Everything sublime is as difficult as it is rare. Baruch Spinoza

Monday, February 15, 2010

Echos. Whispers. Whips.

Photo Sarah Martin

Time. It erodes what it touches. Vitality, will. Memory, skin. Bones.

My father had a birthday yesterday. In the hospital. Always, it seems, he is in the hospital; but then somehow manages to rally just enough to go home. To a wife who can't care for him, but struggles under the obligation of her time to do so. Who is slowly killing herself whilst she performs her Herculean duty.

Where did he go? The strong, dominating personage that was my father. He is replaced by a shriveled, angry countenance of humanity which is recognizable only in a whisper. A faint echo of a life gone by.

A cousin met for the first time in forty years. She loves Uncle Bob. I don't know who she is. She recognized me. How? Time has worked its way on me as well. She recognized me, called me by name. And I don't remember her.

This time there is cancer. He doesn't know, he can't know. The mother expects to bring him home, she expects he will live forever. I have lost tenderness, so I tell her he won't. But I don't actually believe it. He has defied his inevitable destiny too many times. He is old. He is shrunken. But he is.

I want him in a care facility. He wants to go home. She does what he wants. The stranger who is my cousin says there is such a sweet devotion between them. Why don't I see this? Why do I see the flash of the lash and the bending of the body to obey.

The people talk. Where is the daughter, why doesn't she do something about this. Why are they in this home they can't care for and why is the wife left to struggle so hard to manage the invalid old man. They have their faculties, if not their reason, and can't be convinced. Refuse to hear. They have not changed, they just got old.

They want something from me. Now. In the winter of their life, they want my affection. I can give them my logic. I can give them compassion. Parents who were emotionally absent during a child's life, busy fighting their demons and each other now want tender mercies. I have information, which they don't want. I have my presence, which they finally do want. Or perhaps simply need.

He will go home. She will wear herself into the dirt. People will talk. I will give information and solutions. He will be home. She will wear herself into the dirt. People will talk.


  1. You are in pain, and I am sorry you have to go through this with your parents. I wish you strength and clarity, compassion and courage.

  2. Let them talk. Your parents are adults & this is a family affair. I am sorry you are hurting but you cannot make your parents' choices for them. *Hugs*

  3. Mostly I am frustrated. It's very bad to have him at home. To call him ambulatory is a stretch of mammoth proportions. But they are legally able to decide for themselves, so I have to watch the wreck as it happens. I think you for your kindness and hope you don't have to go through this ever.

  4. This is so intense it took my breath away. I wish I had words of wisdom to share, but I don't. Family is a strange and mixed-up thing -- three parts endurance, I would say. Much strength and peace to you.

  5. That is the only thing I fear. I don't want my children to witness the decay of my mind or my body and having to take care of me. I told my son once that I admired the old Japanese nobles who at a certain age quietly took to a mountain with only enough food to last for the journey there. Then they let themselves die in silence and solitude.

    He won't have any part of it. I loved them to bits since they were born and nothing could ever change that. My demons were mine and were silent, at least to them. You are wise and honest and I sense your frustration and share it. People...they would talk because it is easier to look for the straw in someone else's eye and neither time nor knowledge will ever change that.

  6. Thank you Elizabeth. Strange and mixed-up for sure.

    Allegra, my son told me a few days ago that watching his grandpa has made him determined not to be an angry old man. I told him you aren't an angry young man, so I don't think you need to worry.

  7. Oh this is so heart wrenching.
    I send cyber support , and hope you find peace in following your heart in all of this.

    I can't even begin to say how this hits home for me.
    I am haunted by what is to come all too soon.

    I imagine myself coming undone.

  8. Wow! I read this yesterday, it took my breath away. I had to come back today to comment. Your writing is so powerful in its ability to extract the truth and the pain of the situation. I'm seeing the journey that we as women have before us and it looks treacherous. I too send you all the courage and strength and love that you will need. Blessings.

  9. Thanks Debra. It's my mother who needs the strength and the courage to let go. I'm a helpless bystander.

  10. Hi Sandra,

    My Mom had been going through this with her parents. My grandmother passed away at home as was her wish but it was quite hard on my Mom. Her parents have always had strong opinions about living in the state where they have resided for many years and do not wish to move closer or have help. It is a difficult situation. So I can really sympathize. Her Dad now lives alone many hundreds of miles away and it is not easy in any way. Hugs to you during this really trying time. Ash

  11. Ashley, it's tough. And not a thing you can do about it.

  12. Wow. I HAVE been away for awhile - and your life has been hell. I am really sorry to hear that you are going through all of this.

  13. My life has been more like heck. : ) My mother's life is hell. Self-inflicted, but hell all the same.

  14. How are you ?

    and what you said above to Britwife - wow.


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