This Is Not A Final Statement by Miriam Sagan

This Is Not A Final Statement

I cut red paper. Then, open the envelope full of bills and accounts preserved from 1975. My father records and saves all the hospital bills of my near death and extensive hospitalization. I have the flu, pleurisy, a collapsed lung, empyema.
He writes down taxi fares: $30.00. Tolls: $3.00. Is this how he is making sense of the situation in which his eldest child is dying?
I add black ink. I’m not trained in the spontaneous gestural way of sumi. But I can slash.
I cut up the hospital bills, the endless listing of X-rays. My father’s absurd ledger.
No doubt this is because—since I will live and not die—he will take me as a tax deduction. I am 21 years old and without health insurance.
Decades later, my therapist has evinced surprise. “ A Jewish family? Middle class? No health insurance? What were they thinking?” Apparently that I was grown up and gone. But I was only the latter. I was gone, but soon I was almost…totally gone. Preserved in the black and white snapshot like someone headed for the Mekong or an overdose. Gone. And not remembered as any sort of real person.
And my father kept everything. In a manila envelope that comes to me after his death, found by my sister going through the file cabinets.
I try adding words to the collages but they don’t really work. “You’re ambivalent about your handwriting,” my daughter says as we work together on adjacent studio tables.
My handwriting.
My scar.
My body.
The fact that I’m alive at all.