I am sitting here at my computer terminal, drinking a cup of coffee and feeling suspiciously like I am alive. At my age, I feel justified in my continuous surprise that I am here once again. I have just arrived, moments ago, awakened from my nightly journey to visit my certain future. It is a well traveled path that I follow each night after I make my decision as to when to depart on what I hope is a round trip to a place that I can renew myself. Earlier last evening, Christmas eve, I pleasantly spent time having a meal at the home of the parents of my son’s girlfriend. For me the visit was an unanticipated, but welcome, respite from the weight of the burdens that I seem to now carry with me every where I venture. As soon as I came into their home, I felt myself start to relax back into a role I have not recently been able to bring myself to play with conviction. It is the role that I had in life that previous to her death had provided me with a renewable sense that all was well in my life. l have been trying to move toward playing that role since she died earlier this year. Her death followed our discovery of the reason for the sudden spate of alarming fall incidents in our home that had bedeviled us. A seemingly routine CT scan after she had fallen once again had surprised us by revealing the unsuspected presence of an inoperable brain tumor. The tumor was there, we were told, as the consequence of the spread of her ‘thought to be gone’ breast cancer. Our surprise was quickly replaced by feelings of mutual dismay as we were soon after engulfed by the certainty of her imminent death. We had only the briefest of time together before she arrived at her final stop on our journey together. Ever since I watched her give up her last breath, I have been trying to convince myself that in the sixty six years of our marriage we had, perhaps unwittingly, said the words that were made impossible by the circumstances of our final goodbye. I wanted to believe we had communicated the essence of these words in spite of foggy silences when we resorted to the unspoken language that only we understood. The tumor’s presence left me no alternative to wondering if we had succeeded. I am struggling to shed this burden of uncertainty, with only small success so far, as I slowly unwrap the gift of healing bestowed on me by the passage of time. We parted for the last time when we performed our familiar ritual of a soft kiss accompanied by words from our unspoken language. It was an act rich with our feelings of mutual love and respect. This was the last time I spoke to her with certainty that she understood what I was saying to her and she to me. The decision that I was the one who would complete our journey was made at that moment and the weight of the added burden I was to carry was first felt. I know I will be able to shed this added burden of uncertainty only when my journey ends. Since this final moment of parting I have been trying to define my unsought role as her survivor. At first the shape of my role was seemingly not under my control; it seemed to be dictated only by the demands placed on me by my being human and having all of the weaknesses that come with that. This has not changed but I have become increasingly aware of my ability to chose how I am to complete my journey. Apprehension follows from my realization that all my choices are limited by the realities imposed on me by my age and Parkinson’s disease. I do not care to set myself up for unnecessary disappointments so I intend to remain realistic in the setting the parameters of my life. At dinner last night I slipped quickly into the role of a guest in the home of a friend and discovered that I could maintain the performance without any difficulty. I am pleased with how the evening went and very grateful for the invitation to be part of the it. I hope to have similar opportunities soon and I have recently reached out to some of my family and friends as insurance this will happen. I have done this because of my reawakening to the positive possibilities that are available to me. I do not have to be a victim of circumstances if I choose otherwise. I am, however, still surprised at how easily and quickly my mood can change from being happy in the moment to deeply saddened by memories of our life prior to her death. I expect this will gradually change for the better as time goes on. It is a fine line I must walk as I seek the middle ground between forgetting and remembering.
I fear that I have given the impression to others of a desire on my part to allow myself to sink into a bottomless pit of depression through ignoring the expressed needs of family and friends. This is far from from my intent and I can only a offer the weak excuse that I am not a person with a strong need for many social interactions with family and friends and have thus neglected many opportunities to reach out to others. I have recently become aware of the dangers posed to my wellbeing by this descent into isolation and I have decided to be proactive in my response to it. However, I am writing these words as I sit at the keyboard of my computer alone in my home on Christmas day. It is very quiet with only the occasional sounds of the family next door to distract me. I mention this only because of the irony that seems to exists when the import of the words written in this Post are compared to the fact of my being alone today. I am almost afraid of asking myself how did this come about? I really do not know the answer to that question. A better question to ask of myself is: What am I going to do about it? On second thought, a better question yet is: Do I want to do anything about it? I also do not know the answer to the last question or the ones that preceded it.
However, I do know that I am hungry as I have not eaten anything this morning beyond the two cups of coffee I have had. The fact of my having coffee at all is an indication of the unsettled nature of my state of mind as I head into the new year. I have convinced myself that coffee and the nearly two grams of L-dopa that I ingest daily to suppress my Parkinson’s symptoms combine to make a bad idea. But, other than being hungry, I feel pretty good right now and that makes me wonder if an occasional cup of coffee might help me feel better. I will think some on the issue as I go get something to eat.
I am no longer as hungry after I ate two pieces of toast with butter and strawberry preserves. I also took the time to speak to my son John on the phone. He tells me that all is well with him and his family and he is feeling better having been sick with with the crud that is apparently making the rounds. He is the new owner of a used “classic” Harley-Davidson motorcycle which is in very good condition he tells me. I wonder, if this the case, why is he spending so much money on new parts for the bike? If I remember correctly, John is nearly sixty years old and I think the purchase of the motorcycle marks the beginning of his second childhood. Mine stated when I turned forty and I had the good sense to go into mountaineering; not something as unsafe as riding a motorcycle.
I was going to stop for a while I call my son Dan in N. Las Vegas but my phone battery is nearly dead. So while the phone is charging, I am free for a short while to further document what is happening in my life on this Christmas day. It seems as though my attempt to write the draft of a post to my Blog Post has morphed into a stream of consciousness driven record of the happenings of right now. I am thinking I should call my son David as I have not spoken to him yet today and it is three PM. Where has this day gone?
I have spoken to both of my sons and all is well with them. When I was on the Phone with Dan, I started crying as I my thoughts turned to Patty and our life together. I was unable to speak for a few moments. This seems to happen more frequently now than before, but I take this as a sign that I am getting closer to the time when I will be able to speak easily of the life Patty and I spent so much of our energy creating. I am making progress towards my goal I believe. As evidence I offer my printout of images of Patty that I made and placed near her cremated remains.
I think I will stop now as it is nearly six PM, the time for my pills.
Late news. My Great Granddaughter Taylor and her boyfriend stopped by to say hello. We had a short visit as we exchanged news of our family She is seventeen going on eighteen. Her boyfriend has has grown noticeably taller since I last saw him. I think I probably have grown equally shorter in the past few years. Soon after they left I spoke on the phone to my family members that live in Tucson. All is well with them and we had a number of brief but good conversations. For my part in all of this family talking, I am working hard to more fully engage in what I hope is a continuous dialogue which conveys my deep sense of pride in my family members. It the kind that is reserved for grandparents only – unconditional.