I’ve been exhausted for days and stayed home to catch up on rest before I get sick. It’s a strategy I employ often enough to reason that my body is used to it and, therefore, if I got enough sleep regularly, I’d probably come down with something dreadful.

Crashed out and cocooned on the futon, I’m awakened by the doorbell. It’s the postman and he has something from a lawyer’s office I need to sign for. My stomach churns as I imagine and exaggerate the various offenses I’ve committed; naming people who might be suing me. I feel that it must be time to pay the piper for something – perhaps just for staying home to sleep.

The brief letter explains that my deceased grandfather’s class action suit for being exposed to asbestos has been settled. The lawyers took the bulk of it and my grandfather’s share was divided between his seven children, but, since my father is also deceased, his seventh was split between me and my two sisters. I hold my breath. Visions of a new car and paying off our daughter’s college bills tantalize me as I finally get the courage to look at the amount.

When I unfold the check, I realize we won’t be doing much more than going out to dinner with the $60.

It doesn’t really matter though. The check has resonated in a deep chamber of my heart –  I remember my last visits with my father just years ago and my grandfather a decade before.  Both were strong men cut down by vicious cancers that left them gasping for breath in hospital beds. The check is to pay for the damage asbestos did to my grandfather’s lungs and part of me hardens against all that it represents and all that it lacks. My father’s exposure to unspeakable pain and horror in Vietnam will never be compensated for – not even if there was a class-action suit.

Maybe the sun emerged from behind a cloud. I think the cat rubbed against my leg, tail wrapping around. And the room suddenly felt more open – alive – airy.  I realized how tickled they both would be to know that I received that check. That they were still providing for me, even from the great beyond. I felt like I had their permission to think of them without sadness and to know of their deaths without rancor. Their lives were too beautiful for such degradation. Rest in peace gentlemen.

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