It begins with a phone call. It could have been his best friend, or the phone company trying to get him to make one more switch. Instead, it's the older brother he hasn't seen in years informing Terry Shine that their father is lying in a hospital bed unable to speak, bleeding in the brain. Terry and his four brothers rush to the hospital and prepare for the end, but nothing could have prepared them for what is to come.
"Old people are supposed to die," Terry acknowledges in a whisper of resignation. "Yeah, but fathers aren't," his brother Bill responds. Suddenly, five estranged siblings are plunged together into a bewildering world of medical choices and living wills -- of hours sitting by their father's bed, begging him simply to blink, to squeeze a hand, to nod. With no formal guidelines to follow, Terry and his brothers fumble along while their helplessness makes them focus on absurdities: What kind of car does each doctor drive? Which vending machine has the best Danish? They bring in a boom box and some of their father's CDs, trying everything in their power to drive the life back into him. They keep trying until sheer exhaustion leads them to the brink of acceptance. But, as the Shine family discovers, there is nothing that trains us to navigate death's terrain, and nothing we can do to come out of the experience unscathed: death slams us in ways we can never possibly have fathomed.
At once heart-wrenching, insightful, and piercingly witty, Fathers Aren't Supposed to Die masterfully captures the devastating experience of trying to come to terms with a parent's death.