothed the sweat-sting, and gently laid them atop the kitchen trash.
Once having nothing but time, in the end he had little. It is ten Aprils since you said goodbye. After months of oncology visits, surgery follow-ups, radiation therapy, colostomy bag and dressing changes, you had exhausted nearly all of your leave. Mister and Boyo sounded strangely, artificially upbeat. It was time to go home, you knew, resolving to be flat, stoic when you told him. Through a morphine haze, he struggled to confirm
I’m not coming?
No. I’m sorry. You can’t fly anymore.
He nodded in understanding, prompting from you a hug and kiss, and you noted again but for the last time the dearth of flesh, his shoulders, back, arms incomprehensibly thin, his cheeks deep hollows. You didn’t cry then, but later, in private, bitterly. When you allow the recollection, you cry still.
It will be ten Mother’s Days since he died. That one, and those that followed, were grievously painful for your mother, until dementia relieved her of the concept of time and associated observances of loss, a consequential kindness. Now, with each day’s Good morning and Good night, you know she inhabits that odd in-between where there is little time simultaneously with nothing but time. And time is measured by medications, meals, episodes, and hospice appointments. When there was a job to go to, you set your alarm clock ten minutes ahead to give yourself extra time, but that’s no longer necessary, ill-advised even. Recalibration was momentous, wasn’t it, and liberating. The watches you loved are now superfluous, soon to be surrendered to death cleaning. There’s no longer anywhere to go, and you must know the real time because hospice service providers visit by appointment. One day it will be her time, and another day yours. When it’s time.