My father is surrounded by machines. In a tone that is equal parts self-pitying and self-depricating he says "I look like Frankenstein with all these wires coming out of me". It's true, but I don't remark on it. It seems to offend him in the way that a scar might offend a person who makes their living from their looks.
He has been dying for the last 20 years from congestive heart failure, although 19.8 of those years were a fairly passive form of dying and he has only recently moved on to the more active form of leaving his life. Like packing your papers into an old, leather briefcase, shutting the lid and snapping the latches. I sit at his bedside and attend the business of his passing.
"Have you been doing any writing, Dad?" I ask him.
"No". He says shortly. He looks irritated that I've asked.
It's not an unreasonable thing to ask. For as long as I've known him, which is all of my life, he's wanted to be a writer. Granted, it was a desire parallel with his aspirations to be a stand-up comic, a three-chord-in-a-minor-key musician, an evangelist and a filthy rich multi-level success story (slash lotto winner), so I confess that I've never taken him entirely seriously. Especially since most, if not all of those aspirations remain unfulfilled. Nonetheless, in the face of his impending end I didn't think it unreasonable to see if he was availing himself of the long days of immobility and sameness to at least make a last stab at his dream.
"Why not?" I persist.
"No motivation" he responds, as if this is the most obvious, reasonable things in the world.
And I think to myself; if dying doesn't motivate a person, I guess nothing will. I suddenly wonder about those stories you hear. You know the ones where someone has a brush with death and they suddenly find the courage to be fearless about doing and being all the things they have only ever been in their head? I wonder if that ever really happens at all.
And for my father, is the truth that he never actually wanted to be any of those things or was he really just that unwilling to do the hard work it took?
I don't know the answer and I probably never will. But while his passing may not motivate him, it sure as hell lights a fire under me. Not so much the dying as the unwillingness to live.
I'm willing to do the work of living.