Driving along, after work, looking forward to a soft bed. The phone rings;
it's younger brother in L.A.
Dad fell in the tub and couldn't get up. Mother called Philip before
dialing 9-1-1 (or her older son, for that matter). Mother asked younger
brother in Hollywood to call older brother in Connecticut. Then, following
dawdling and diddling irregardless of dad's mobility, the emergency call was
made. Curiouser and curiouser.
Dad's been undergoing chemotherapy since March. He told nobody that he
couldn't eat; he was so sick. So he didn't eat. And now he's in the hospital,
again. This time's gonna be a long, long time, says a doctor (one of the "gang
of four," as they're called behind their backs).
Younger brother's a busy attorney. And he's thousands of miles away. Yet he,
of all the family, is the one least prone to resorting to that psychological
opiate called "denial."
Mother is going about her life quite well I must say. She sees her husband a
half hour every day. She's over 80 and can't drive, and must rely on the
assistance of church members, neighbors and friends. The friends are few, the
neighbors alienated because, you see, she's a rather cantankerous, self-centered
old woman who's really not nice to be around. The church members, God
help and bless them, accede to her requests begrudgingly. To anyone who asks of
her why does she not stay by her husband's bedside, at least for a longer period
of time; she responds that her own health has recently been compromised so she
must adhere to a strict regimen of vitamins, diet, and bed rest.
Mother considers dad's current state of affairs a mere nuisance. She is,
quite frankly, more concerned about the calibre of the household help procured
for her, than the return of her own husband. Mother's cup of denial runneth
Dad's 85 or so and being treated for a virulent form of liver cancer. His
chemotherapy has been working well on the tumors, but to his detriment
systemically. He finally was just worn out. (He later confided that he'd been
tired so long, it was the most wonderful thing to be able to get some rest,
whether it be in hospital or elsewhere. Mother was running him ragged.)
His denial, if you will, keeps him upbeat and stoic, in the face of odds that
are not in his favor. He's honed his ability to completely deny the possibility
that at any given moment, awful, yea, unspeakable things may happen. He's relied
upon this ability since his service in World War II.
Dad wants to eat. But should he, there's no bile in his stomach to digest
the food. Bloating, accompanied by stabbing pains, result from the consumption
of anything solid. His "food" is contained in the bags of solution, neatly
hooked up to a device with a television screen. It beeps furiously should one of
the bags become empty.
Back to denial. Denial makes the hour drive to see dad fly by. Denial keeps
me from crying. Denial allows me to remain somewhat cheerful and act with the
utmost civility to some whose behavior toward me is less than civil.
Near the elevator there's some sort of look-alike stained glass window made,
I think, from plexiglass and clear paints. It's a mighty oak tree, surrounded by
grass, a daffodil blooming here and there. On the third trip I noticed that not
one living thing (other than vegetation) is portrayed in that painting. Where
are the birds? Where are the squirrels? Where are the people? Where will my
daddy be a month from now?