My mother has three brothers. In varying degrees, they are consumed by paranoia, irrational anger, and a refusal to let themselves grieve for their father's death. Their fears and anger and assurance about the Way to Do Things have eclipsed remembering. Battered, each brother warily stands with his back against the corner of the ring, ready to lash out, quivering in wait for the next disagreement.

Spats. Tiffs. Altercations. Discussions. Each exchange turns into hostilities. We are left with our hands upturned and empty, memories floating through finger gaps. No place to put them. Each brother talks about healing old wounds while simultaneously jamming a finger into someone else’s crusty festering. All those years they have in common were supposed to teach them how to speak to each other with whale calls, with eye blinks, with care. Instead, they just know where to punch. And they punch hard.

In the moments when most families pull together, knit into a chain link of shoulders leaning, we dissolved on the grass outside the hospital. Our familial sympathies foamed, contaminating the only pocket of green and shade that existed in the glare of the suburban summer. What could have been a spot of escape and rejuvenation became a revolving door of family meetings and reverberations of the resuscitation debate. Babbo, my grandfather, lay unconscious in the ICU, breathing belabored, while we slogged through argument after argument. In the intervals of silence, we ate hummus and avocado on rice cakes.

And so now—I demand a memorial. I demand a space and a moment to honor a life—a moment without bad vibes and raised voices and tension-filled rooms and sucker punches. I will still allow tears and a touch of monologuing. Let’s light a cigarette—Camel, unfiltered—and let it burn down to nothing. Pour a glass of bourbon over ice and just sit. Sit in the absence of him. In the enormity of our missing. 
© Zoë Frederick 2023