Currently reading: Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel / The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd / Forever by Pete Hamill which one day I may finish….
Current Mood: I used to be funny. That’s my current mood.
Current Temperature: Approximately the temp of Satan’s thong during a spin class
It’s utterly oppressive outside. I can feel the humidity cling to me like wet, muffling spider webs as I walk around my tiny garden, obsessively checking the progress morning and night; willing it to grow and show me something tangible. This palpable heat, this heaviness, is apropos and so is my single minded drive of growing a garden. On some level I realize that this stems from the need to bring life forth and nurture it; but it also stems from the need to take control of something…anything. If these plants grow, I can take solace in their beauty and the success of a joint diversion and accomplishment. If these plants wither, it’s because I did or did not do something. I didn’t fertilize or water or watered too much or planted them in the wrong place with too much or too little sun; but control. I can assume the blame or credit as is fitting.
My daughter is in the process of buying a house with her fiancée. I will have an empty nest shortly and will have to fill my time that is currently occupied by Wee Baby Child and Mei Mei. I will have to rediscover….me. In some ways, though I relish the opportunity, it’s a scary thought. Who am I if not…
Wee Baby Child’s grandmother?
Mei Mei’s mother?
My dog’s sorry ass substitute for my husband? She’s a one hooooman kind of dog.
My parent’s child?
My cousins’ daily source for eye rolls?
It’s amazing how much my identity is invested in the health and joy and well being of these individuals. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, but it’s the first time in a long time that I will have the opportunity to live a life for me on my terms. My husband and I are just fine, thankyouverymuch, but he has never been one to tell me what to do. Nor do I tell him. We are incredibly independent and singular people and have struck the magical balance of togetherness….autonomously. I’ve always been the kind of person that can only handle so much togetherness before I start to gnaw at the restraints. I need and covet my alone time, mostly because I’ve always lived on some level of organized chaos. I seek some level of solitude on a daily basis. Well…I’m about to get it aren’t I?
On Sunday, I posted a picture on Facebook of me with my Dad. It reminded me of happier days, of easier days when I didn’t have to watch him struggle. Do you see that smile of his? That smile told me every day that no matter what this life threw at me, I’d have the strength and humor to bull through. His humor and that smile were amongst his gifts to me.
I also took the opportunity on Sunday to go see my Dad. Without betraying his right to privacy, I’ll let it suffice to say that he is in a place which is for his own protection and those around him. He is violent now – physically and verbally and they are desperately trying to find the magic combination of medication and therapy that works. He didn’t know me. Do you want to know the definition of irony? I wished my father a happy father’s day and he didn’t know me. It seemed to me, that if I had to take a guess at it, he was in his twenties in his mind. I, literally, wasn’t a glimmer in his eye yet. I struggled to converse with him, desperately trying to find something, anything that could keep a conversation going. We mentioned family and friends to no avail. We spoke about the weather. I made shit up just to keep the conversation going in a positive direction. It’s a two hour drive one way to see him because he’s in a highly specialized facility to help him get through this violence. A part of me was performing some quantitative exercise to figure out how to extend the time with him. If we drove four hours round trip and he’s only capable of a half hour visit, can we drive around again for an hour and come back to get another decent half hour visit? These are the kind of mental calisthenics we went through. My mother was diving through the decades as well and we both realized that any control or authority we may have once wielded is effectively mute. His hands started twitching restlessly, one chasing the other in a display of burgeoning agitation. I watched it growing in him as he wrung his hands and then tapped them rhythmically – all fingers tapping at once with a gradual intensity. Finally I saw him drumming his fingers over and over and over a gesture I remember from my youth which inevitably meant I was getting a lecture about whichever transgression I had committed that day. It was a measure of control he used to keep focus on the task at hand of disciplining his once again (and again and again) wayward daughter. It prevented him from saying things like, “Well, if you weren’t such a stubborn _____”, because he knew how much words matter and how much they can either wound or heal depending on how they were used. He always tried to use his wisely and they were always memorable. My dad knew how to turn a phrase.
The picture below is from his last diagnosis in February 2017; in addition to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, he was also diagnosed with Lewy Body. The doctor who was evaluating him and asked him to draw a house. Then the doctor instructed him to write down the instruction just given in it’s grammatical entirety. Then the doctor asked him to write down what was on his mind. He had labored to accomplish the first two lines, but when the final instruction was given, he looked down at his hand which started to slacken. When he looked up again, he looked right at me and right through me with that famous smile and wrote the last line.
I realized then and there, that as gentle as my father is/was; he has the heart of a lion and the soul of Henny Youngman. One day, it may be my turn to stand where he is now. I’ve got a 50/50 chance that my loved ones will battle this unseen force and debilitation. In keeping with the lion’s heart, I will probably face it roaring. Maybe that’s what Dad is lashing out at with what little rationality he has left. And while I am filled with sorrow at this loss of gentility, I will rage on with him if this is the last vestige of his ability to fight. I started this wondering, who am I if not….
I am the lion’s daughter. Which makes me a lioness. With an attitude.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rock the hell on, Dad.