Category: family

father knows less

My dad is a simple man. He doesn’t understand technology and doesn’t want to. He’s never used a computer. He’s less Internet and more fishing net. A few months ago, his work gave him an iPhone and it might as well have been an alien device from the year 3,000. I had quite the time teaching him the basics and he still needs help just answering the thing.

So I was surprised when he asked if I’d heard of the Amazone Echo, as he called it. I told him I had and he said he wanted one so he could use it to listen to music.

“You can just tell it you wanna hear a song and it’ll play it for you, right?” he asked.

I knew he wouldn’t understand that it wasn’t that simple but he was mostly right. “Basically,” I responded.

Since Father’s Day was coming up, I mentioned it to Mom and she and my sister and I all pitched in to get him one. Later on after ordering it, I realized he wasn’t going to use the Echo to its full potential. Since he was going to just use it to listen to music, the Tap or any other bluetooth speaker would have sufficed. But he never asks us for anything and I figured later on, once he got accustomed to it, maybe he would utilize more of its features.

So on Sunday, my sister came over and we all had dinner and then Dad opened his gift. Once he pulled it out of the gift bag, he smiled, a rarity for him. I think he was surprised to get it since he had only casually mentioned it weeks prior.

“This is that thang we were talking about, right?” he asked me.

“Yep.” The next hour or so was spent setting it up. Now I know I just picked on my dad for not knowing his way around a smart device but I found myself getting a little stumped with the setup process. There was lots of downloading apps and setting up accounts but eventually, we got it set up.

And that’s when I had to explain to my dad that he couldn’t just request a specific song. As far as I knew, he’d have to connect the Echo to a streaming music service like Spotify or Pandora. I later figured out he could play specific songs through YouTube by using the Echo as a bluetooth speaker but that would have required him navigating his way around his phone, which defeated the purpose of getting the Echo. I think he was relying on the ease of voice commands.

But he struggled in that department, too. He kept asking Alexa to play a song or turn up the volume without saying her name first. I kept telling him he’s got to “get her attention” by calling her name before giving her a command. And when he did use her name, he yelled into the Echo, “Alexandra!”, “Alexia!”, or “Alexis!” And I thought people got my name wrong all the time.

Lordy. I had to wonder if I should have bought the Tap after all. A tactile technique might have been better after all.

My sister and I joked about how all those young kids with Echoes either ran up their parents’ credit cards with thousands of dollars worth of toys or candy or ended up accidentally purchasing porn of some kind. We wondered if that would happen with Dad. He’d request a Conway Twitty song and end up ordering a sex toy named “Connie’s Titties.” Or even worse, find his way to a Kellyanne Conway podcast.

It’s been a few days and so far, so good. I come home from work to find Dad in his recliner, listening to honky tonk tunes. And there’s no dildos at the doorstep. So, that’s cool. Otherwise, things would go from Amazone to the awkward zone real quick.

the failure of organs and emotions

I spoke too soon about my grandmother’s nose. While I was surprised it hadn’t been completely taken off as I was led to believe by my mom, her cancer has gotten worse. After the initial surgery to cut out the Merkel cancer, it returned and she had to have a second operation to go in and take out more. They took the tip of her nose. They already have another surgery scheduled. They are going to remove her nose completely. And her dementia is worsening. She doesn’t even know what’s going on. She thinks she’s getting a brand new nose. She’ll be lucky to get a prosthetic one.

My uncle, her primary caretaker, is also suffering from a touch of dementia as well. So, he can’t take care of her. Enter my mother, who has to do it all.

While my mother was gone to be with my grandmother for her second surgery earlier this month, my dad had a birthday. I gave him a card and he set me down and we had a conversation. Like, an actual conversation. Well, what could be equated to an actual conversation. He mostly talked to me and my responses mostly went ignored as he continued with his monologue. He was the one who told me the doctors were going to take off my grandmother’s nose. I was at work during her second surgery when Mom called Dad and told him and then he told me.

He also told me that he was getting a promotion at his job. Sounds like good news. But he doesn’t want to take it. He doesn’t want all the extra responsibility. In fact, he was planning on retiring in the next year or so. But due to insurance, he wants to keep his job. He’s worried about my mom’s job. Her hours have been cut at work the past couple of weeks. This isn’t an abnormal occurrence but it still worries them. I guess he’s worried about retiring and then Mom might lose her job and then they’ll be in trouble.

My hours have been cut at work as well. In half. Again, this isn’t abnormal. And they always get cut after Christmas. It’s a slow time. But things have been going downhill since the middle of last year. My hours have steadily decreased and I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t so temporary after all. So, I’m not really contributing to the family and I think everyone is aware of that. Since they don’t think I’m going to step up, my dad is, taking on a position he doesn’t want and picturing himself working about five years more than he had originally planned, just to help keep up afloat.

I asked him why he would take it if he didn’t want to and he repeated that he did it because of my mom. He’ll be making more money and having more responsibility but he is doing it to support her, both financially and I suppose as a gesture of love. My chest felt like ice cubes dipped in hot chocolate. I know my dad loves my mom and my sister and me. He just doesn’t say it. But he shows it, in those kind of ways, ways a man raised to be hard shows his love. It’s with money. It’s with hard work. It’s with doing the kind of things you don’t want to do in order for your family to be more comfortable. And that was great. And that was the hot chocolate feeling. But I didn’t want him to be unhappy with his new position. That’s where the ice cubes come into play. And I told him this. He shook his head in a dismissive manner. “I’ll just have to learn to like it,” he said.

He works with my uncle and so he’s seen the progression of his mental deterioration as well. He told me it’s getting worse. They often have to work out of town and he told me my uncle’s balance is so bad that he is constantly falling out of the work vehicles and often falls out of the small hotel showers. The past few times I saw my uncle, I did notice he was covered in small scratches.

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14 years of whiskers

Photo Jan 11, 12 17 03 AM

This past Saturday, I came home and found my cat Moses beside my bed. He was lying on the ground in an unusual manner, his rump sticking out from underneath the bed. An odor of wet excrement wafted up from his location. This wasn’t new. He’d been having stomach issues for the past several months, a revolving door of constipation or diarrhea. And although it wasn’t my favorite job, I grabbed the pet wipes and tried to pick him up to wipe his rear end.

I picked him up and he whined. I put him down and looked at him. His sides expanded and contracted at a fast pace. A worrisome pace. I stood there for a while, took a deep breath, and picked him up again. He grabbed at my bed but I held him against my chest and took him to the den where there was more light so I could see.

Once I made it to the den, Moses meowed in pain and squirmed in my arms. I bent over to lay him down on the ground when he swiped his paw at my face and dug his nail into my nose. He ran from my arms and I went to the bathroom. I’m very anal about my face so I flipped on the bathroom light to see the damage. It felt like his whole nail had gone through my nose but once I inspected it, it was more of a deep scratch. I put some alcohol on it and then went back to Moses.

He was in the dining room and hiding underneath the dining room table, his breathing labored again. My stomach tingled now. I knew this wasn’t good.

I went to reach for Moses and he whined again. And then he looked like he was trying to throw up, his bony shoulders rising as he retched. I stood up and walked from the living room to the dining room, my stomach vibrating now, like a cell phone buzzing in my bowels.

Ohgodohgodohgod this is it.

I went back to Moses and he had drool hanging from his mouth. I’d never seen that before. My own breathing became labored. I didn’t know what to do.

I went into my parents bedroom and…and then I didn’t know what to do again.

“Mom, Dad…” I started. Mom woke up. “I…uh…Moses. It doesn’t look good.” And the buzzing in my stomach shot up into my throat. Out of nowhere, I started sobbing.

“I know,” she said. “He was really sick earlier today.” She got out of bed and I covered my face. The tears came in short, stabbing bursts. “We tried to call the vets we knew but they weren’t open,” she continued. “No one answered the emergency numbers we called.”

I stood to the side as Mom moved past me to check on Moses. I paced the den again and tried to collect myself. I thought I had prepared myself for this moment. He hadn’t looked good for a long time. There was always a piece of me that worried it was going to happen soon, that he didn’t have much longer. But I tried to shrug it off. He was old. He wasn’t as quick. He had some tummy troubles but he wasn’t in terrible shape. It was just old age at work. He was okay. He was okay.

But he wasn’t.

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christmas tree with a gangsta lean

Photo Dec 27, 12 43 00 AM

“Silent night,
Holy night,
Silent Night,
Nothing feels right…”
-Sufjan Stevens, That was the Worst Christmas Ever!

About three weeks ago, as I was getting ready to go to work, Mom started assembling the Christmas tree. It was our old artificial tree we’ve had for years. As much as I always wanted a real tree, artificial ones didn’t shed and didn’t cost any extra money each year. So, artificial it’s always been.

As she untangled the lights and checked for broken ornaments, the phone rang. It was my grandmother complaining about a pain in her arm. Mom stopped what she was doing and tried to get a doctor’s appointment. As I walked out of the door, I saw the frustration in my mom’s face. No one was available. I told Mom to text me with updates while I was at work, knowing she wouldn’t. She never did. But she said she would and I went to work.

I came home, having never gotten a text message, and found Mom finishing up the tree.

“Looks good,” I said.

“Eh, it’s leaning.”

I stepped back and saw that it did have a severe curvature going on. I’d noticed the leaning in previous years but it was always slight, maybe from a few too many ornaments on one side or from the sections not being properly secured in their notches. But this lean was looking legit, like it was an old man trying to grab the wall for support.

“Oh, well, it’ll have to do,” my mom said as she plugged in the tree lights. It burst into a warm glow and sprayed light onto the wall like a gold sneeze.

“How’s Grandmother?” I asked.

Mom sighed. “Well, I never could get a hold of anyone but I got dressed and went to see her and she was fine after she took some medication.”

“Well, that’s good,” I said. Mom had been chauffeuring my grandmother around to different doctors due to her skin cancer and other ailments and had looked forward to a quiet day of decorating at home. It always seemed like something came up any time Mom made plans to relax. I feared those quiet days at home were going to become less and less.

“We’re gonna have to get another tree,” Mom said as she cocked her head to the side, examining it. “Even the ornaments are starting to fray and wear.”

She wasn’t incorrect but I didn’t think it looked too bad. Although worn down, it was all much better than our old trees. Mom used to use the multi-colored lights and an assortment of mismatched ornaments that my sister and I had made in art class or that she’d been given by friends and family, hand-painted and pretty putrid. But after years of sentimental spruces, Mom chunked the old tree, boxed up the clay ornaments with my initials and the year on the bottom, and bought a brand new fake tree with a set of matching ornaments.

I always thought our newest tree had a bit more class with its gold and burgundy balls flecked with glitter, ornate crosses and silken ribbon tied in bows, cohesive gold lights, and glittered sticks pierced through small burgundy and gold orbs like kabobs placed atop the tree in a starburst pattern. But we’ve had that setup for several years now. The tree is showing signs of age, it’s spine leaning, the weight of years of Christmases finally taking its toll. Maybe next Christmas is time a fresh start.

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grandma’s got no nose

My grandmother’s health has been declining over the past few years. It’s been in small stages. She’s fallen. She’s developed arthritis. She’s become forgetful. She can’t start sentences without stopping to correct herself. She’s become slovenly. She’s frequently light-headed and has intense, reoccurring bouts of shoulder pain. My mother takes her to the doctor to soothe the aches and check on the pains. These trips used to be infrequent but with each day, there seems to be a new ailment that needs to be mended and monitored, so now the ventures are commonplace.

And now my grandmother has skin cancer. Specifically, Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a particularly rare and aggressive form of cancer that is not playing around.

It started when my mother noticed a growth on my grandmother’s nose. They went to the doctor to get it checked out. There was a series of appointments and a biopsy. That’s when they got the cancer diagnosis. They were referred to another doctor. Between doctor visits, the growth grew in size and severity. Like I said, this cancer doesn’t joke. It spreads fast.

It was decided by her doctor that the cancer had to be cut out. There was a possibility it could even spread to her lymph nodes. I worried because her surgery was scheduled about two weeks after her latest appointment. What if the cancer got worse in the mean time?

Surgery day came and while I was at work, Mom texted me with updates. The cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes but the doctor did take a large chunk out of my grandmother’s nose.

Afterward, they spoke with a plastic surgeon who offered some not-so-great options for reconstructive surgery, including pulling her forehead skin down or pulling her cheek over and using the tissue to fill in the gap in her nose. These methods would mean multiple surgeries, all of which would require my grandmother to go under anesthesia again, and at her age, it doesn’t seem like a good idea.

It’s especially not a good idea because not only has my grandmother lost her nose but she’s essentially losing her mind as well. My mom told me she suspected my grandmother is suffering from mild dementia. I could have told her that. I’ve noticed it for years now. I don’t know if my mom has only started noticing it due to being around my grandmother so much due to the multiple doctor visits or if she’s just been in denial and can no longer refute the obvious.

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all dogs do go to heaven

I wasn’t going to mention this because I hate when people talk to me about dead or dying animals and I wanted to spare you all that uncomfortable reading experience. But something happened recently that I think is worthy of writing about. If you’re sensitive to such matters, you can skip this one.

Anne-Marie: Charlie, will I ever see you again?
Charlie: Sure you will, kid. You know goodbyes aren’t forever.
Anne-Marie: Then goodbye, Charlie. I love you.
Charlie: Yep… I love you too.

-All Dogs go to Heaven

Our family dog, Sam, passed away in October. He was 14-years-old. It was a sad time but he had advanced in age and I saw it coming. So when it happened, I was prepared. I was sad but I was also relieved that he was no longer hurting.

Our family dog, Sam, that we had for fourteen years passed away in October. My dad took him to the vet after we’d noticed he’d been acting strangely. The vet informed my dad Sam had suffered a stroke some time earlier. Sam was given medication but it didn’t help. A few days later, he passed away.

It was a sad time but because of his advanced age, concerning behavior, and grim vet visit, and I saw it coming and so when it did happen, I was prepared. I was upset but also relieved because I knew he wasn’t in pain any longer. For a few days after the vet, I lived in a fog of intense worry, scared each day would be the day he’d die because he was getting worse but also hoping it would go ahead and happen so he wouldn’t continue to suffer.

I thought my dad would take him back to the vet and have him put to sleep. And maybe that was his plan. But he didn’t have to. Sam knew it was time and walked to the pasture behind our back yard. He laid down under a tree and closed his eyes for the last time.

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coughing up christmas

“So this is Xmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun…”

-John Lennon, Happy Xmas (War is Over)

People say I’m negative and it makes me feel bad because I never intend to be. It’s just what comes out. But after spending the holidays with my family, I’m starting to see they err on the negative side as well and that, perhaps, I’m not just a total asshole and much of the negativity I express is simply an inherited trait from a previous generation of buzzkills.

Does that let me off the hook?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

On Christmas Eve my mom’s mom came over and we had Christmas at my house. I sat there and watched as she tried to form a coherent sentence, a skill she’s been struggling with for the past several years, which has recently been accompanied by an accumulation of physical ailments that have put my mother in a tizzy as she’s had to take my grandmother to the doctor and get test after test to find out what’s wrong with her and then test after test to see what will treat what’s wrong with her. And naturally most of those doctor’s appointments fall on the one day my mother has off from work.

It’s not just me with the crappy luck. My whole family is cursed with it. Which might be one of the causes of the negativity.

And then there’s my dad sitting with my uncle, watching the nightly news because that’s a great source of entertainment to have going on while you’re carving the turkey. With the bombings and school shootings and rape and murder that gets scrolled across the screen, who doesn’t feel like cuddling up next to the tree with a big ass cup of cocoa?

So my dad tears into another conspiracy theory about the Obama administration and my grandmother talks with her mouth full and my sister is off in her own world with her husband and my mom’s running around tired trying to get everyone fed and I try to help but I just get in the way and have to listen to these people go on with their racial slurs with slurred words and I feel completely foreign here. These people are my flesh and blood but they are not my brain nor my beliefs and it makes it hard to feel good about any of it.

The next day I go to my dad’s mom’s house and she’s not doing much better than my other grandmother. She’s still mentally alert but also physically deteriorating. She coughed these intense, dry coughs the entire time, a hacking that made my shoulder blades twitch. Meanwhile, people are showing up late and liquored up, reeking of cigarettes and cheap wine.

Then my dad starts in about all the animals hanging around, the dog who’s blind in one eye and the other dog who probably has cancer and won’t last much longer. Then he talks about our dog, Sam, and tries to guess his age, insinuating he’s also old and also won’t last much longer. And I just don’t understand why he has to talk about such things during a time that’s supposed to be cheerful. Why put a black cloud over the proceedings when they’re already dark enough with a choking matriarch and a slew of unruly Angry Birds-addicted children?

And then I see these shiny happy families on Facebook and Instagram, polite children and adults who wear actual pants instead of pajama bottoms to Christmas dinner. Families who share Christmas songs instead of YouTube clips of a woman shitting in aisle five of a supermarket. Cousins who bring over mashed potatoes instead of moonshine. And it hurts even more. My family won’t ever be like that. Sure, no family is perfect, but ours isn’t even palatable.

I think about the young ones and I hope they turn out better than their parents. It’s unfortunate that the cousins I grew up with couldn’t learn from their parents’ mistakes. I see them following the same path. And I fear their children will do the same. I’ve seen one of my cousins grow up from a baby into a tall and pretty girl. She could end up okay if she’d just stay in school and not get pregnant. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask but we’re a fertile bunch and it doesn’t take much to get knocked up.

But really, it’s hard to say how anyone will turn up. I thought I did everything right. I made excellent grades in high school and did not curtail my cirriculum with drugs or alcohol or sex and followed my dreams of being an artist, which resulted in a pile of student loans I couldn’t comfortably pay back and days of unrelenting loneliness and rage.

I know I’m new around here and some of you who haven’t followed me over from OD don’t know me too well so you might fear I think I’m above these people. Don’t worry, I’m the biggest piece of crap out of all of them. It’s not about thinking I’m better. It’s about thinking I’m disconnected. I don’t agree with some of the choices they’ve made but they seem to be far more comfortable with themselves than I am with myself. And maybe being content with your choices, whether they be good or bad, is more important than trying to play it safe and make no choice at all, like in my case.

They have families, albeit accidental ones. But there seems to be love there. When you look past the camouflage, you can see a closeness. They’re not highbrow, but they’re a family and that’s really all that matters. It’s more than I can say. I’m the odd guy out, the only one not partnered up. They might have Honey Boo Boo caliber class but I’m the Christmas curmudgeon.

The next day they rushed my grandmother to the emergency room because her coughing got worse.

And then we took down the Christmas tree.

bran before and after

I waited a whole year for this picture.

When I saw the picture of my sister and me together last Christmas, I was heartbroken.  I was so big.  How did I get that large and not notice?  I’m sure I was in denial, sure I could ignore it until things in my life changed for the better so I could focus on bettering myself.  But nothing changed and when I saw the photo, I knew I had to be that change.

I told myself I would not repeat that Christmas picture looking the way I did.  Long time readers will know I’ve been dieting and exercising all year.  I’ve lost approximately 50 pounds.  I’ve probably gained at least 10 of them back in the past 2 months (I’ve been too ashamed to weigh myself lately so I don’t know the exact number) due to birthday bingeing but that’s another entry for another time.  For now, I want to focus on the positive.  Yes, I actually can do that sometimes.

I was excited to take this year’s Christmas picture, anxious to see the changes.  It wasn’t as big of a transformation as I was hoping.  Sure, clothing and lighting and angles play a significant role in revealing the body but I thought 50 pounds would show a more dramatic change. That’s not to say I’m not happy with the difference.  I definitely look better and I’m happier where I am right now.  I can mostly tell in my face, which is good.  But I still have a belly.

I’m working on it, though.  I didn’t put the weight on in a year and it will take more than a year to lose it.

I’m cool with that as long as I’m always making progress.

Starting January 1st, I’m going to begin my diet and exercise anew and at the end of the year, I’ll take another Christmas picture and hopefully I’ll see more positive changes.  And no man boobs.

Left: Christmas 2011 with my sister.  Right: Christmas 2012 with my sister.

black fried day

I’m full of cake and milk and malice so bear with me.

Thanksgiving wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated.  We usually all congregate at my dad’s mother’s house, as per tradition.  But, through the years, every time one of my male cousins reaches sexual maturity, he knocks up some girl and then has to visit her relatives for the holidays.  This has led to a decreased number of relatives who come over.  Fine by me.  This year, it was mostly my sister and me and our cousin and his boyfriend.  We all sat in the living room while the relatives with children sat in the kitchen and the older relatives sat in the dining room.

My sister and cousin mostly talked about drinking.  I don’t drink so I didn’t have much to add to the conversation.  And as much as I might have residual ill feelings toward my sister, she’s quite the comedian.  My cousin’s boyfriend really took a shine to her with her quick wit and sardonic delivery.  I’m telling you guys, she’s more cynical than I am.  But she’s funny so she can get away with it.  I just sat back with my lemon pie and listened.

At one point, some random toddler waddled in and went over to where my sister was sitting and just stared at her.  Shannon visibly tensed up as the little girl bore a hole in her head with her inquisitive eyes.

“Who is that?” I whispered to her.

“I don’t know but she’s freaking me out.”  Then, she got up away from the girl, cringed, then sat closer to me.  The little girl kept staring.  Shannon kept freaking.

I’m telling you guys, she’ dislikes kids more than I do.  She’s a bitchier, female version of me.  I can respect that.

Black Friday wasn’t as bad as anticipated, either.  Had to be there at 6AM instead of the usual 3:30AM.  I did have an irrational fear of sudden diarrhea, though, based on the enormous amount of fried turkey and greasy mac and cheese I ate the day before.  Fortunately, I made it through without any oozing.  The five shots of Pepto I did before I went to bed and the five more after I woke up might have helped me out with that. 

Surprisingly, I also didn’t have many rude customers.  Although, I did have a few gray hairs who came up to me and said something along the lines of, “Excuse me.  I have two shopping carts and three shopping bags filled to the brim with clothing and there’s approximately twenty people in line behind me but could you tell me the price of each piece of clothing as you scan it thanks!”

And I’m all like:

But I did have time for a cold pop.

I was also surprised at how busy we were.  I’d say I stayed at my register 98% of my eight hour shift and went on autopilot at one point.  Scan, collect money, bag, rinse and repeat.

It was also ugly Christmas sweater day at work.  I looked so hard to find a freaking Christmas sweater.  Looked for an entire week.  There just wasn’t anything out there.  I finally found one at one store but they only had about three to choose from.  I guess I lucked out.

I tried to get a coworker to take these pictures and as you can tell, she flunked out of cell phone photography 101.  Every time she tapped the screen, I saw the phone move.

This was the result.  Ehh.

“How about you grip the phone tighter and lightly tap on the screen,” I said.

“Okay,” she responded.

Not only is it blurry but look at that composition.  I mean…really.

“So, are you hung over or something?” I asked her.  I could have done a better job taking the picture myself.  With my feet.

I made her drink a big cup of coffee and give it another go.  It still required some cropping and editing but I didn’t want to be a creep about the picture taking so I settled with this picture:

Guess who this girl is??

deteriorating granny

“The world is sick
and all of us in it…”
-Showbread, I’m Afraid That I’m Me

Several months ago, my grandmother fell ill.  She had several episodes of failing health and had to be hospitalized a few times.  For a while, my heart jumped every time the phone rang.  I feared it was a family member telling us she had been put in a hospital again, or worse.

My parents and I visited her in the hospital during one of her stays and it was uncomfortable seeing her frail and hooked up to all the tubes and machines.  I stood there and didn’t know what to do or say and just wanted to bolt.

She eventually got better, although she is thinner and more frail now.  I still worry we’ll get a phone call late at night.

My other grandmother is slightly senile and her speech is becoming more and more incoherent to the point she can’t get a full thought out of her mouth without stammering or stopping herself to clarify a statement.  I’m worried she’s going to develop Alzheimer’s.

There’s dropping dead and then there’s slowly deteriorating and dying.  I’m worried one grandmother is going to drop dead and the other will slowly melt away.

I see old people at work all the time and it kind of breaks my heart.  I see the old men with the dramatically curved spines and see-through skin and the old women with the milky eyes in wheelchairs being pushed by their children or shuffling in their walkers while their children patiently follow along.  They shake.  They stumble.  They need something to hold onto so they won’t topple over.  I see oxygen tanks and forgetfulness.  I see exhaustion and sometimes I even see defeat in their wrinkled faces.  I’m scared that’s going to happen to my grandmothers, that they will die in pieces, that all of their mobility will be stripped away, that their volition will vanish, that they’ll be robbed of their reasoning.

I’m also terrified of that happening to my parents.  I almost can’t bear the thought of my mom hunched over in a wheelchair with thin gray hair and skeletal hands.  I’m more worried about my dad since he drinks regularly and smokes heavily.  He’s already battled with colon cancer and his brother died of lung cancer and yet he still lights up like he’s sucking on sunshine.  It makes me angry and it makes it hard for me to want to get close to him because he’s shellacking his lungs with tar and tearing up his liver with all the alcohol.

I’m also worried about my dog and cat.  They’re both in the double-digit age now.  I’m always worried I’ll come home to find Mom weeping over my dead cat’s body.  Fortunately, neither one of them show signs of old age or failing health but it still crosses my mind regularly.  My mom  is enamored with our and when he passes away, she will be devastated.

And I think my fear of others dying comes from a fear of not knowing how to deal with everyone’s grief.  I grew up in a household that discouraged expression.  I never saw my parents cry from pain or laughter.  They were stoic in their actions, language, and behavior.  Mostly.  And because I was never introduced to extreme feelings of sadness or joy, when I do encounter it, it makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t know what to do or say. 

So when my grandmother’s die, I’m going to have to deal with my parents’ grief and I don’t know how to do that.  When my dog and cat die, I will have to deal with my parents’ grief and I don’t know how to do that.  I’ll just get that familiar need to bolt again, to run away until everyone stops hurting and everything is regular again.

I’m more worried about enduring everyone else’s grief than my own.  That’s because I don’t feel particularly close to anyone.  Yes, I will be sad when my grandparents and pets pass away and I will cry but I’ll probably move on easily.

And the reason I choose not to get too close to anyone is because I am also afraid to face my own grief.  If I get too attached, they’ll one day leave or die and I’ll be devastated and I don’t know how to come back from that.  I’ve inadvertently carried on my parents penchant for not feeling too deeply.

I always imagined I would get a dog when I got out on my own and he would be my best friend.  The problem with that is the dog is going to die one day and I’m too afraid to mourn so I probably won’t get a pet.  I’m also too afraid to mourn lost friendships so I don’t have any friends.  I feel I already have enough hurt inside of me to burn on for the rest of my life so I don’t need to add any more.  But if I never feel the deep sadness, I can’t experience the great joy, either.  Is that a sacrifice I have to make to stay at an even level of feeling?

My fear of overwhelming grief has defeated the possibility of feeling overwhelming happiness.

No one wants a loved one to die and I think we all wonder if we can bear the pain of loss but people do it every day.  People are stronger than they think.  And I probably am, too.  I’m just not too keen to find out.