Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'd like to meet the guy who invented Alzheimer's

It was actually the third time I told him he has Alzheimer's. He took it about the same as he did the first two times I had told him. He grew somber, serious, and had little to say. "Asi es la vida", he said with a gringo accent and a defeated smile that wasn't a smile at all. It has never been Dad's way... to put up a fuss.

It was easier for me this time. I guess you get better with practice, including the devastating task of telling your father he has a terminal illness that will slowly smudge him out of existence. The first time I had to tell him, it was so that I could explain to him why he had to move in with me. The second time was to explain why he could no longer drive his truck. This time, it was to explain why he couldn't rent a car to drive to Idaho and visit my mother's grave for what he has now taken to calling "one last time".

Dad was supposed to die young. That is what he planned, and that is what we were all conditioned to believe from the time we were small. His own father passed away at 44, and Dad didn't see his life playing out any other way. Mom would talk in her imagined time frame of "after Daddy's gone". "This will be a great car for me to drive after your father dies." "After Daddy's gone, I suppose I will spend most of my time at the temple." and so on. It was just understood that Dad was some how weak and frail, and his two subsequent heart attacks left little doubt for anyone that Mom would be proven right.

A year after Dad retired, Mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and died three weeks later. Yes, that fast. Mom died first.

But Dad didn't.

Mom had been larger than life. She could talk anyone under the table and had no need to sleep... she could literally talk all night. When I would call for a visit and Dad would answer the phone, it would be a short few moments before he would replay his old, "Well, let me pass the phone to your Mom." and that would be it, the end of our conversation.

When Mom died I called Dad every day for months. At first our conversations had been short and awkward, but as the loneliness set in, he began to talk more, listen better, and I began to get to know my dad for the first time in 32 years.

But all that is changing now. Our conversations are getting shorter. He disappears for hours into a dream world, he wanders, he stares at the fish tank for hours. Heck, he stares at me for hours. And the conversations that we do manage to have have changed as well. There are now about five of them. We recycle them over and over. The weather, the rocks in my yard, the fish, when trash day is, and now, lately, going to Mom's grave.

So I told him again as gently as I could, about his condition, about why he can't drive anymore. "Do you have any questions?" I had nervously asked. "Just one... you don't get better from this, do you?" "No, Dad, you don't." I said softly. I thought of trying to look for a bright side, but there is none. What more could I say?

"So I guess if we're going to Mom's grave I'd better do it sooner than later."

"That's a great idea, Dad." I said, trying to sound cheery for his sake. He was quiet, then the phone rang or a child cried, I don't remember which, and I left for a moment. When I returned and he had a broken look on his face.

"Are you OK, Dad?" I asked feebly, knowing it was a stupid question.

"I'd just like to meet the guy who invented Alzheimer's." was all he said, and he turned back to look at the fish.

So would I, Dad.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Your Face, Book

I did it. I told myself I didn't want to, swore I wouldn't become a part of this ridiculous, shallow, high school-esque trend. I had my theories about it, or them, rather. The people with too much time on their hands, who sit at their computer all day living in a virtual world while the real one swirled around them, passed them by.

You see, I believed in the old saying; "Friends come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime." It seemed to me that Facebook had the capacity of interrupting the space time continuum, taking people out of the past, completely out of context, and catapulting them into the now, into my now. What if someone found me that I had purposely lost? What if, worse yet, I was one of the invites that was quietly ignored? If I ever had a friend that I cared for, certainly I would not have lost contact with them, I told myself. There is a natural selection, a Darwinian survival of the fittest-ness that exists within friendships. Use it or lose it, take care or take off.

And that is as it should be. After all, I have had friends in my life that were great for that time in my life, but who, on a day that neither of us likely recognized, took a sideways step to a nearby path that eventually took them far away from me. But as I continued along my path, I encountered new friends that filled in the gaps, enriched my life, comforted me and made me laugh. Imagine if we tried to keep up all of the friendships we had ever had. Imagine how little time we would have with each of them; grade school chums and college roommates, church folks and old neighbors. It would be like that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy tries to keep up with the chocolates tumbling down the conveyor belt for her to box. Only when there are too many, they either fall on the floor or wind up stuffed in her mouth or pockets. How does one nourish a lifetime of meaningful relationships in cyber-now, and still be in the now?

I knew all this, yet the Facebuzz that droned on around me piqued my curiosity. Damn internal cat. I just had to feed my curiosity, just to take a peek. But that peek proved terminal to my judgmental resolve.

It would be so easy to click that little "Sign-up" button. I hesitated. I told myself it was just to look. But once my account was made, the voyeur in me took over. I looked up the names of old boy friends and a few high school rivals. I even looked for a chubby girl from kindergarten, just because I could remember her name, and just to see if she was still chubby. I became a 14 year old, and stayed up late that night checking the friends lists of friends of friends. I was a junkie, a Facebook whore. I hated myself in the morning.

In the light of day I shook off the shackles of my own lame curiosity. I set up some rules for myself. I knew right away that I never wanted to post what I was doing. I was embarrassed for my friends who had succumbed to the trend. "Susan is thinking about eating a whole container of Hagan Daz", "Chris just tried pork rinds for the first time." In the old days we would never have wanted people to know the mundane details of our everyday lives, now we go out of our way to update them from our iphones.

I also knew I would only send private messages. I may have floated my name out there into the world wide post office, but I didn't need the world to read my mail.

And so I messaged. I was excited to have found a few folks that I had fallen out of contact with unintentionally. I wrote to them about my life now, filling in the gap of years since we had last seen each other, and asking questions about them. I waited breathlessly for a reply.

And waited.


A few more days.

Still nothing.

Then one day, there in my inbox, an email from Facebook telling me I had a message!

I opened it and read. "So great to see you here on Facebook! Your family looks great! We live in Az now! See you on the wall!" Wasn't that a Pink Floyd song? (And is it a hardfast Facerule that all sentences must end with such enthusiasm?)

I tried for a while longer, a few weeks maybe. But I didn't like being the chocolate that fell on the floor. I was ashamed. I had fallen for it, hook, line and keyboard. Time to take my brick back out of the wall.

I have wandered back there, once or twice, the way you might drive by your old high school. I haven't found the kind of reunions I expected, but that's ok. It's not the right season, and Facebook is not a good enough reason.