By Wayne Scheer

When the last visitor finally left, Daniel poured himself a drink, collapsed into the overstuffed chair and cried. A few seconds later, he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and sipped the scotch in his glass.

The little three-room apartment his father had lived in alone for almost a month after the death of Daniel's mother seemed empty, now that the oversized hospital bed had been removed. His father had set it up so his mother could enjoy the morning sun. The oxygen tank she once lugged around like an unwilling dance partner no longer occupied the corner near the couch.

A numbness overtook Daniel. So much flashed through his mind, no single thought took hold. He couldn't even decide what he was feeling: grief, certainly; shock, of course. But also relief.

He took another sip.

Daniel never saw his father cry during the ordeal, not even at the grave. He seemed too busy making arrangements, shaking hands and nodding at well-meant comments about how much Beatrice would be missed.

Daniel's wandering thoughts found their way to Elaine, his ex-wife. The marriage had ended two years earlier, both sides agreeing they had already stayed together too long. But now he wished she were here. This was no time to be alone. Loneliness, he thought, was far worse than even watching the woman you love die.

Less than a month after his mother's death, his father had died from a drug overdose. Although ruled accidental, Daniel knew. His mother's secret stash of sleeping pills was missing along with the empty bottle of pills prescribed to his father. And there was the half-finished bottle of scotch he had found under the sink behind the dishwashing detergent. His father never drank, even on New Year's Eve.

Daniel took another sip of the scotch he had poured from that bottle and allowed himself to cry. This time, for what seemed like an eternity.