By Ilana masad
Because he said he would be there, in sickness and in health. Because he had said no to getting a dog, which may have been cruel back then, when she was waiting and waiting for a pregnancy and needed someone to love other than him. This time it wasn’t his place to say no. Because she wanted him with her, which was the ultimate validation of their life together. Because as hard as it was to admit, he wanted all this waiting, waiting for the end, to end. He had always wanted to take care of her, even when she didn’t want him to, and he knew it was time to give in and break the pattern. His mother had raised him to always do what the lady says. Because his most precious memories involved her, overshadowing even the sunlit nostalgia of his grandfather’s farm and the feel of a cow’s teat squeezed between his then-small fingers. If he could have had it any other way, he would have, but he’d lived long enough to know that he had to deal with reality, not dreams. Because she was beautiful, still, in a dignified old lady way. Her fingers reached out to him when her forehead was damp with sweat and she was cold. She didn’t want him to see her in pain. She wanted him to witness the magic trick she was going to disappear through. Because years ago, she’d told him she would do it and made him promise to support her. And he was a man of his word. Because the dimple in her cheek was sagging as her skin grew too large with the loss of fat and muscle. Because he could be strong. For her.
Because Dad said Grandma wanted to. Dad said it’s her choice, she’s a big girl, she can do what she wants. Mom said to listen to Dad. Because Mom said that being sick is hard, and I said I know, like when I had mono last year. Grandma couldn’t take us to the pond to fish anymore. Because Mom said that Grandma always did things her way and Dad said that we should be proud of her and that I should be the same way when I grow up, only not sick. I was scared of seeing her with tubes all in her face like people in movies. Because I hate the hospital since I got my tonsils out and there was a blood clot and they had to dig down my nose with a tube to get it out, and I didn’t want to need to visit Grandma there. She got all whispery and tired and it made me sad. Because Dad said his brother, I call him Uncle Twin, said it was okay to let her go. Because we’re allowed to let her go, Dad said.
Because it took me years of fighting with, grappling with the idea before I was able to really, quite clearly, look her in the eyes when she talked about it. Because I had to admit that there was something alluring about having the ability to plan for it. Everyone says that I have my anal tendencies from her and her planning, the way she took us on vacations with a binder full of information about every site we visited and every sight we saw. She had worksheets for us, for Christ’s sake. I was the one who took after her, the just-so ways, my brother is nothing like that. Because in the darkest corners of my mind, lying in bed at night with my snoring hubby beside me, I must admit that this way will be better for everyone. Because maybe the experience will even be interesting. At least I don’t have children I need to explain it to. Because it might make me unique, not in the generic children’s television kind of way but truly and actually different. No one I know has been through something like this, after all. Because something has to give. It’s going to happen anyway. Because I believe in the right of a woman to choose, and it makes me a hypocrite to disagree with this one, this choice. Because she’s tired. And I want to be there. I don’t know how I’ll live without her, but if I have to, I want a kiss goodbye.
Because she could. Because she had an affinity with lemmings that she had never spoken about to anyone, although those that knew her in her professional life may have recognized her docility and appreciated it. Because she now recognized the underlying resolve of self-effacement that is often found below the facades of people like her. Followers. Because she made a decision and she would stick to it. Because she had often not done things she wanted to do, the worst of which was during the birth of her second child, which she had promised to herself and everyone else would be natural, and which had ended up just like the first one, with her begging for something to dull the pain, only to find out that she needed a C-section in the end anyway, and the anesthesia led to general numbness and the inability to hold her second-born in her arms while the blood still wet his head and the overpowering smell in the room was of fertility rather than modernity. She was determined not to undo this thing now. When it became harder to move her arms and swallowing was a pain, she began to talk about it more, to get herself used to the realness of it. She’d been talking about it casually, offhand, for years. She had gotten so much extra time, more than she’d been promised originally. But still, because she didn’t want to be taken care of a single day longer than was necessary. Because her biggest fear was devolving into a mewling infant with no control over its own sphincter. Because she didn’t want to know what it was like to lose the power to think. She believed in that adage about thinking therefore being, and cherished her mind’s eye more than any screen on which imagination could be played. Because the landscapes the painkillers gave her had always been magical and reminiscent of a childhood when quiet was more pervasive than noise so that sound was revered in all its forms, whether naturally occurring or mysteriously recorded. She missed the quiet as the days moved on and preferred to sit silently in a room with her husband and her children and watch them watching her. Because she was tired of waiting. She was ready. Because she was brave and stalwart and had spent a lifetime being that way for other people. It was time to be good to herself. Because it was late. Because he agreed to climb into bed with her when she did it, breathing with her until he couldn’t keep the space between his breaths long enough without passing out. He had become a crier as he aged. Because she loved that he still loved her and she was pretty sure she also loved him. She wanted to spare them the worst of it, and there were studies that proved she was right to do what she was doing. They celebrated her life right there in the living room with her. Because she’d made all the arrangements and paid for them with the years of people’s problems and insecurities being deposited at her hearthstone. Because she didn’t want to stick around to watch her grandchildren grow old enough to be embarrassed by her. Because she was given a healthy dose of painful reality by the latest round of doctors. Because she had been saving up the medication for years. Because it was time. Because she could.
Ilana Masad is an Israeli-American writer living in NYC. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Printer’s Row,The Rumpus, The Toast, The Butter, Hypertext Magazine, Split Lip Magazine, and more. She is also the founder of The Other Stories, a podcast that makes it just a little bit easier for writers to get heard.
Art: Another Eye by Josh Graupera, Issue 3 Featured Artist
Josh Graupera is a Lancaster born, Philadelphia based artist. He received his BFA in Painting at Millersville University in 2014. Graupera has also attended residencies at the Chautauqua Institution, the Fabric Workshop Museum and Second State Press. www.joshgraupera.com