messages, and I heard Cecie’s voice, starting slow—“I’m just calling to
say”—with the soberly worded sentence that our father had passed away.
From a cancer he’d apparently had for a while, which she thought I’d
known about, but I hadn’t. The message was only two days old.
“Just get on a plane,” Cecie said when I called her. “You can do that.
Just get here.”
It cost a lot extra to change the ticket, and all through the long multi-
stop plane ride I naturally thought, Why do I think I have to show up
for any of this? I missed the funeral itself, as it happened. I was in the
sky somewhere over the Pacific when they were saying the words. What-
ever was said. He had friends but not many, he picked fights with them.
Nothing was more irresistible to him than a flash of indignation. I was
seeing him at the dinner table, his snickers and growls and bouts of high
dudgeon at whatever the news was, I was hearing his voice all through
the sleepless hours when I leaned back with my eyes closed in that un-
dersized seat on the plane.
I called Cecie from a pay phone at the airport. It was ten at night,
New York time.
“Well,” Cecie said, “here you are. Good to hear your voice. Come to-
morrow. There are legal matters. Dillon wants to see you too.”
“Not too early, okay?”
“Come to the house,” she said. “You know where the house is.”
I’d been away from the house itself for two decades. Of course, I’d seen
it in dreams.
“How are the kids?” I asked Cecie, while we stood on the porch.
“Well, you know. They’re upset. Charlie’s thirteen already. And
Laird’s in fifth grade.”
“Smart as whips,” Dillon said.
Cecie was fooling with a key to the front door. “Place should maybe
have a coat of paint on it before we sell it,” she said.
An oxygen tank had been wheeled into the foyer, probably waiting
to be picked up. Inside, the old beige sofa was now a charcoal color, and
the rugs were gone. The house was a spooky structure, empty and mean.
“I wanted you to have a little time here,” Cecie said, “because the will
says we’re entitled to select whatever things we want. I was going to take
the glass coffee table, if nobody minds.”
“I don’t mind.”