Niestzche said, “Life is a terminal illness.”
On January 2, she answered the phone. I, for some reason, had not found the time to call on the 1st to wish a happy new year. When I asked the customary, ‘How are you?’ she somersaulted into one of two responses, “Doin’ okay,” or “Ohh, not very well.” Today, it was the latter.
“I don’t understand,” I’d considerately replied. She was feeling okay on Christmas when we talked. Or did she? She began to tell me that she just spent a week in the hospital due to her heart. She continued to describe how it came about in the bathroom of the bingo hall with no one around her. She was alone, utterly alone. She continued to the car, waiting for the self-diagnosed ‘anxiety-attack’ to subside. After weighing her options, as all people do when they feel they’re ‘well-enough’ to continue, she drove home. She should have driven to the hospital as it was not only closer, but she needed it more than she needed to go home -only to have the ambulance drive her 40 miles back into town to Hurley.
She’s got to have open heart surgery she informed me. I have my doubts. Her health, her weight, her loss this last year with her beloved Westie and then her beloved husband. She’s made immediate plans to finally, finally! move into a home where she’s got ’round the clock care and peers who understand. For that, I’m elated. I also understand after tonight’s conversation, that if something should happen to her during surgery or recovery, that she can swiftly move into the group home -minus the waiting period.
A month for waiting period is a great waiting time, unless your life is against the clock. Again, I exhibit doubts. My heart weighs heavy on the thought that she should shoulder my complaints about the lack of communication I’m receiving from her son. The dynamics between he & his wife and the woman and late husband who treated me as their daughter during my ripe years are deep.
After 2 glasses of shiraz (my winter’s choice), I found the courage to call Steve, although, I decided to ‘call the house’ instead hoping to hear her voice. I didn’t want to talk to Steve ’cause I thought I’d, well, I wasn’t sure what my motive was. Just say hello, offer my condolences and remind him of the email I sent on Sunday. Yes, I’m here, I exist, remember me dammit. We made a pact 20 years ago when we were kids that he’d contact me should anything happen to his/our parents. He hasn’t lived up to it. As an ex-Marine, I thought we’d have some kind of fellowship.
I broke down during my conversation with her tonight telling her everything I thought I needed to say should I not have the opportunity to say it again. (I need to tap into the vocal blog as I need to pause to grieve). Thoughts run rampant and now I cannot collect them into a cohesive measure to make music -I always sucked at writing.
According to my plans, I told her how I thought life should have gone and it started with college, a career, someplace where I could sell my art and make a remarkable difference. I wanted to make a difference by 30 so that I could provide my family and friends the comfort they deserved during their golden years because I knew damn well the government wasn’t going to do it. It wasn’t turning out the way I had planned -nothing had.
Then again, perhaps…
I continued telling her about my updates to the Atlanta show, careful not inundate her with minutia. I could hear her heart begin to wane of enthusiasm for life in general. She had acknowledged that moving out of the house was timely and was comforted with the end of this phase in her life as she knew it. As I knew it, too. Steve and his wife were making plans to move into the house and take over mortgage payments. These plans not only assuaged her sorrow, but allowed her to move on to Act III. I desperately told her that I had plans, too, and that she was included within; she was part of my only original and inclusive family I had choosen.
I so was frustrated with Steve, but understood the dynamics of the immediate and extended family. I even went so far as to paraphrase some of the conversation I had with Andrew after speaking directly with her on Sunday. “Pardon me for being arrogant, ” I stammered after finishing my second glass of wine, “but I think I set a benchmark for Steve’s wives. I didn’t mean to, but I remember long ago you said that I was the daughter you never had. How can they live up to that?” She admitted that she didn’t know. I wasn’t looking for answers, but had to spew some rhetoric that may otherwise never see the light of day.
I also explained that while we hear –while I hear– that families are so important, so are the close friendships we consider family. I won’t be ignored -I don’t give a rats ass what your wife’s issue is, grow a spine -dammit. While I look for family among friends, many people already have friends among family.
Her tired voice assured me that he read my email imploring him to keep me ‘in-the-loop’ but had it on his ‘to-do’ list. Is that the list that your wife keeps? My cynicism never won me any friends, but it made the ones I had stand up and take notice. I don’t like to see my friends slide under the confines of self-imposed restraints, nor do I want them to allow me to slip under mine. I then confessed the pact that we had made when we were kids -20 years earlier to her.
I reminded her several times that I didn’t want to burden her with pithy comments from me, the outsider. An individual who didn’t want money or anything else except to make sure she was living well. She understood -she told me so in her weary voice. I hung to desperation as I needed her to hear that I wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t want anything. I strived to remain strong but my voice cracked a couple of times. God, 40 is around the block and my voice is cracking. Wait… that’s the sound of grief.
I just wish people could return to a primal level where jealously and animosity disappeared and we came together as a people to help the ones we love.
I also realized that 20 years later I might be at the point where I can finally help my family/friends in their golden years. My hopes had sprung a leak into the pond of idealism once again. It wasn’t often, but I’d have my moments of optimism and yearnings regain momentum. Perhaps, while her late husband has passed on, I could possible still help her -send her a monthly check to alleviate the strife of being cold, hungry, including prescription drugs. Oh wait, perhaps her community home will do that for her…? Wait, there’s Medicade. I just dunno; I’m just not in the loop.
Why does reality butt its nose into my dreams? I just want to help –I need to help.
We synchronized our calendars and I learned that she’ll be seeing her doctor on Tuesday and the heart specialist on Wednesday to schedule open heart surgery. “Intriquing,” I said aloud. “That’s when we head to Atlanta.” Hopefully to sign on a couple of large deals so that my dreams can finally meet reality and I can finally do for the people I love.
“I know you’ll knock ’em dead.” she encouraged.
Oh God, don’t use that word.