Tuesday…when did the week decide to just stop? For all intents and purposes, yes, the calendar says it is AND should be Tuesday, but I’m so ready for Friday morning it’s not even funny…
As I sit at home answering phones and processing information, everyone in our extended family is basically waiting for “the natural course of events.” On the one hand, Dada’s father is not doing well, and “the natural course of events” has come up in every conversation Dada and his brothers have had with the doctors. On the other hand, my father had a brief shining moment of apparent rallying recovery, and now has stalled and then slipped. “The natural course of events” has been discussed on that front, too.
In Spanish we refer to this as “compás de espera;” I guess this is translated into the rhythm or beat of waiting. I compare it to a low thrumming note that is the harbinger of others, the prelude that causes anticipation or, in this particular case, anxiety. No one, other than J, has been getting enough sleep around here…either we’re tossing and turning, or we’re completely awake, or we’re awakened by the phone ringing in the middle of the night.
One of the best things about my relationship with Dada is that, after a long time knowing each other and being a couple, we can talk for hours on end without getting tired. We don’t just talk about our household issues, the kids, our lives…we talk about anything and everything. I’ve sat up in bed in the middle of the night and shaken him awake merely to ask “if Aquaman lives under water, and his home is that big bubble…how does he go to the bathroom????” He has entered a room, plopped down on a chair and said “Monet’s Sunflowers…Van Gogh’s Sunflowers; they’re SUNFLOWERS…why do you like one better than the other? What gives?” We’ve discussed world affairs, the cluelessness of a Grammy for Best New Artist going to A Taste of Honey rather than Elvis Costello, our love of old maps, the pros and cons of progress, what contributed to his chicken-scratch handwriting and to my excruciatingly neat one, how Obi Wan Kenobi knows how to disable the Death Star’s tractor beam to allow the Millennium Falcon to escape, who is the best Dr. Who, the evolution of the Republican Party, the Johnstown Flood and the Galveston hurricane, and Napoleon’s entire military strategy at length… That we suddenly find ourselves deeply entrenched in a culture of “the natural course of things” for every single conversation, punctuated here and there by “geez, I really miss you,” is a sign that the situation is a lot more serious than usual.
“Did you eat?,” “did you sleep?,” “how’s your dad?,” “what do the doctors say?,” “how’s everyone holding up?,” “how are YOU doing?” All these things dominate our interactions over the phone. We both wish that we could be with the other to help in this time of anxiety and concern. The only place we can do that is at home, and -right now- Dada needs to be where he is, and I’m needed where I am. This is the part of the marriage vows that no one mentions: sickness and health might not happen in the same place at the same time, and you’ll have to deal with that when it happens.
The first time I managed to get Dada to notice me, I was fifteen years old, weighed maybe a little over a hundred pounds, and had a lifetime ahead of me. My notions of romantic love -beautiful though they were- didn’t really include the fact that we’d possibly experience individual loss that we’d have to see each other through. We were old and mature enough when we said “I do” that we knew every bed of roses will have thorns and ladybugs and aphids unless it is massively tampered with…and we were ok with the bed of roses au naturel.
These past few weeks have gone a long way to remind us that we are heading in the same direction our parents have traveled. We are no longer the kids that sat on a couch and realized they wanted to talk to each other about everything for a long, long time. We’ve had to sit our own kids down to talk about the natural course of events, and we’ve had to explain that we are getting closer and closer to the time when this applies to us.
We live in a household where helping someone take a bath, have a shave, go to the bathroom, remember what day it is, remembering med-time is not a stretch at all. That we live in that world all the time doesn’t mean that Dada has had an easy time of seeing his dad needing the kind of assistance that is par for the course with J. The geographical distance allows for the illusion that the person we remember from the last visit is the one we will find when we go back. Just like we sometimes don’t notice how slim J is in comparison with same time last year until something grabs our attention and helps us SEE, an encounter with an elderly parent that has begun a steady and relentless decline can be a sobering event.
Is it wrong? Is it completely wrong to want to accept the most recent image in memory as the one we will keep? The last time I saw my dad in the same room with us, he was arguing in favor of opening a bottle of wine at 10 a.m. because “that’s what his ancestors did in Italy.” That’s the image I have superimposed on the one of him in the ICU with tubes and monitors, and the grimness of his decision to not be resuscitated the next time he has a crisis. Dada now has a new slide in place of the one he had from two summers ago, and I can tell (because his voice, his speech patterns, and his tone are so well-known to me) that he can’t go back (hard as he may try) to the more vital, more energized, more youthful and alive slide of his dad…
As we come to terms with this, we see TGG coming to terms with two different passages: his grandfathers are all getting ready to exeunt, stage side to be determined, and his parents are moving up to a new level of aging. Because he cannot travel again in a while, he sent a note to my father via his wife, so she can read it to him, and maybe understand what his grandson is saying. I get hugged a lot lately. I get hugged a lot guerrilla style. I am in the middle of washing potatoes for dinner, and two arms who used to only be able to grip my legs in their embrace, engulf me and potatoes drop into the sink and I need to catch my breath.
It’s only Tuesday…time seems to have stopped. It’s already Tuesday, and time is just flying by… That is, after all, the natural course of events, isn’t it?