Archive for October, 2005

Drawing to a close

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

So I guess I haven’t posted in a while.

It’s not for lack of stuff to write. In fact, I should probably be journaling like crazy through all of this because, as I explained to over the phone a few weeks ago, I could write a freakin’ book about how weird and surreal this whole process has been — and strangely comic at times, believe it or not. But the energy to journal just isn’t there, so I’ve been skipping it.

But let me see if I can explain. No, it’s too much to explain. Let me see if I can summarize.

My dad is dying, but typical of my dad, he’s being stubborn about it. If the doctors say he has days, maybe a week, then by god, a week comes and goes and he’s smiling and having a rare good day at the end of that week. If we get the impression, as we have several times, that this day might be his last, then by god, the next day he’s alert and nearly talkative, and we’re left scratching our heads and drying our tears and just trying to ride out the emotional tidal waves.

My mom and I went to meet with the people at the funeral home a few weeks ago. Fortunately, my dad already made all his arrangements six years ago when his cancer was first diagnosed as malignant. Unfortunately, it was like a freakin’ Keystone Cops routine with these guys at the funeral home, and although I found it all absurdly funny, I know my mom didn’t see the humor in the ordeal.

If there’s one bright spot in this whole sea of darkness, it’s that my sister and I have largely reconciled. It’s a long story, but it comes down to what my coworker and friend Keith described as sounding “like a Lifetime original movie.” A significant letter that apparently never arrived at its destination, a conversation where both participants had completely different understandings of what was said, that sort of thing. And that’s the basis of what’s been keeping us distant for lo these last nine years. So although things aren’t perfect now, there are signs that our relationship may improve with time, and I think my dad has been coherent enough to realize that, which must help him feel a little more at ease, since I know the strained relations between my sister and me have bothered him terribly.

For a long time, I think my brother didn’t get the whole thing — he’s developmentally disabled, borderline retarded but still basically functional and normal-appearing — but several people within and outside of the family have made efforts to clue him in. Now he’s acting out in ways that suggest he gets it and he’s not handling it very well. He’s supposed to be on Medicare but that benefit is currently being contested, so getting him psychological help of any kind is not easy. He’s having to tough it out on his own, and I hate that for him. I sure wouldn’t want to be going through all this without the benefit of Prozac — let alone without being equipped with the emotional maturity to process even comparatively simple issues well.

And my mom is struggling hardest of all. Her husband of 40 years, her closest and dearest friend by far, and clearly the best companion the universe could have ever invented for her, is becoming — or perhaps has already become — unrecognizable to her, and she’s still feeding him, bathing him, and performing plenty of other thankless tasks out of love and duty and determination to see him die with whatever dignity is still possible at this point. Her dilemma breaks my heart every day, and as stressed out and wound-up as she defininitely is, she bears it all so much better than I can ever imagine doing myself.

And Karsten — well, what can I possibly say about Karsten that does him justice? After losing his mother seven months ago, I’m sure it’s suffocating for him to be in an environment where the reality of parental death is thick in the air. But he knows I need him with me, and he’s there for me. We’re in this together, after all, and thank whatever gods there may be for that. This man is like oxygen to me — I simply can’t imagine breathing without him. Especially not right now. And he’s consistently the one person who can relax me, who can always make me laugh, with whom I can just walk and walk and walk for hours and talk about anything or talk about nothing — and it’s the only kind of therapy that could possibly do me any good right now. He soothes my soul.

So there it is, in a nutshell. The cast of characters, the somber scene, the barely-crawling pace of it all. It’s draining as hell, and I feel like I’m in limbo no matter where I am, but I’m trying to make the best of it and find the moments of levity, the revelations of truth, the opportunities to draw closer with the people from whom I’ve moved away so many times — and trying to laugh and love as much as possible at all times. I think that’s all there is to do. I think that’s all there is for any of us to do.

Health and happiness to you all. I’ll update again when I can.