Monday, August 09, 2004

17 sadness, Circle, Home Depot, plant stand, books, words, Open Water

08-09-04 Mayatime: 3 Kan 7 Yaxkin

I’m living in such a state of sadness these days. It’s like a veneer over my life. Not that I never laugh or have a good time. It’s just that everything weighs me down. It’s like when I play my singing bowls, as long as I don’t touch them the sound goes on and on. But if I touch them even with the gentlest fingertip, the sound stops. That is my joy--stopped by the fingertip of sadness.

That sound so self-indulgent doesn’t it? Poor me. Poor fat me with no job and a crazy father. Just another way for the world to see me as selfish.

My dad is a ghost of himself. He’s there, but silent, and when you talk to him, he doesn’t seem to hear. Or maybe it’s like he’s behind glass.

Therese’s visit (friend from Florida) inspired me to improve my healing circle, to change the energy and see if I can bring people in who can learn from me and also teach me. I spent a while on Thursday morning pulling weeds and raking to clear the area down to the ground & putting down weed barrier. On Friday I called Dad to see if he wanted to go to Home Depot, since he had a good time with me last time, but I couldn’t find him. I called several times. Of course he doesn’t know how to listen to messages, and once I leave a message the phone only rings once the next time I call (it’s that "toll saver" feature for those who call in for their messages–lots of rings means no messages & to hang up to save a connection fee). And if he’s outside he doesn’t hear the phone either.

I went to lunch with my husband and then checked a few places where Dad has been known to hang out. One of them, an antiques place which used to be his store, had a cool plant stand out front. I made a note of that and then went to check the house, where I found Dad just pulling out of the street. We talked through the car windows and he agreed to go to HD with me.
I got another roll of weed barrier, five bags of chips, and more stakes. Dad was helpful by pushing the carriage and loading the bags into the car. We stopped at the antique place to ask about the plant stand (I had asked him to ask for me, but a few minutes later he had already forgotten). The multi-arm plant stand was a white cast iron piece, filthy and rusted. I figured $20-30. And there was a nice silver bracelet made of interlocking dolphins, and I was hoping for about $10. (This antique place isn’t about valuables, it’s about OLD and old does not and should not always mean expensive). Well, the plant stand was $135 (he dropped it to $100 for me, hahaha) and the bracelet was $35. So no plant stand OR silver dolphin bracelet for me, thank you very much.

Dad complained to me that while he was pulling weeds in my front yard by the road, he got some "black stuff" on his leg. This black stuff came off his skin easily, but somehow he got some onto his end table ("the thing next to the couch where I sit") and he couldn’t get it off. I felt bad, imagining some kind of goopy tar ruining the nice wood. I asked him to tell my mother that my husband wouldn’t be at Grandma’s on Sunday (he forgot). He asked if it had to do with his "August tenth thing" (meaning his birthday) and I said no. I then asked what he wanted to do for his birthday, and he said he wanted to go to Applebee’s. So on Tuesday (tomorrow) for his birthday we’re taking him to Applebee’s for supper. I dropped him off at home to go back and hang out at the antique store and went back to my own home to play with wood chips.

Will decided that the chips should only be around the edge and sand in the middle. Five bags of chips barely did the edge. And I still have to find five cubic yards of beach sand for the center. I made another pilgrimage to Home Depot (I want a frequent shopper card or something) for three MORE bags of chips and MORE stakes (since the plastic weed barrier was flapping around). I went by myself, because I knew my parents were at Grandma’s. While I was in line, I saw a small bottle of goop remover (the yellow stuff--Goo Gone or something like that) for $1.49 and I decided to buy it for my dad so he could clean the "black stuff" off the end table, the black stuff which somehow came from my yard. (Being an ex-Catholic, it’s easy to make me feel guilty.)

My father wasn’t home, although my mother was, and I looked at this "black stuff" on his end table. It was pen ink–you know, when a pen leaks and makes a puddle? The stuff I bought worked fine to clean it off and I left the bottle with my mom. How he equated a spill of pen ink with black goop (still unidentified) from the yard is beyond me.

I was talking to my mom about the plants Therese bought me from her garden in Florida when I saw my father walk by the front door. I said, "Dad’s home" and we kept talking about the plants. My mother wanted me to pot one for her and gave me an empty pot. Meanwhile my father didn’t come in. Finally he did–he was outside talking to the cat. (The father-biting cat, as I now call him. My father’s hand is healed on the surface but he says it still hurts inside sometimes.) I was telling my mother about the funny thing President Bush (he’s such an idiot) said: "this administration will never stop thinking of ways to harm the American people" and my dad did not respond or laugh. So I looked at him and repeated it. It didn’t seem like he got it.I gathered the pot and some books and went to leave. My mother said, "Berta’s leaving, say goodbye" and he said something wrong. I forget what, something like "say Berta" instead of "Bye, Berta." I did not correct him, but it made me sad.

Yesterday at grandma’s he hardly spoke. I asked my mother if she took him for a hearing test yet and she and my grandmother insisted he hears just fine, he doesn’t listen. I was looking at the paper and I said "Dad are you listening to me?" and he didn’t answer. My mother said "Berta’s talking to you," and he turned and said "were you talking to me? I heard you but I didn’t think you were talking to me." I noticed that unless he’s looking at you, he doesn’t respond. And even then, it’s iffy.

I ordered his Safe Return bracelet from the Alzheimer’s foundation ( and sent a nice photo I took of him a few weeks ago at Grandma’s. (They keep the photo on file, if he is lost they fax to the police.) I put in his description that he doesn’t listen and is losing his ability to articulate. I also spent way too much money on his birthday gift: the $100 Far Side complete 2 volume set. I only hope he can still appreciate it. In fact, as I was writing a few minutes ago, UPS came, so it’s here.

I finally got the 36-Hour Day from the library. It’s extremely depressing. I am interspersing reading that with FrontPage 2000 for Dummies (I think I know it pretty well, but I’d like to improve this site further) and whatever novels Mom throws my way.

I know the phrase "fate worse than death" used to mean when a girl got raped. But to me, what’s happening to my dad is worse than dying. It’s a gradual sucking away, a pointless relentless progression I am helpless to stop. I read all these books, the 36 Hour Day, the New Hope Guide, Preventing Alzheimer’s, Tangled Minds, and all I want to do is cry. I can’t save my father. And it’s not fair. He’s not a bad person. He never beat me or abused me, even though he had a bad childhood and easily could have grown up to be a perpetrator. He was never a high-pressure car salesman, he was also nice and gentle. Yeah, he wore some loud checkered car salesman suits, but are they any worse than what golfers wear? Alzheimer’s is certainly no punishment for bad fashion sense.

I am grateful to have so many spiritual friends who are supportive of me while my life seems so dark and bleak, even if I have the same conversation with all of them (eventually I guess I’ll really LISTEN to what they are saying and take it inside me and allow myself to heal). They say, over and over, that this is not my fault. This is not about me. Even Steve Rother said that right off the bat last time I talked to him–it’s not about me and my only role is to hold the light for my father.

But how can something so close to me not be about me? How can this not be a learning experience for me, a chance for mastery? If it is true that we pick our parents before we come over, then I had to know what contracts my parents had in place. Why did I choose to come here and subject myself to this?

I think a lot about light and dichotomies of light. Light and dark. Light and heavy. I am like a black hole, so dense that all the light stays close to me. If I was lighter, I’d have more light. I am heavy and dark. I don’t know what to do.

I see my father losing his words, and I know from the reading that someday he will lose them all and sit mutely, unable to communicate at all, and meanwhile his comprehension of words will go away, and no messages will get in or out. Does a person with no language think anymore? Do they know what they’ve lost? Do they revert to that before-language place where babies dwell, where images and colors and sounds and smells are all they know? (They say once you have language you can no longer retrieve those pre-language baby memories, because you don’t see the world the same when objects and colors and sounds have names.)

I love words. I read, I write, I talk, I sing silly songs to my cats. I cannot imagine losing words. Sometimes I can’t think of a word, or the right word, when I’m writing (sometimes it’s the tip of the tongue thing, sometimes I just can’t think of a good word) and I get frustrated. How frustrating must it be not to know what an end table is called, or tomato sauce. Or how to say goodbye to your daughter.

Because always in the back of my mind is this knowledge– this disease might be coming for me. One book said that you start developing the tangles and plaques in your brain as early as 30. I might have it, right now as I write these words. I am doing some of the prevention/slow down stuff--drinking alcohol once a week, taking baby aspirin and vitamins every day.And I guess I’m angry. I’m angry at what my mom is going through. She worked hard her whole life, she still works 40 hours a week, and what does she have to look forward to when she retires? Not vacations and maybe a new dog, but heartbreaking care-taking work and eventually having to put her husband into a nursing home and having no money to enjoy anything. To a mother who’s going blind and will need to be driven around. What about karma? What about balance? How is this fair and balanced? It’s not.

I am very, very glad I don’t have any children. I don’t want to pass on my crappy genetics, and besides that, I will need to focus more of my time and attention on my father as time goes on. I keep my pets in pairs so they don’t get lonely, but you can’t do that with kids.

I am helpless, impotent (meaning unable to act, not meaning I need to take a blue pill) in the face of this horrible disease. And maybe that’s my lesson. I can’t control this. There is really nothing I can do. If it’s coming for me, I can slow it down. I can be there for my parents. But I can’t control it.

I want to go see Open Water. Will does not. He wants to learn to scuba dive, and he says if he goes to see it, he won’t want to anymore. I read in an online article that you have a better chance of getting killed in a car accident driving to the theater to see Open Water than you do of being eaten by a shark (or being left behind by a careless dive master). The two Americans left behind in Australia both died (the "true story" the movie’s based on) so the movie is entirely made up. No one knows what happened to them; some of their gear was found washed up on a shore and it’s presumed sharks got them. I don’t want to dive in deep water. I want to do relatively shallow reef dives. And there are sharks everywhere. There are sharks right here in Connecticut. People have seen them in Rhode Island. I don’t have to go to Australia or the Caribbean to be eaten by a shark. And you know what? Given the choice between Alzheimer’s in my own brain and a shark, guess who I’d pick? "Come and get it, boys! Looks like meat’s back on the menu!" (LOTR: The Two Towers).

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