Sunday, March 31, 2013
I don't write about dad's Alzheimer's much anymore. It seems that when I do all I end up doing is repeating the same tragedy. And it tires me writing about it because there is never anything new about dealing with this except the profound sense of loss that drags on. The disease is not going to back off, no cure or pill to halt the symptoms will be miraculously discovered. Alzheimer's is going to continue to worm its way into my dad's brain like a thief. And no one can stop it. There is no hope. None at all.
Alzheimer’s is a vicious enemy. Unrelenting unforgiving, un-everything. It hits families and keeps on hitting with more and more cruelties. It progresses until all the family is left with is a desperate wish for it all to end, and the guilt that accompanies that wish.
It has been three years since I have really had a conversation with my dad. I told him today that I wish he and I could still talk. He said, "Me too". My dad is still here in body, but he is a bent, confused, tearful shell of himself. My father lives 24/7 in a Veteran’s Administration Hospital. He is dependent on others to do every basic living task for him. He has to be fed and bathed. He has be supported and led on the rare occasions when he walks; a shuffling, tiny stiff legged walk, thanks to his accompanying Parkinston’s. He has to be assisted in and out of bed. He suffers from an inability to speak coherently in what is known as aphasia. He cries almost constantly, becomes easily frustrated, gets angry.
Last week my dad looked straight at me and asked who I was. And I had been with him three hours that day. That was the first time he has asked me that. I know that the chances of his remembering who I am grow dimmer and dimmer each day. He seems to have regressed to a point of about five to ten minute spans of memory. I once read that a goldfish has a memory of approximately ten seconds. My oftentimes dark and sardonic outlook takes a twisted solace in the fact that my dad’s memory is, at least, better than a goldfish’s. My father’s eighty-seven year old mother visited him recently and within fifteen minutes of her leaving he didn’t even remember she had been there. In fact, he quite adamantly insisted that he hadn’t seen her in a very long time. I gave up trying to convince him otherwise.
On Dad’s especially “bad” days he contorts his wheelchair bound body into an almost 45 degree angle attempting to retrieve objects from the floor that only he can see. On those days it is virtually impossible to get him to sit up long enough to feed him dinner. And joining him in his bent over contortions so that a bite of food can be spooned into his mouth is an exercise in physical and mental exhaustion. Those are the days when I only manage to hold back the tears until I have made it safely to the interior of my car in the hospital parking lot. Those are the days that I cry until my entire body shakes with the unbound grief.
My brother, who has only in the past year allowed himself to look dead on into the face of Alzheimer’s, manages to keep his emotions in check and, on the surface at least, appears pragmatic and unaffected. I know he isn’t. He has a family, a young child, a demanding job that entails his being out of town more than he is home. I live closer to my mother, and although I did attempt to ‘run way” by taking a teaching job overseas last year, I quickly admitted defeat and came back to the United States. Alzheimer’s keeps winning. And it will keep on winning. There is nothing we can do. We are powerless.
My mother, who cannot accept that this awful, almost unspeakable thing has happened, gets by day-to day the best way she knows. She visits my dad several times a week, perhaps too often. She overextends herself, tries to distract dad from his continuous crying jags and the sadness that he can no longer articulate. She talks to him, champions for him, then goes home alone to a house that she and my dad made together, pretends that Dad just might get better, then plummets to low lows when she admits to herself that he has descended into a place where we can’t go, a place from which we can’t rescue him. The Unmemory Place..
Monday, March 25, 2013
Rants and Rags
First the rants:
1. I am so freaking tired of the same sex marriage debate. I mean, really? Different sex marriage has sure worked out for us, hasn’t it? *note sarcasm* I think we ought to give this same sex marriage thing a try and see if they can, like, get it right.
2. And the gun debate? There’s a simple solution. Make it a wee bit more difficult to gain access to legal guns ( I’m talking about practical use guns that you can lock up in a small safe, not AKs and submachine guns- that’s just plain stupid for anyone to own that shit). Then pass a law that we get to blow up illegal gun sellers and buyers with bazookas on national television. Or we get to run them over with tanks, then shoot them with bazookas.
3. Prisoner rehabilitation is an oxymoron. In America there is no prisoner rehabilitation, just profit margins. Anytime you make incarceration a for profit system you have already doomed it to failure (or success, depends on how you look at it).
4. EVERY country worldwide that tolerates their women citizens being treated like perpetual children, continues to allow their male citizens to abuse women with impunity, and encourages pedophilia in the form of arranged marriages in which the girls have literally no say so in the matter should NEVER be allowed to join the United Nations, immediately have all of their McDonald’s restaurants shut down, and all imports of Coke products confiscated ASAP.
I mean, women’s rights are basic human rights, correct? And the U.N would never allow a country to join who doesn’t support basic human rights, correct?
What? There are countries who are members of the U.N that continue to trample on the rights of women as human beings? And no one is doing anything about it?
Okay, that’s it. Form a line on the right. I will be handing out penis removal tools and testicle snippers. No pushing, please, there’s plenty for everyone. Ladies, just take one each and remember to hide it well in your luggage before you travel to far off and exotic locales....
Then the Rags:
1. Today I convinced two children that zombies have taken over the pediatrician’s office. They are convinced that their beloved “Dr. Bill” is now a zombie, as is all of his staff. Going to be funny as hell when the parents try and take those kids back to see Dr. Bill..
2. I cooked spaghetti today and I still have heartburn six hours later. That’s damn good spaghetti.
3. I totally love those little baby Cokes. 7.5 ounces, baby! I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony....... C’mon, sing with me!. You know you want to.
4. Alzheimer's still sucks......
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Actual view from behind the bush....
I hid behind a bush tonight on a busy Al Ain roundabout. I hid behind a bush dressed as a Ramones groupie while my three friends (dressed as Marge Simpson, the Devil, and The Joker) fended off carloads of Emirati men, who thought we were prostitutes and kept hooting and yelling at us, pulling up alongside trying their dead level damnedest to procure our services. I guess they thought my friend's eighteen year old son (The Joker) was our pimp.
The Devil kept telling me to come out from behind the bush, pissed off for some reason that I was hiding behind the bush. The Joker was trying to protect us from all the harassing Emirati young men, although at one point he did join me behind the bush in an attempt at self preservation. Marge Simpson was pretty quiet and had this stark "WTF?" look on her face the entire time. I stayed behind the bush knowing that on Animal Planet the animal that hides is most often the one that doesn't get killed.
What led to a Ramones groupie, the Devil, Marge Simpson, and The Joker standing on a busy roundabout in the UAE at 2:30 am?
I'm glad you asked.
The night started like this:
We all went to a Halloween party on top of Jebel Hafeet, the mountain in Al Ain. I danced to Michael Jackson's "Thriller", did the electric slide, watched Marge Simpson tie for best Halloween costume of the night (a guy in drag shared the honor), and had a tableful of Emirati men ask to have their picture taken with me. I swear, I am starting to know how Mickey Mouse feels. I have had so many people in this country ask to have their picture taken with me, and it's not because I'm that cute or anything. I'm still trying to figure it out, so don't ask for my theories right now.
One of my "fans". This guy relayed his wish to have his photo taken with me via another teacher. I agreed, posed, then went back to my little table with MY friends.
Around 1:00 a.m, after waiting around for 45 minutes in the hotel lobby, we realized that there were no taxis available, as stated in the party flyer. The shuttle driver finally appeared, but he could barely speak English. This poor man ended up driving eight Westerners down the mountain in hopes of locating a taxi at the bottom of said mountain.
Two of the Westerners, a man and a woman, were pretty well shitfaced, I believe. They became engrossed in a long conversation about how men don't understand women, and this led to an extended explanation regarding ordering a cheeseburger as an analogy for the battle of the sexes..
Drunk man in shuttle:
QUESTION: Woman wants to know if her man wants a cheeseburger from Burger King or McDonald's.
ANSWER: "I don't care where you get it. I just want a cheeseburger"
QUESTION: Woman wants to know what her man wants on his cheeseburger.
ANSWER: "Just a cheeseburger. I don't give a shit what's on it".
If a man offers to get woman a cheeseburger, she insists on it being "Medium well, no onions, Heinz ketchup, one squirt of mustard, pickles on the side, toasted bun". Oh, and she only likes Hardees cheeseburgers, which means the man has to drive fifteen miles past both the Burger King AND the McDonald's.
We are riding in this shuttle down a curvy mountain road, and we only want to go to the bottom of the mountain. But no taxis. The Devil gets on her cell phone and informs us that her new “friend” has agreed to meet us and give us a lift home. Said Devil is a bit smitten with this new friend, is my assumption. But who knows? After all, who can account for youth or explain them?
Off we go careening to "the bottom of the mountain". Only problem is that the shuttle driver can't tell us WHERE the bottom of the mountain is and we go past it. I realize too late that "the bottom of the mountain" was actually a parking lot we passed, filled with a cars and a bunch of local men dancing in a circle.
I didn't think the parking lot was a good place to try our taxi luck anyway. I mean the dancing-in-a-circle men looked suspiciously like they were performing a sacrificial dance, and I have seen what they do to goats in this country.....
The shuttle driver didn't understand my question, "Is there another place for us to get a taxi?". Before I knew it we were coming up on roundabouts, which meant we were way past "the bottom of the mountain", but still miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) away from our apartments. The Devil phoned her friend again, and I guess he told her to get off the shuttle as soon as possible at the next roundabout because that is exactly what she began saying we should do. The driver insisted he could take us home, but the Devil instructed the shuttle driver to pull over and let us out. The driver seemed way perplexed by us wanting to leave the van, and kept saying, "I take home. I take home".
The rest of the passengers, even the shitfaced ones, were looking at us as if we had lost our brains back at the party while we struggled to extradite ourselves from the shuttle. I exited simply because I couldn't just leave three people dressed as fictional characters standing on the side of a road. I was, after all, the eldest. And at least MY Halloween character had some basis in reality. I hesitated for a split second at what I was about to do. My brain started screaming, “Are you fucking crazy? Get back on the shuttle!”.
The Devil saw my hesitation and she insisted I get back in the shuttle because she could tell, "You don't feel comfortable with this". Hell no, I didn't feel comfortable with it, but I also didn’t feel comfortable getting back on the shuttle, waving bye-bye to my three friends, and all three being thrown into a dark UAE jail or (probably better) being forced into a car, driven out into the desert, raped, and butchered. Now how in the hell I was supposed to prevent this scenario by JOINING them is something that never occurred to me.
I watched the shuttle pull out into traffic and leave. It took all I could not to kneel down and start banging my head on the pavement while chanting, "Stupid.. stupid". The Devil couldn't tell us how long it might take for her friend to arrive, so we stood there on a semi-vegetated roundabout area waiting. Cars passed and Emirati young men started whooping at us. I told my compatriots-in-stupidity, "Great, they think we're hookers and The Joker is our pimp". One car load drove by and hollered out, "Happy Halloween, motherfuckers!". They must have been trying out a new word they learned. Allah only understands cuss words if they are uttered in Arabic, I guess, so English cuss words don't count. I have to admit though: their pronunciation was flawless.
Car after car pulled up and offered us rides. All the cars contained young men who leered and practically salivated as if we were the featured meat of the day in a butcher shop display window. Even The Joker's presence didn't dissuade them. One car load pulled over, and I swear there were about six guys in the backseat and five in the front. It looked like a loaded clown car. The Joker put himself physically between us and the vehicle, bless him. I looked at the car again and surmised that another human being couldn't have squeezed into that car under any circumstances.
The Emirati young men in the car whooped and asked, "You need ride? Get in". (Yeah, Einstein, where do you propose we sit?). Then they started heckling, "You have green card? Green card, eh? Green card?", and they all high fived each other like they had uttered the funniest line in the entire existence of mankind. I snapped and started yelling, "I have a purple card and a red one and a yellow one and an orange one. I have them all!". This was the wrong thing to do, kind of like feeding trolls on CNN.com, and I knew damn well that what I should have done was just ignore them.. But my mouth overrides my brain sometimes and my temper gets the best of me. The Emirati "boys” continued to heckle us and make lewd comments. They finally, thankfully, drove away, bored with their new found cat toys.
That's when I tromped off towards the bushes.
I knew that my hiding in the bushes was not only in my best interests, but in my friends' best interests. I knew if another car pulled up I wouldn't be able to hold my tongue and I could possibly get us in a whole shitload of trouble. I know me.
The Devil kept yelling at me to come out from behind the bush. I told her, "At fifty years of age, I'm too old to be mistaken for a prostitute!". She asked two more times, but I refused to budge. I could tell she was angry at my having abandoned everyone, but what she really didn't understand was the huge favor I was actually doing for her and my other two friends. I could have gotten us killed.
Carload after carload of young men kept stopping, the occupants making comments that I tried not to hear. I peeked out one time and saw the Devil awash in a range of emotions that visibly played over her face that shifted from pissed to worried to hopeful. Marge still looked like she had been hit in the face with the "WTF" baseball bat. The Joker stood planted firmly between Marge and the Devil trying to make himself a shield between them and the road.
I heard the Devil talking and I peeked around the bush again. She was on her cell phone trying to give directions to where we were. I guess she had phoned her friend to find out where he was. I heard her say that we were on a roundabout that had statues of goats in the middle. I heard this and shouted out, "Gazelles! They're Gazelles", but I think the bush muffled my voice and she didn't hear me, or if she heard me, she ignored me.
Thirty grueling minutes, and many more leering carloads of men later, the friend finally showed up. The Devil called out to me and I exited my spot from behind the bush. I followed Marge and got into the back seat with her and The Joker. The Devil got in the front passenger seat and then she introduced us to her friend. He pulled onto the road, the CD player blasting Arabic rap music, that finally settled into Linkin Park's "Numb".
And that song title said everything I felt. The entire way home I didn't say much. The music was too loud for conversation to be meaningful anyway, and Marge's "WTF" confusion was finally seeping into my brain.
We dropped Marge and The Joker off first. Five minutes later we arrived at my apartment building. I mumbled a hurried “Thanks” to the friend and told him that it had been a pleasure meeting him. Hell, I can't even tell you what he looked like now. I told the Devil to "have a good time" and then I rushed into the lobby where I almost threw myself upon the hard tiled floor in a gesture of thankfulness and relief.
I'm too old to be hiding behind a bush dressed as a Ramones groupie .
I hereby swear and vow that I will never again go against what my fifty years of common sense tells me to do or not do ever again.
I hereby swear and vow that I will not go out partying with anyone under the age of forty again, unless their parents are also present.
I hereby swear and vow that I will never again try and protect someone from their own decisions, or offer a show of solidarity with anyone who I believe is behaving naively and irresponsibility.
It's all about survival. Mine. Fuck everyone else.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Sorry, it took me so long to post this chapter- for anyone who is really and truly following Matthew's story. I was in the North Georgia mountains and I only had minimal internet service. It was just like the late 1990s.
This chapter is pretty short so I'll post chapter six in a few days..Ed Burley
Lesson plans, faculty meetings, prom committee. I’m exhausted and it’s not even Christmas break. Five more years until retirement, if I can make it.
Teaching high school isn’t for sissies, and all I want is a small Scotch before I fall into bed. I unlock the front door, throw the bag filled with student papers that still need to be marked on the couch, let the cat out, and go into the small kitchen to heat up a Lean Cuisine meatloaf in the microwave. I eat the tasteless entrée while standing at the sink,, then I heat up another Lean Cuisine. I’m pretty sure this gastronomic adventure doesn’t count as “lean” anymore.
The phone rings. It’s Elaine Henderson, one of the English teachers from work. At first I can’t understand what she’s saying, then the words register: Matthew Royal has killed himself.
I hang up the phone without saying goodbye, turn the ringer off, pour a double scotch, sit in the darkened living room, and throw back the Johnny Walker in one fast stinging gulp.
It’s 3 a.m and I’m still sitting here, my mind wiped completely clean of any discernible thoughts except the screaming voice pounding around in my head that says Matthew is dead.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
If bad language bothers you, please just pass this one by.. I couldn't help it that Verline has a filthy mouth. :) TCA
Like straight out of a movie. I couldn’t believe it. I sat there in that old Toytota in the parking lot of the Stop & Go with that gray scratch-off shit all over my fingernail. I checked the ticket five times before it sank in. Glory be to God, $150,000.00. I went right home to tell Vern; he’s my old man.
I ran in the back door of the house waving that ticket like a cheerleader waving a pom pom. I always did want to be a cheerleader, but I was too fat and had buck teeth. And I couldn’t do the splits to save my life. Anyway I ran in the back door, letting that wood door bang against the frame and I screamed, “Vern!” and I like to have scared that poor man out of twenty years of his life. He was almost asleep in the recliner and he came out of that chair so fast he knocked over his Co-Cola and spilled Lay’s BBQ chips all over the Laz-y-Boy and the wall-to-wall carpet.
“I won! I won!”, I yelled.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Dammit, woman! I mean, damn.. look here, you made me spill the Lay’s….” He started picking up chips and shoving the crumbs into his mouth.
I kept waving that ticket around. I was jumping up and down. My boobies almost knocked me in the face. I thought, “Damn, now I can get a boob job”. That made me real happy.
Vern finished licking chip crumbs from his fingers and in one swift move grabbed the ticket out of my hand. The son-of-a-bitch. I tackled him, bit him on the hand, and he dropped the ticket faster than a dog lets loose of a porcupine. I leaped on top of the ticket, scooped it up quick and shoved it in my panties. I licked my lips. Tasted like salty chips.
I eyed Vern and said in my meanest voice, “That’s my ticket, Vern. I swear to God I’ll kill you with my daddy’s .38 you try that shit again”. Vern sat up then got to his feet real quick cause he knows my daddy taught me to shoot that gun and Vern don’t know where I keep that gun.
All of a sudden Vern got all sweet, “Baby, I didn’t mean nothing. I was just trying to see. How much? A hundred dollars?”. He had a look of hope in his green eyes.
I snorted, “A hundred? Go higher”.
Vern’s eyes widened, “More? Five hundred, You won five hundred? That’ll get my truck outta hock”.
“Five hundred?”, I laughed. “That’s chicken feed. And hell no, I ain’t using none of this here money to get that piece of shit truck back. I’m gonna go travel to somewhere exotic. I’m going to Panama City and stay for two whole weeks. I’m gonna go to Wal-Mart and buy me a whole new wardrobe. I’m gonna buy me a case of Boone’s Farm and drink it all by myself in one of them fancy little glasses with the stem”.
Vern said, “Now don’t go getting all crazy on me, Verline.”
I sat down on the genuine pleather couch, “I ain’t getting all crazy, Vern, but I worked hard all my life at the papermill and ….”
Vern interrupted,” I know you have, but don’t you think….”
I stood up and screamed, “Do not interrupt me again or I swear to God, so help me,. Vern, I'll hurt you. I am so damned tired of you always interrupting me. For years and years I ain’t finished one damned sentence. I’m gonna finish talking now and you’re gonna just sit right there and listen!”
Vern sat back down on the Laz-Y-Boy and cocked his head at me like I done got on the crazy train.
“And Vern, don’t cock your head at me like that”, I warned.
“Okay, damn, baby, what the hell has got into you?”
I sat back down, making sure I could feel the ticket scratch against my groin. “One hundred and fifty thousand dollars is what has got into me, Vern”. I sat back and watched his face.
He sputtered, “One hundred and.. what? One hundred…?”
“Say it, Vern. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And it’s all mine, so don’t go getting no bright ideas. You ain’t gonna spend it all down at the Boom and Holler. You ain’t gonna buy no fishing shit. You ain’t gonna buy that whore, Joan, no roses or cigarettes just so you can get a little more of her pootang”.
Vern went white and leaned back hard in the Laz-y-Boy.
I smiled. I suddenly felt smug and very strong. “Thought I didn’t know about that, didn’t you? Hell, Vern, I know about everything. I just been keeping your sorry ass around because you get that social security check. And don’t go looking at me like that. You thought I let you stay cause you good in bed or a super hunk?”
I stood up and shook my head. “Sorry to hurt you, Vern, but you’re an asshole and I’m leaving. You can keep the Laz-Y-Boy, but I’ll be sending a truck over to get the Maytag”.
I walked into the bedroom, threw all my clothes into four pillow cases, grabbed my birth control pills, tossed everything in the back of the Toyota truck and high-tailed it out of there. Vern never got his lazy ass out of that Laz-Y-Boy.
I drove straight to Atlanta, stopped by the state lottery office, collected my money, paid cash for a brand new Mustang at the Ford dealership, and now me and Beth Ann are on our way to paradise. Panama City, here we come, baby. I’ll get the Maytag later..