“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” – Possibly Joan of Arc (according once again to Brainyquote.com)
Okay let me start out by saying it’s really frustrating that in the “information age” it is so hard to find corroborating proof for an attributed online quote. We’re doing something seriously wrong as a society.
Day 4. When I started this endeavor I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill 10 days. Now I feel I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m starting to run out of time. I hope I do us justice, Dad. My plan of waiting until the very last possible second to write a loving 10 part essay is backfiring. It’s so difficult to release these as first drafts, without even a cursory spelling pass. But it’s the road I’ve built for myself, so here we go. EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve had two glasses of wine at this point, and I was a solid whiskey in when writing last night’s entry, they’re gonna be a little more stream of consciousness.
This was a picture I took of Dad on a weekend he came up to visit me at my old apartment. He’s wearing scrubs because he was going through treatment for his third bout of cancer and had a pretty frustrating rash over his torso. He’s got stage 2 Parkinson’s disease at this point, as well as C.O.P.D. and a touch of emphysema. As soon as we took this photo he put a cannula back in in his nose that fed him oxygen from a tank he dragged behind him 24 hours a day. He’s not drinking wine, he’s drinking cranberry juice. And he’s not even drinking that, but we’ll get to that later.
I had mentioned I wanted to expand upon the idea of friendship in part 3. I’m pushing that until later because something came to me today while I was running errands that I feel should pre-empt that discussion. Why is this so important to do for me? Everyone loses their parents at some point. I’ve got friends who have lost both. Why is this so special or greater than anyone else’s?
It’s not. Loss is loss. It’s tragic and it hurts and it scars the fragile tissue of our emotions. Personally, I felt compelled to blog about my relationship with Dad for one reason alone; when I was 18 I made a promise to help him through his first cancer. That promise didn’t end until the day he died, a couple of years after he was diagnosed with his third cancer when I was Adam32. The whole of my twenties, and by extension the whole of the early formative years of my adulthood, were consumed with my father and his health.
I think I should say a few things about those years, because they will affect two essays; the upcoming essay on friendships and the essay about Adam32.
The years of Dad’s various advancing illnesses, surgeries, and recoveries are, in retrospect, the most brilliant and hated years of my life. I walked a line between untethered, carefree child and dispassionate on-call caregiver. I’ve never laughed as hard, or cried as furiously. I’ve never felt so powerful, and so worthless. There’s so much of those years I lived as fully as I could, and wasted more than seems possible. I met some of my greatest friends during this time, and we’ll get into them in the next essay. I wouldn’t change any of those years, but I desperately wish I had the ability to go back there and live them very differently than I did.
With more linen pants and Clark Gable mustaches, apparently.
I am who I am by the forceful will of an abrupt chasm born of those vicissitudes.
If given the chance to change those years, I honestly don’t know how I would answer. The whole experience reminds me of a line from Wargames. At the end of the film, as Joshua has played himself in tic-tac-toe an uncountable number of times, he’s learned that nuclear war can’t be won. The friendly, vaguely british voice of the Joshua echoed throughout Crystal Palace and said, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” Maybe this experiment is my version of being forced to play tic-tac-toe against myself until I learn it is un-winnable to try. I wonder if I will learn that by the end of this the only way to find a solution to this is to never look for one.
You know what? It’s not until this moment I’ve thought of the line that follows the quote above. It’s Joshua’s last line in the movie, “How about a nice game of chess?” Joshua offers it as an alternative to the un-winnable game of Global Thermonuclear War. Until his Parkinson’s became too strong a tell, Dad and I used to love to play chess.
I wish I had a chance to play chess with you again, Dad. *
*You don’t really have to watch past the first two lines of dialogue if you clicked the link. I have no idea how to set a custom out point on youtube hyperlinks.
I don’t have much more in me right now, this essay has been a bit more emotionally taxing than I had anticipated. But I wanted to leave you with a wider picture of the years Dad and I spent in this chaotic dance. Let’s go back to that day Dad came up to stay with me and we took the picture presented at the head of this essay. Do you remember that I said he wasn’t really drinking the cranberry juice?
That picture happened because I told my father I didn’t have enough pictures of him, and I wanted some. He didn’t like having his photo taken since he got Parkinson’s disease. Then he saw something propped up in the corner of the apartment. He said, “I’ll take a picture with THAT!”
I don’t know if he thought I would give up, or if he wanted to see what would happen next. I like to hope he was serious, and he was challenging me. But whatever the reason, I immediately said, “Okay,” and then sat him in a chair, propped this thing in front of him, and hustled around the apartment to gather all the things I would want to make this picture awesome. This included a wine glass full of cranberry juice.
Once everything was set, we pulled the cannula out of Dad’s nose and I ran behind the camera to snap a photo of my father that he dared, I conceived, and we fired off without a moment’s hesitation or a word of discussion. Because I get my sense of humor from my father, and I’ll never stop being grateful for that fact.
Living with an Academy Award caliber makeup effects artist had it’s advantages.
Okay, friendship tomorrow. My friends, dad’s friends, how I feel we related to them. If you’re still here, thank you. If you are enjoying or getting something out of this, please let me know, I’m becoming self-conscious a hair.
Bon Appetite, Dad.