Life’s a weird old duck

Found out this past Saturday that one of my maternal uncles died of a heart attack last Saturday (about 9 days after my mother died).

I feel like I should be more sad about that than I am (which is very close to not at all). My mother grew up in less than happy circumstances after her own mother died quite young. She spent the better part of her life feeling inadequate and undeserving of anything good that came her way and, heaven forbid she’d start feeling better about herself, one of her brothers could be counted on to call her up or come visit and make her feel like shit again. (Goes to show you that people don’t necessarily become better human beings as they age, they just get old.)

I wonder if they’ve met again. And how that went? Is it all forgiveness and enlightenment there on the other side? (“Glad we got that Karmic lesson sorted out. High fives all around.”) Or did she finally bloody his nose? (Kapow! “You weren’t supposed to be that big an asshole, asshole.”)**

It’s weird looking at the obituary guestbook and the comments about how kind and generous he was. Families sure do mess each other up in ways they wouldn’t mess up other people, don’t they. My mother would probably be fervently wishing for us to forgive her family, but I’m not nearly as good a person as my mother was. It’s going to take me some time to work through that.

** It reminds of the teacher I had in college who found my journal and then ten years later decided he had to tell me, in best creepy stalker fashion, all about how he read it and shared it some of my classmates. It was a mind fuck, pure and simple, and my reaction when he died suddenly of a heart attack was, “Good.” Hard to be sad about one less asshole in the world, though I’m still a little creeped out by the thought of him perving from the other side.



In May, when she could still hold a lengthy conversation without veering off into another world, my mother mentioned in passing that my brother once told her that she was responsible for my being overweight. (How we got to that point in our conversation is a very long story that I will spare you.) Or, rather, that she was responsible for my not losing the weight once I had gained it.

(I should explain. This particular brother has never had an excess weight problem. Not as a teenager and not as an adult. Like my sister, he’s always been one of those people with a need to be physically active. When we were younger, he and I looked alike enough to be twins. But we do not have the same interests or the same minds or the same outlook on exercise. He’s always been a bit of an exercise freak. He worked out all the time, ran even more, and was continually on the go. As a result, he’s always been kind of wiry. Me, on the other hand, I’m more cerebral, more indoorsy, sedentary. My pastimes were things like reading or painting or writing poetry, while his were judo, running, and suntanning.)

I’m not sure my brother actually understands my mother or where she comes from. Oh, he knows the dry facts of her early life, but I don’t think he really understands what that early life has done to her. Still, that’s his issue to deal with and really  none of my business except as I try to clean up the damage his comments leave behind.

But when you start blaming my mother for the road my life has taken, you’ve crossed the line well into my business…which, interestingly enough, is none of his concern. He has no idea why I’m overweight, or why I do or have done anything in my life. We really hardly know one another as adults. I’m not privy to the details of family conversations about my size, though I’m sure there has been one or two, but the fact of the matter is that no one involved in those conversations knows anything about me that I haven’t shared with them (or that isn’t several decades out-of-date). And I may or may not have shared the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some days I don’t even know what the Truth is with respect to my life and my internal motivations. Humans are complex creatures.

I don’t really care if family members talk about me, behind my back or in front of my face, or speculate to their hearts’ content about my life and my future. But I have a huge problem with people deliberately making my mother feel bad — adding to the guilt she has been carrying since she was ten years old — on my behalf. It’s mean, and it’s cruel.

Dude, look after your own house. Mine is none of your beeswax.

The long, lonely road

It’s been almost 13 weeks now since my mother had her stroke.

She’s still in the hospital and will be for the foreseeable future. Eventually  she’ll be moved to a nursing home and, realistically, that’s probably where she’ll live until she dies. She thinks she’s going to die in the hospital. Some days she’s sure she’s going to die right now.

She’s slowly getting some movement back in her hand and leg. Each day brings a new positive sign that things are healing. Slowly, but every tiny movement forward is still a movement forward. Her brain is still sorting things out, though. Hopefully, with time, it will begin to re-establish or remap the connections it lost to the stroke. For now, though, most memories go immediately into long-term storage, bypassing short-term completely so she might not remember what you told her a few minutes ago, though she will in a few days. For now, her brain and her eyes are not always in accord. She sees things that aren’t there and misinterprets what she does see. And for now, her brain is frequently in a world of its own. She’s overwhelmed by paranoia and vivid dreams of conspiracies and drama that she can’t always separate from reality. It’s a lonely world when people don’t believe you.

My father took his first “day off” on in 3 months on Saturday, finally letting one of my brothers and my sister step in to keep my mother company for the day. He slept well and puttered and rejuvenated, but it’s clear that things are wearing him down. Learning yesterday that bringing her home is likely never going to be an option changes his world even more than it had been. Waiting lists for nursing homes are long and you don’t get on the list until the letter that the hospital has done all it can do is processed by whatever palliative care organization needs to process it. Once she’s finally on the list, half of her and my Dad’s income will be taken to pay for her room and board at the hospital and then at the nursing home, which will force my father to give up their apartment and move somewhere that his pension can afford (perhaps one of my siblings’ homes).

I’m not in a position to help, either financially or in person. So all I can do is be there for my Dad to talk to, and be there whenever my mother wants to talk to me. But it’s frustrating and sad and…and…well, and whatever else it is. (I’m tired and not particularly coherent right now.)

Taking up arms

The younger of my two older brothers and I have always looked alike enough to be twins. Same height, same dark hair and dark, deep set eyes. We look less and less alike as we get older, mostly because I get heavier and paler and he, reborn as a surfer dude in his middle years, is slim and tanned. But the eyes, the hair, those are still very much alike. We are even going grey in a similar pattern.

In some ways, we are on the same wavelength mentally. In most other ways, though, we are almost polar opposites. Understandably, I think, given that our birthdays are exactly opposite one another in the calendar. (A quirk of the zodiac means we aren’t opposite signs, though.)

As a young man, my brother was overwhelmingly concerned about people trying to hurt or kill him. I don’t know if that was a built-in natural tendency or a direct result of what he read and watched. He read Soldier of Fortune magazine regularly, trained in judo, ordered knives and other weapons from the US. He learned to shoot (guns and bows) and prepared mentally for a nebulous future disaster that he intended to survive. At one point, he even seriously considered joining the French Foreign Legion. It wasn’t a mindset that I could or can entirely understand.  It wasn’t all about him, though. In saving himself from this looming disaster, he also wanted to save and defend those near and dear to him. Would kill to save them — us — with whatever weapons he had available. I still wonder sometimes what brought him to that dark place where the only future he could envision was terrible and violent. What happened to him — in this world or in a previous life perhaps — to make life all about defense.

Whenever I would visit him, he would usually grill me about my beliefs. At the time, my spare moments were spent in spiritual exploration, in learning about tarot and astrology and other tools. I don’t know if the iterrogation was meant to expose the flaws he felt must exist in my beliefs in order to bring me around to his way of thinking or if it was a subconscious attempt to find a firm foundation in them that he could build on himself. All I know is that he puzzled me. This was a man who believed wholeheartedly that Hell was real, but Heaven was not, and as a result he was so afraid of dying that he would fight tooth and nail to live, sacrifice whoever he had to to do it. And he couldn’t understand that anyone, least of all his sister, wouldn’t feel the same. (I think he’s mellowed some as he’s gotten older and had children, but does that scared boy still exist somewhere?)

I thought of him the other day as I was reading a post on someone’s blog about guns and the right to bear arms. (I can’t remember whose blog it was — I’m sorry — or I’d link to it.) I’m not pro-gun but neither am I anti-gun. My brother, on the other hand, thinks everyone should learn how to defend themselves with a gun. I can’t make him understand that I don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t think I could shoot someone — it’s that I strongly suspect that, in a fearful, panic-stricken moment, I could and I don’t ever want to put myself in the situation where I have to make that choice. It’s a karmic debt I don’t want to take on if I can avoid it — saving the body but wounding the soul.

Life in gold

Had an absolutely brilliant idea tonight.

Talked with my mother the other night and we talked about the fact that their 50th anniversary is next year. We talked about what they want in terms of a celebration (my brother wants to throw a party but they’d prefer an immediate family dinner). They realize that I probably wouldn’t be there — I haven’t been home (for a variety of personal reasons) in about 5 or 6 years, despite the fact that I’d like to see my family again.

Tonight I was thinking that the ultimate surprise would be for me to show up unexpectedly at the dinner. But that relies on me being able to keep the secret myself — I have a tendency to give things away that I’d intended to keep to myself when I talk to my mother. Thought about bringing my brother in on the surprise but don’t know about that now — I don’t know that I trust him not to let it slip but we’ll see.

It could be marvelous. I could pretend that I’ll call them on someone’s cell phone during the dinner, so that I’ll feel like I’m there and then just show up instead. If I could pull it off, it would be huge. I’d have to mentally prepare myself to actually go there — I really don’t want to be in that place anytime soon — but I’d have several months to accomplish that.

Of course, it all hinges on me being employed still then. I expect I will but, hey, never say never. That’s yet another reason not to tell anyone else about it.