Monday, June 14, 2010

The Other Guy

The other guy is dying. He'd had a parallel experience to my father's: laborious decline into dementia, a stint in a psych hospital and then, the dementia ward. Like my father, he was combative and aggressive. Like my father, he had a strong and healthy body. The wife was bereft. We'd stood together in the hall, the wife, my mother and I, listening to his sputtering rage. We huddled in the lobby. We compared. We commiserated. We held hands.

Now they've called in hospice. His body is trapped under a belt, his wrists strapped to the bed rails. The medication has reduced him to silence.

"How're you doing, Mr. Hale?" I shout into his room as my father and I pass by. My father walks with a staggered gait, a ghost in orthopedic sneakers. Our elbows are linked; I clench his arm to my side. He is not dying.

How're you doing? What a stupid question.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Don't Pick Up That Phone!

He bit someone. My father bit someone. The man known throughout his professional life as "creampuff bob" bit an aide on the arm. It was an unprovoked bite; he wasn't angry or defensive. Like a shark nibbling on bait, he simply sank his teeth into any arm that presented itself. The aide was taken to the clinic and my father was given a sedative.

The nursing home is required to report violent behavior, so my phone rang soon after nine. "Your father had an event," the nurse started. An event. That's what they call everything. Like they're having a party or something. I wish they didn't call me. I wish I didn't know anything. I prefer my original perception of my father. I prefer thinking about him as funny and inspiring, thought-provoking, challenging and intellectual and witty. I am trying so hard to remember him like that. But then, the phone rings.