Getting Dad Dressed for the Doctor
But it wasn’t his passing me the storied brain, nitrile gloves powder blue protecting sterile convolutions when finally I was left to examine it myself, in the cadaver lab’s furthest corner. It wasn’t the brain itself, either—it wasn’t the spinal cord on a metal slab; not the Adam’s Apple, not the false vocal cords, not the genitals under a wrinkled sheet, not the teeth beneath no-longer-pink lips—not even the pancreas (not at all like a pear rotting in a dish). I’d planned a good son’s stoic grief for it, that austere little duodenum, which the med student showed me when I raised my hand for help, drawing back the intestinal tract (how do you know a word like that?) so I could forgive it its spoiled coil. No. Instead, I cried at the common white cotton tube sock. It keeps the exposed arms from drying out overnight. He couldn’t bend too well. I’d had to help him on low-insulin afternoons if my sisters left me alone. The student sprayed, fingertip to forearm, watered-down fabric softener from a Windex bottle. He asked me if I’d like to put it on. I’d hear his puny voice call my name through the ceiling and pretend I couldn’t hear. When he’d start coughing, I’d trudge upstairs. His was a Hanes. He said they get them from Goodwill. It had a patched sole. I’d make sure the seams lined up right, that the toes weren’t too tight, and I’d inflict such a daughterly (I was ashamed) silence I’m sure he felt me cringe at how his toenails, which I refused to clip, clung to the fabric. I dragged the bunched sock up the brittle wrist. He’d thank me; I smoothed it down. Then, I’d help him put his shoes on.