Sound Advice Courtesy of Sister Morphine
He was a father figure to me. As well as being my biological father. There were other fathers; that is, men my mother married in the hope she’d nab someone who would be as good a dad as my real one.
He’d check in with me over the years; just to make sure there was nothing he had to apologise for; also to remind me that my mother could be an awful hyperbolist; a word he, more or less made up. It was only when he lay there dying that he felt the imperative to offer some sound advice that might serve me well in the future, perhaps even retroactively. Being strung out on morphine at the time might have stirred the well of wisdom within; and with the added authority of his dying breath, the good advice flowed forth:
“Do just one thing till you tire of it; then do some other thing until that gets boring. And then go back to what it was you were doing before and see if it’s any easier. If it is, that means you’re getting better at it and so keep it up.”
I could see him working the morphine pump that he grasped in his boney fist, his thumb going like a piston over the release button. I was hoping that his pain wouldn’t max out the machine.
"Everywhere you go, take a good look around. Then turn and walk away. Then stop, turn around and see if there’s something you failed to notice. There usually is. Something else: plant Lavender! Lots of it! I always meant to but didn’t and now it’s my one regret. And always try to look the same as how you imagine you look when you’re looking your very best. Practice falling down and getting up again. You’ll discover there’s a technique to it. Why aren’t you writing this down? What is that thing in your hand? Oh, and for Christ sake, buy a Nurse a drink once in a while. They’re the most real human beings you'll ever meet. Make love to her, give her whatever she wants!" It was nice to hear some well deserved praise coming from his lips.
"Hold your head up high when you walk! At the same time, be mindful of where you’re walking. Alter your stride once in a while. You might feel a little strange but there’s nothing wrong with feeling strange. And whenever you find yourself all alone, do something that you would never do if there was someone there with you. Avoid religion but learn as much as you can about all of them. Just in case.”
He lets the morphine pump slide out of his hand. It was slick with his oily sweat. He wasn't finished:
“Don’t be like that guy. You know that guy I told you about who was his own worst enemy. Don’t ever be your own worst enemy. It's fine to be someone else's worst enemy but not your own. Or better, don’t be anyone’s worst enemy. If someone seeks to undermine you, just ask them what you ever did to them to deserve their ill will.
If only he had told me that long ago when I was, in fact, my own worst enemy. He could have spared me a lot of embarrassment if he'd told me then.
“And the most important thing of all…” He let his head fall back against the pillow. I thought he might die before he could finish. But he rallied. “Never…tell the truth.”
I was taken aback. I waited for him to justify that statement. I leaned into him. “Never tell the truth...and why exactly? "
He tried to raise his head again but couldn’t. But got the words out nevertheless: “Let them figure it out for themselves.”
I was tremendously proud of him that he still had the jam to save the best for last.