Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Bebop farewell

My dad died on April 5 of this year. We knew it was coming--he had Alzheimer's, and toward the end he seemed to decline pretty quickly. His small family (my mother, my sister and her...roommate--for lack of a better word--her daughter, and my two boys) gathered in a small room at the funeral home. A few rows of chairs were set up but weren't needed. I was impressed to see tissue boxes built into the walls. 

There was no service, no family friends...just a rather hurried goodbye before he was sent to be cremated.

My family tends to look for the dark humor in tragedy, so instead of excessive weeping, we told jokes and stories. Dad was lying on a table, covered by a white sheet. Only his head was visible; he looked a little waxy, but really not bad at all. I was afraid this image of his head would continue to haunt me and follow me around like a floating bowl of Cream of Wheat, but so far that hasn't happened. 

He still had great hair for a man his age, 81. We're still amazed he lasted that long, given the abuse he put his body through with drinking. We figured it acted as a preservative.

We sat for several minutes telling old stories--the same ones we always told--and alternately going up to him to say goodbye, then sitting down, then going up to say goodbye again. It couldn't have been much more than 20 minutes, and my mother had had enough. She was ready to go. She didn't want to see him up close.

Twenty minutes to try to squeeze in a lifetime of goodbyes, of "I love you"s not spoken in life.

It wasn't easy, but we got through it. We went out to lunch afterward, and threw rolled up balls of straw paper at each other. 

It's not a bad coping mechanism.

I'm writing this today, Father's Day, because more than two months have passed since his death, and I finally summoned up the courage to place his obit in the newspaper. It seemed like the right time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

republicans make me nuts

I've watched just about every Republican debate because....well, I don't know. It's torture. I'm trying to keep the boys informed about the dangerous, 13th century views--in my opinion--that the candidates spew. You can almost see the spittle flying out of their mouths when they deflect the topic back to some or another of Obama's shortcomings/abject failures/lack of leadership, blahblahblah. They can't see the world clearly, they're so full of anti-O rage.

They don't have O-faces. They have anti-O faces.

And the problem for me is, that pisses me off. So I end up yelling at the TV during the debates. A lot.

I argue with Romney, debating every false, misguided point he makes, my comments peppered liberally with comments like "shut up you fucking DOUCHE" and "OmiGOD, you're SUCH a fucking DOUCHE, you DOUCHE!" He usually is the recipient of my douche comments.

I reserve "dick" mostly for Newt in my arguments with him. He's a sanctimonious, pompous dick. The term "dick" just seems to fit his milky, bloated visage.

Santorum is tricky. His names vary; I can't quite pin just one on him. He could be "fuckwad" or "dickweed" or "fucking asshole" or "uptight prick". Sometimes he's just a big jerk. His evangelical, dorky personality almost makes me go easy on him. Probably because I don't believe he'll get the nomination. Possibly because I'm still in shock that he has gotten this far in the process, and HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN???

And Paul? He's just entertaining. I go pretty easy on him too, with "moron" and "imbecile". Or "isn't he CUTE?"

I believe watching these things and yelling at the TV is probably hazardous to my health, and my boys think I'm nuts besides. But this process, and my mental and emotional investment in it, is far from over. Go, Team O!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Hello. Let's switch gears here for a moment.

Last week, I got a call from my mother, one I had been expecting for a little while.

"It's time to move your dad," she said.

Of course, she was talking about moving him to what I've taken to calling "the big house," now known as "lockdown." Another name for an Alzheimer's facility.

Back in the late summer, my niece and I helped move my mom and dad from their home in Virginia to an assisted living community in Lewes, Delaware. It's the kind of place plunked down by aliens in the lonely middle of a cornfield, with little homes in various shades of neutral, an apartment building, medical care facility and the main office/dining room/pool/bingo hall/ballroom. In the winter, hundreds and hundreds of snow geese congregate in the field across the road, sending up a flowing white curtain when one bird decides it wants to split.

They got a little house there, and at the time, my dad was ok. In that, yes, he was off his rocker--you can't understand a word he says because it's mostly gibberish--but he was still shuffling, and still smoking cigarettes. I never thought I'd consider smoking cigarettes a sign that his health was basically ok.

He's not smoking anymore.

He had wandered in the night, my mother told me, before the move. He sometimes fell during his travels, somehow managing to escape serious injury. Once in the new house, he continued to wander while my mother dozed (she never got a real good night's sleep knowing he was shuffling around in the dark), sometimes drinking maple syrup and once eating an entire jar of raspberry jam while hiding mugs and cups and trash can lids all over the house.

About a week before the move to lockdown, he had fallen in the garage at night. My mother found him on the other side of the car, half dressed, asleep on the cold floor. It appeared to her that he had gotten into the vinegar.

She couldn't lift him from the floor, because he is dead weight and largely uncooperative, and she made the last of a growing series of calls to the staff to help her.

A few days later, my mom moved him into a room with a gentleman named Ben. We hear Ben is a nice guy.

My niece and I drove down to Lewes that day. We wheeled Dad into the lockdown and to his room. While we stood there talking to the nurses, he used his feet to scoot the wheelchair out the door and down the hall. My first instinct was to go get him, but I remembered. He's in lockdown. He's not going anywhere.

I did catch up to him as he tried to get up from his wheelchair. He had some trouble, and I eased him back into the seat. I spoke to him gently and stroked his back, and told him I was glad he was exploring his new digs.

He looked at me, and for a brief moment, a wave of clarity seemed to wash over his face. His eyes were scared as he looked at me, looking for answers. He looked like he would cry. It seemed like he tried to speak, but couldn't. I wondered how much he knows.

I wonder if he sees his future.

That look is going to stay with me for a long while.