My father was dying. My mother sent me a text. I was in Zaire giving vaccines. I couldn’t secure a flight to New York until two days after I got the text. I left a message for my mother. I assumed she was in my father’s hospital room crying. When I landed in New York I told the cab to go straight to the hospital.
My father was on the 8th floor. The cancer wing. My mother was sitting dry-eyed next to my sleeping father.
“You didn’t tell me he had cancer,” I said sorrowfully.
Mother shrugged. “It happened so fast. You need to stay with him. I’m going to leave.”
“Where are you going?”
Mother sighed. “I have a boyfriend. A man. Your father and I have been separated since January. We should have told you. We never got around to it.” Mother hugged my stiff body and left.
In the morning, father opened his eyes. I squeezed his hand.
“Son…,” he said thickly. He sighed, coughed, and then wiped spittle from his mouth. “I need to tell you…you think I spent decades working for the State Department…I was an operative with the CIA. I was sent to Argentina in the seventies…the Dirty Wars…listen to me, I’m proud of what I did there. I fought communism and socialism. I am deeply proud of what I did. I was a patriot.” He coughed again and then closed his eyes.
I went downstairs to the cafeteria. Strong coffee and a burger. I didn’t really know anything about the Dirty Wars. I went to Wikipedia on my phone. Thousands disappeared. Tortured. Murdered by the State. Mass graves. A blight on Argentinian history. The CIA helped the fascists. The fascists. The bad guys. My father was proud. He was proud. I worked for Doctors Without Borders. What I did was morally golden. I bridged human gaps with medicine. My father waged war against people seeking to build a better life. To express themselves and have the right to free speech.
I went back to the hospital room. You never really know your parents. You never really know anyone. My father lived an alternate reality and he helped the bad guys. And he was proud. I left him in the hospital and didn’t return. Three days later he was dead. I felt awful for abandoning him. I felt awful for the sorrows he caused. I was paying for the sins of my father. Working in Africa. I was happily paying the price of immorality.