projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 36.
Everywhere in this city. The suicide of a man I didn’t know, but was loved by someone I love. The stabbing of three men, two of whom died, on public transport not far from my neighborhood. A manhunt that shut down an even closer neighborhood. A beloved local author succumbing to cancer. A friend witnessing a person falling (jumping) from a high building and meeting the earth right in front of her.
Everywhere along the eight floors of the Wilhelm Mausoleum. The building I only knew from it’s backside, a sprawling blue mural of giant birds that rises opposite the amusement park, is open to the public only on Memorial Day. Portland’s history is hidden behind miles of marble hallways. Miles of urns and fake flowers. Real names and real dates. There amongst the odd placement of seventies era chairs and couches, I help a man place a lily in a vase too high up for him to reach. He thanks me, embarrassed at needing assistance. I’ll be hearing about this from my ancestors some day, he says.
Everywhere in the squares of my schedule. Each week grows tighter with more hospice clients. One, a new private client I’ve yet to meet, calls late in the day. She wants to arrange a massage and leaves a message in a crackling voice. I’m dying and don’t know if I have another month.
And then everywhere in the quiet, air-conditioned space of my parents’ home. Sitting around the dining room table, my parents, my sister, and I discuss end of life care. Vagueness grows sharper. Tubes or no tubes. Treatment or no treatment. A joke about electrical outlets. A joke about life in bed. I wasn’t sure we’d ever have the conversation, but here we are, laughing through it, signing papers. Then we drink whiskey, eat dinner and each have a slice of my father’s favorite key-lime pie.
I leave and everywhere is bathed in long spring light, the season celebrating itself. The air holds roses and newly-mowed grass. The tops of the trees dance, all green and sunset.