La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for January 2015

Patriot-ism

Posted on: January 25, 2015

Back when I worked for a living (by which I mean my clients were above the age of 10 and only occasionally openly disrespected me) I often pretended to understand professional sports as a means of getting along. I could speak Boston Sports fluently, and sports of other cities competently, based on where I was sent by my company. But the truth is that I have never actively cared about sports beyond small talk. I cannot, unlike my husband, recite any stats about anyone or anything relating to the Red Sox or the Patriots or the Bruins. Which is not to say that I don’t care. It’s just that I don’t care enough to memorize it and get invested in it.

That said, I cannot get enough of this entire Tom Brady’s Balls situation. Lord have mercy! Now THIS is sports I like! With a nice side of intercity shade-throwing and corporate athletics bitchery.  More of this please!

First of all, we are not going to call it Deflate-gate on my personal belief that adding “Gate” to any word to imply that it’s escandalo! lacks imagination and does grave disrespect to the true crime that was Watergate itself.  We can all do better than a mere “gate” here. Especially when there are so many options that involve the words “balls” and “ball bags.”

Second, whatever the poundspersquareinch of pressure in the first half’s balls, the simple fact is that the Patriots spanked the Colts in the second half with pristine balls. 28 points of spanking to be specific. So any suggestion that this is somehow a game changer is nonsense.

Third, the only revelation in this whole mishigas that I find newsworthy is the fact that Rob Gronkowski is adorable. Giant and adorable. How have I not noticed him before? I mean, except for those life sized cut outs of him at Dunkin Donuts pushing a sandwich in my face. But seriously. He is like a human yellow lab and I swear to god I’d bring him home and let him call me mommy if my husband weren’t allergic to dander. 😉

Fourth, the memes generated by this “controversy” are among the best I’ve seen in years:

deflate-gate-brady shrinkage weighballs

Fifth, I’m so impressed by the NFL’s commitment to investigating wrongdoing that I can’t wait to see similar hours focused on Ray Rice.

In any case, the best last word is always from Sue Sylvester of Glee. For all you haters, I simply say this:

Your_resentment_is_delicious

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My father died on.a dazzlingly sunny February afternoon. The kind that if you close your eyes and focus only on the sensation of the sun’s heat and light touching you through the window, you can almost convince yourself it is in fact July, even the kind of unrelentingly hot July my father loved. Standing at the window of his now-monastically-silent hospital room, I did just that; wishful-thinking myself into a blisteringly hot summer’s future where I’d open my eyes and my father would be alive.

But my eyes opened and my dad was still very much dead.
And I was pretty sure I had killed him.

As my dad’s lungs had ever so inexorably failed, I sat with him through the long, sodium-lit night.  He wore an oxygen mask, cranked to full saturation.  It made his mouth dry and his face itch. He’d lift the mask to scratch the mask’s indentations on his face with his square, calloused fingertips.

The dryness was driving him to distraction.
I called the nurse asking for relief.
She had no relief to give.

He’d lift the mask to feverishly rub his parched, cracked lips.
The dryness was driving him to distraction, discomfort.
I called the nurse asking for relief.
She had no relief to give..

He lifted the mask to gulp at the ambient oxygen in the room, hoping that it would somehow ease the cottonmouth of the mask-blown O2.
The dryness was driving him to distraction, discomfort. Worse, despair.
I called the nurse again asking for relief.
She again had no relief to give.

My father pleaded with me at 4am for a drink of water or a piece of my gum. Please.
He said he couldn’t stand it.
I couldn’t stand to hear him say he couldn’t stand it.
Never in my life had he been unable to stand anything.
His entire raison d’etre was saying F You to obstacles.
Giving hardship The Finger.
Providing a daily show-and-tell of mental badassery in the face of physical frailty.
He was strong enough to tell me that he couldn’t stand it.
I was barely strong enough to hear the words.

He needed relief, and gum was my relief to give.
I gingerly lifted his mask and put a “half-slice” as he called it, into his mouth.
Never a full slice.

My dad was Scottish. Full slices of gum were for wasters. Even–especially–in desperate times.

I took the other half slice and together we chewed those hardtack rectangles into gooey deliciousness, reveling in the culinary sorcery that could create such delight from such a small, pedestrian non-edible confection.  The slice was Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit; not his usual flavor, him usually opting for some cheap store brand of low-price mint. Or random Mexican chicle (Que Sabrosa!) from the corner bodega. But tonight he was in heaven. Sweet, juicy, indeterminate-fruit flavored gum heaven.

I didn’t know at that moment, as the sun was beginning to break through the black night, refracting the dark light into every shade of purple and blue and orange, that this gum heaven would be a short waystation on his way to the real thing. I figured he’d chew his gum, gather his strength, and then we’d all go home and laugh together about the superhuman powers of Juicy Fruit. (Que poderosa!)  But as he eagerly chewed, his oxygen stats began dropping, setting off the buzzers that inevitably bring the nurses from their hive in a rush of dramatic purpose.

The Nurse of No Relief once again came in, this time wagging her finger at me like an old schoolmarm.

Wagging it at my dad.

Wagging it at the gum.

As the buzzers and beepers and medical noise threatened to overtake the tiny room, I felt myself retreat into the muffled distance, looking at the nurse–now apparently exceedingly interested in my father– as I thought,
“Fuck you.”
Fuck you and that fucking wagging finger.
Fuck you and your anemic, hypoxic performance of duty.
Fuck you and your barely disguised irritation at a sick man’s desperation.
Fuck you and every other fucking person in here who cannot make this man, this living testament to a life lived honorably and courageously in spite of discomfort, comfortable.
And fuck you for what you are about to say to me.

I rushed back to the full sound and fury of the room in time to hear the doctor say to no one and everyone, “We need to intubate. He’s at full sat with no response.” And to hear the nurse say to me in particular, “Don’t feel bad. You giving him gum didn’t cause this.”

I gasped so hard I swallowed that gum. Full-slice in, every molecule of breath out. Sucker punched in the face by the finger-wagger.

What?!

I hear your words.
I hear your implication louder.
Me giving him gum did cause this.

Me ignoring your brusque admonitions to prevent him scratching under the mask caused this.
Me ignoring your declarations that Nothing Can Be Done to ease his discomfort caused this.
Me ignoring your increasingly irritated airs of absentee authority caused this.
Your authority that took no notice of the human man who was suffering.
Your authority that took no notice of the human man who simply wanted that suffering acknowledged rather than chastised.
Your authority that took no notice of the human man who, as I replay his words and expressions and mannerisms in the looking glass of my mind, seemed to understand that we would not be going home to laugh about Juicy Fruit.
He knew better than I that the word, “intubate” rarely indicated a temporary and improving state of affairs.

“Tell your mother I love her.”
“You can tell her yourself when this is over.”
“NO! YOU TELL HER. You tell her. Your brother and sister too.”
“Of course I will. Of course I will. Then you can tell them again when you see them.”

They replaced the mask on his mouth as I kissed him on the forehead.
“Everyone is on their way. We will all see you soon.”

He sped away to the ICU while I nursed my anger, my sudden guilt that he had to be intubated so rapidly that they couldn’t await my mom’s arrival 10 minutes hence.

I gave him the gum. I caused this.

Night became day, and the clear light of it reflected the inevitable outcome its end would bring. So we held his hands and assured him in quiet voices that he could let go, that his work here on earth was done, that we release him to rest now because he had fought long and hard enough. My lips were saying these words quietly but my mind was maniacally screaming, “I’m sorry I gave you gum! I’m sorry I didn’t save you! I’m sorry I failed you! Open your eyes and forgive me! Open your eyes and forgive me!”

After his heartbeats slowly counted down to zero and he breathed his last, the doctor came to sit with us. Seeking absolution I was certain could not come, I nonetheless confessed to him my sins: I let him lift his mask to rub his face. I let him lift his mask to speak. I gave him gum to ease his pain. At best, I had irretrievably destroyed all hope of his recovery. At worst, I had actively hastened his demise.

The warm gaze of the doctor mirrored the sun’s rays streaming in the window. The soft lilt of his Indian accent and the musical cadence of his words strangely comforting. Lamenting the inexorable nature of my father’s decline, his personal regret that he had no more tools at his disposal, his sympathy for us in the face of this unavoidable and unpreventable outcome. His sadness that my father’s passing was so foregone that twelve sticks of gum– full slices, even—could neither have saved nor doomed him. His regret that my father’s illness had proven greater than all of us, be we physician or family.

I gazed past the doctor, out the window as he spoke, imagining that July day in the future, in the world to come, where my sweet, weary father would be weary no more. Sick no more. Struggling for breath no more. He would be laughing in that hot sun, between hearty gulps of fresh, clear air, holding court, poking fun. He would need no mask. He would need to receive no relief nor offer any forgiveness because his entire soul would emanate the lightness of being that comes from having both. I thought of him in that world to come, a barrel full of cheap-ass chicle by his side, and smiled through salty tears as the doctor said, “The man needed gum. You gave him some gum.”

I just read a great article on the importance of showing up, and it pointed its long, bony finger of truth directly and unflinchingly at me. http://www.rolereboot.org/sex-and-relationships/details/2014-12-importance-showing/

…Show up even when you’re “busy,” because friendships often start by accident, but they are maintained on purpose. Show up even when you’re tired, because you know that your support—if only for a single drink, or an episode, or the first-half, or until you can’t keep your eyes open—is meaningful.

I read this article and recognized myself in the person bailing on plans because of inclement weather. I recognized myself in the person failing to do the work to maintain friendships. I recognized myself in the person who is too “busy” to get together. This is my greatest failing in life (if you don’t count my prescription painkiller addiction and multiple grand theft auto convictions), and it made me want to characteristically bail on reading the rest of the article.

I too often fail at showing up, not because I don’t want to be present in the lives of the people I love, but because I allow perfect to be the enemy of good.

I can’t go to that party because I can only stay for an hour and that’s rude.

I can’t call that person today because I don’t have 30 spare minutes without the kids interrupting.

I can’t attend that funeral because I only minimally know the bereaved and it will be awkward.

All of these seemingly rational and reasonable explanations. But you do this long enough and all of a sudden, you haven’t seen your college BFF in 9 months even though you live 40 minutes from each other.

You do this long enough and all of a sudden your friend is sick in the hospital, unable to speak, and you’re wondering why a quick 10 minute chat was somehow so insufficient and therefore undoable that you ended up with zero minutes and now what?

You do this long enough and all of a sudden you realize all of the things you could have done imperfectly but sincerely for someone in distress were left undone. Those missed opportunities are indeed missed forever.

I remember my Dad’s memorial service. I cannot recall a single word anyone said to me that day. Nor can I recall who stayed for a minute or an hour. But I do remember every single person who showed up at all. I remember each person because when you are numb with grief and walking in a blur, the physical presence of other humans creates moments of clarity. That the departed was loved, that you are loved, that this event, this day, this person, this moment mattered enough for them to show up. And yet I feel like I have to have some inspirational TED-Talk prepared when I go to someone else’s funeral or shiva.

When a friend calls me and says, “I have about 6 minutes to say hi then I’ve gotta go” I never think, “What an ass you are for not clearing your schedule to discuss The Walking Dead with me for an hour!” I’m just happy to have heard their voice; happy to have connected even briefly. And yet I feel like I have to be sitting in some healing garden of tranquility with nothing but time on my hands in order to even dial ten digits and say hello.

When I had surgery and people brought food, I never once thought “Does this person think I’m incompetent? That I can’t cook some basic food?! (even though I actually can’t). And why the meatballs!? I wanted lobster thermidor!” I was just so damn glad and grateful that I didn’t have to stand at a stove for 40 minutes. Because, pro tip, these kids eat every damn day, and are particularly partial to dinner. But in a snowstorm I consistently take too long to check in on our elderly neighbor. She should be first on my list of things to do, since lord knows this girl ain’t shovelin’. But I always wait, worried that she will think I’m infantilizing her or something. “Is Mrs. McNeighborstein happy in the snow or sad? Would she like some cutie wootie milk and cookies in the storm?” And yet I feel like I have to have some compelling reason beyond, “I am just checking in on you because you are a fellow human (perhaps of an advanced age) who lives alone next door” in order to call her.

I could philosophize about why I do this, further investigate my “perfect as enemy of good” theory, attend several seminars and symposia on the chi blocks that may be impacting my life choices. Or I could just decide, today, that in 2015 I am going to be an adult and show up. Because that’s what adults do.

Precisely when every atom in my body is screaming, “Go home! It’s dark and cold and you don’t know this person that well anyway” I will force myself to show up. I might make a friend.

When I make plans (to make plans) with friends and that lazy, entitled part of my brain tells me that friends understand when you can’t see each other and good friendships survive even long absences, I will force myself to show up. I might be a better friend.

When I see the snow come down and Mrs. McNeighborstein’s lights come up, and the over-thinking part of my brain tells me she will be offended by me calling to check in, I will force myself to show up. I might show my kids how to be a better neighbor.

If you invite me, and I say yes, I promise you I am going to show up.