"Ira, look at me a second."
Lucy had waited until her father seemed his most lucid. She sat across from him in his room. Ira had broken out his old vinyl's today. There were covers with a long-haired James Taylor on Sweet Baby James and another of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road (with a barefoot and therefore "dead" Paul). Marvin Gaye wore a scarf for What's Going On and Jim Morrison moped sexuality on the cover of the original Doors album. ((T "v)› Ira?
He was smiling at an old picture from their camp days. The yellow VW Beetle had been decorated by the oldest-girl bunk. They put flowers and peace signs all over it. Ira was standing in the middle with his arms crossed. The girls surrounded the car. Everyone wore shorts and T-shirts and sun-kissed smiles. Lucy remembered that day. It had been a good one, one of those you stick in a box and put in a bottom drawer and take out and look at when you're feeling particularly blue.
He turned toward her. "I'm listening."
Barry McGuire's classic 1965 antiwar anthem, "Eve of Destruction," was playing. Troubling as this song was, it had always comforted Lucy. The song paints a devastatingly bleak picture of the world. He sings about the world exploding, about bodies in the Jordan River, about the fear of a nuclear button being pushed, about hate in Red China and Selma, Alabama (a forced rhyme, but it worked), about all the hypocrisy and hate in the world-and in the chorus he almost mockingly asks how the listener can be naive enough to think that we aren't on the eve of destruction.
So why did it comfort her?
Because it was true. The world was this terrible, awful place. The planet was on the brink back then. But it had survived-some might even say thrived. The world seems pretty horrible today too. You can't believe that we will get through it. McGuire's world had been just as scary. Maybe scarier. Go back twenty years earlier-World War II, Nazism. That must have made the sixties look like Disneyland. We got through that too. We always seem to be on the eve of destruction. And we always seem to get through it.
Maybe we all survive the destruction we have wrought.
She shook her head. How naive. How Pollyannaish. She should know better. Ira's beard was trimmed today. His hair was still unruly. The gray was taking on an almost blue tinge. His hands shook and Lucy wondered if maybe Parkinson's was on the horizon. His last years, she knew, would not be good. But then again, there really hadn't been many good ones in the past twenty.
"What is it, honey?"
His concern was so apparent. It had been one of Ira's great and honest charms - he so genuinely cared about people. He was a terrific listener. He saw pain and wanted to find a way to ease it. Everyone felt that empathy with Ira-every camper, every parent, every friend. But when you were his only child, the person he loved above all else, it was like the warmest blanket on the coldest day.
God, he'd been such a magnificent father. She missed that man so much. "In the logbook, it says that a man named Manolo Santiago visited you." She tilted her head. "Do you remember that, Ira?"
His smile slid away.
"Yeah," he said. "I remember."
"What did he want?"
"To talk about what?"
He wrapped his lips over his teeth, as if forcing them to stay closed.
He shook his head.
"Please tell me," she said.
Ira's mouth opened but nothing came out. When he finally spoke his voice was a hush. "You know what he wanted to talk about."
Lucy looked over her shoulder. They were alone in the room. "Eve of Destruction" was over. The Mamas and the Papas came on to tell them that all the leaves were brown.
"The camp?" she said.
"What did he want to know?"
He started to cry.
"I didn't want to go back there," he said.
"I know you didn't."
"He kept asking me."
"About what, Ira? What did he ask you about?"
He put his face in his hands. "Please..."
"I can't go back there anymore. Do you understand? I can't go back there." "It can't hurt you anymore." He kept his face in his hands. His shoulders shook. "Those poor kids."
"Ira?" He looked so damn terrified. She said, "Daddy?"
"I let everyone down."
"No, you didn't."
His sobs were uncontrollable now. Lucy got on her knees in front of him. She felt the tears push against her eyes too. "Please, Dad, look at me."
He wouldn't. The nurse, Rebecca, stuck her head in the doorway.
"I'll go get something," the nurse said.
Lucy held a hand up. "No."
Ira let out another cry.
"I think he needs something to calm him down."
"Not yet," Lucy said. "We're just... please leave us alone."
"I have a responsibility."
"He's fine. This is a private conversation. It's getting emotional, that's all." "I'll get the doctor." Lucy was about to tell her not to, but she was gone. "Ira, please listen to me." "No..." "What did you say to him?" "I could only protect so many. Do you understand?" She didn't. She put her hands on his cheeks and tried to lift his head. His scream almost knocked her backward. She let go. He backed up, knocking the chair to the ground. He huddled in the corner. "No... r "Its okay, Dad. Its-" "No!" Nurse Rebecca came back with two other women. One Lucy recognized as the doctor. The other, another nurse, Lucy figured, had a hypodermic needle. Rebecca said, "Its okay, Ira." They started to approach him. Lucy stepped in the way. "Get out," she said. The doctor - her name tag read Julie Contrucci -cleared her throat.
"He's very agitated." "So am I," Lucy said. "Excuse me?" "You said he's agitated. Big deal. Being agitated is a part of life. I feel agitated sometimes. You feel agitated sometimes, right? Why cant he?" "Because he's not well." "He's fine. I need him lucid for a few more minutes." Ira let out another sob. "You call this lucid?" "I need time with him." Dr. Contrucci folded her arms across her chest. "Its not up to you." "I'm his daughter." "Your father is here voluntarily. He can come and go as he pleases.
No court has ever declared him incompetent. It's up to him." Contrucci looked to Ira. "Do you want a sedative, Mr. Silverstein?" Ira's eyes darted back and forth like the cornered animal he suddenly was. "Mr. Silverstein?" He stared at his daughter. He started crying again. "I didn't say any thing, Lucy. What could I tell him?"
He started sobbing again. The doctor looked at Lucy. Lucy looked at her father. "It's okay, Ira."
"I love you, Luce."
"I love you too."
The nurses went over. Ira stuck out his arm. Ira smiled dreamily when the needle went in. It reminded Lucy of her childhood. He had smoked grass in front of her without worry. She could remember him inhaling deeply, his smile like that, and now she wondered why he'd needed it. She remembered how it had picked up after the camp. During her childhood years the drugs were just a part of him -a part of the "movement." But now she wondered. Like with her drinking. Was there some kind of addiction gene working? Or was Ira, like Lucy, using out side agents-drugs, booze-to escape, to numb, to not face the truth?