Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Time gives perspective, so there's that. Sunday I got the message that my father needed to go to the emergency room. He's not allowed to have a drivers licence. Well, I'm trapped, aren't I. Who else is there? He's insulted my brother's wife so deeply that this door is closed. My other brother is 40 minutes away, and my father doesn't like him anyway. Not that he likes any of us. He's done me, at least, the courtesy of informing me that he doesn't like me, so I don't have to wonder. I spent most of Sunday night ranting to myself like a madman. I am definitely sick, on this issue.

But that's how I spent Labor Day -- in the ER, waiting for my father to come back out. He'd fallen a couple of months ago, and hurt his shoulder and his hip, and he said there was pain and it wasn't healing right. Now the doctor has told him there's significant atrophy. My father has been a weightlifter for over 50 years, so it's a real crisis for him. And of course there's the sad fact that half of all old people who break a hip die within 18 months. He didn't break a hip, but he is fading.

You can see this is a real character flaw in me. A pathology, frankly. A disease of the soul. Poisonous. There must be a big reason for it. I wish I could remember. But it's on him too. There has never been a relationship that he has not betrayed. Now he is living out the end of a life that brought him to a place of profound isolation, loneliness, regret, incomprehension and pain. I wrote a poem over 35 years ago about it. It ended, So die alone, you/who did not need and/would not have/our love. How did I know? Even as a teenager I could see it coming. If I'm unsympathetic, it's not because I don't see how pitiful he is. And I am sympathetic. But I don't want to expose myself to the madness.

As I was dropping him back home, he told me again how any day now I was going to have prostate problems. I just gave a cynical laugh and shook my head. He wondered what it was. Apparently he didn't remember having this conversation with me on a prior occasion. I suggested that prostate problems are powerfully correlated with dietary animal fats. He disagreed, being, as he is, a bigtime milk drinker. I asked him when the last time was that he read a book. He said, sort of softly, that he reads. I asked if it was anything like a large body of non-fictional information presented in an organized manner.

I am right, but it's unworthy of me. Something about leopards and spots. He is a foolish crazy old man who needs to be loved, and although I have many complex and confused feelings, I don't feel love. It's not only that I am a hard man. I am harsh, as well. An unlovely trait.

My foolish mother has a number of untrained and not housebroken little dogs that, if they have names, don't know them, and who yap and snarl at the wind and shadows and the spots that float across the surface of their eyes. I suggested that she give one to my foolish father. She said, "Oh, but they all love each other so much." I said, "Did you hear what you just said?" She hadn't. Better that a dog be stupidly indulged, than that a desperate old man have at least a dog as a companion. No matter. He wouldn't accept a dog anyway. Don't ask me how I know. He wants things exactly the way he wants them, or nothing at all. Sort of the reason he's alone now.

I wish I were braver, in this. I just don't need the pain -- facing all the turmoil of ugly emotion boiling as in a magma chamber in the depth of my heart. If I could have someone with me, for a visit, or if it weren't always at his god-awful house -- emotionally something like the house in Silence of the Lambs. But who would go with me? My brothers? Not likely. Trapped trapped trapped. What a world.


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