I’m not quite sure what drove me to login and post today. As I hit “add” I noticed it’s been over a year since I’ve last blogged. I could say it’s been a rough year, emotionally and creatively, for me but I am sure it has been no more difficult than most others’. Early September of last year, right around now, John’s mother passed away after a year-long battle with lung cancer at the age of 53. We were at her bedside when she took her last breath and it shook me. It rattled me down to my bones.
When we usually talk about “firsts,” they tend to be positive, valuable moments. First grade, first crush, first kiss, first dance … first roller coaster ride, first ice cream, first time; these moments are our first impressions of things we never knew, moments that define us, moments that change our lives and perceptions in distinct ways. For me, seeing Glenda die, seeing her suffer through pain unimaginable and seeing her transform from a gracious, loving, vibrant, beautiful woman that I had grown to love over the past 11 years into a shell twisted by agony and ravaged by disease … that was a first.
My perceptions have certainly changed. You may call me naive or “sheltered” and I know you’re right, but it doesn’t lessen the intensity of my experience and it certainly doesn’t make me feel better. I grew up in an upper-middle class suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had only been to three funerals my whole life and none of them included a glimpse of the body. Those people just sort of disappeared for me. I miss them and I will always love them, but their deaths never seemed real to me. They were there and then … they just weren’t.
Several days after Glenda’s funeral, I began noticing things that used to be so important to me, things that energized me and fascinated me, no longer had the same shine. Sure, I was grieving — I am grieving — but this loss of interest doesn’t seem only like depression. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but my previous focus suddenly felt drastically insignificant. I’m not trying hard enough … I’m not giving enough of myself … I’m not doing what I really, sincerely want and need to do and my endless rationalizations and excuses just sound infantile, because that is what they are. I’ve been hiding from what I really want to do and say for far too long and for far too little remuneration and damnit all to hell! Nobody’s got time for that!
Four months ago I got a call from my mom that my dad was in the hospital. At first I though “Not again!” because if you knew my father, you’d know he was always sick, always in the hospital for one reason or another. Even though he just turned 80, I was positive that after several heart attacks, two triple bypass, open-heart surgeries — during one of which the “world-famous” heart surgeon in Las Vegas thought he only had a 10% chance of surviving — that my dad was going to be just fine.
Then my brother-in-law texted me (another first), and said I should come home. He said my father looked weak and he didn’t know if he’d ever come out of the hospital again. I was sure Rob was blowing things out of proportion, making a mountain of a molehill as my mom always said, but I flew back to San Mateo all the same.
After about a week at Peninsula Hospital, my father was no longer eating. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to eat, it was because he couldn’t. After years of dealing with asthma and then emphysema, my dad was suffering from pulmonary aspiration. Foreign substances like food or saliva were getting into his lungs and causing repeated bouts of pneumonia and with his weakened respiratory system and lowered immunity, he could no longer fight it. Once again, I watched as someone I loved drew their final breath after weeks of suffering, hunger and pain. Almost my entire family, including beloved longtime friends, were there when he left us. I’m still working through his passing, I’m still trying to figure things out. But his death most certainly has changed me. Again things that once seemed so important have faded into the background.
While I am still in a state of upheaval, still piecing together my emotions, my mind and my perspective, I have come to one conclusion. I want to write. I will write. I am feeling like writing more than I have felt like writing in a very, very long time. This time though, it’s on my terms. No more holding back. No more saying only what people want to hear. Not here, no way, not on my blog.
I’m baaack … warts and all.