OT: latest with my stepdad
We went to visit M this weekend. He moved into an assisted-living facility, since he couldn’t be on his own anymore. He can no longer drive, so he couldn’t get anything for himself. His mind is still pretty sharp, but his body is extremely frail and he needs a cane or a walker to keep his balance. He’ll be 96 in March.
His new place is actually kind of nice; he has his own little apartment, all his meals, plenty of activities (although he hasn’t availed himself of any of them). There’s a beautiful front room with a fireplace, and a game room with a big-screen TV, coffee and snacks available 24/7. Very quiet and spotlessly clean. At least I know he’s being taken care of.
He still jokes a lot (“Everyone here is so OLD!”). He misses my mother. Mercifully, he seems to have forgotten what a nightmare her last six or so years were, and his memories are fond. I’m glad for him, and a little envious. I know my mother and I had our good times, but whenever I think of her, it’s in a negative mode. In my memories, she’s always at her worst — screaming at me, criticizing me, embarrassing me, hurting my feelings. I hope that fades in time. Maybe it’s because we never had any sort of closure… she just sort of spiraled into dementia and I distanced myself.
My stepdad never had an easy time of it with this family, poor guy. I’d written in my book about how much I resented him when he started seeing my mother, but I was just a little kid. Turns out my brother Ken wasn’t too nice to him either! M was telling us about the first time he had dinner at our house; I guess I wasn’t there for this. He put a little ketchup on his steak, and Ken made a face and said, “How gauche.” How rude! But you know, we were both such a mess, really. M thinks Ken would have outgrown it, had he lived. I wonder.
We went for dinner, and then M and John watched football. I didn’t really mind, as that spared me from having to make further conversation. Instead, I buried myself in a photo album, discovering pictures I’d never seen before. I have very few shots of Ken and me together — mostly ones where I was very small. So it was amazing to find the following. I have vague memories of the two of us playing duets on the piano, but I often wondered if I’d imagined it, because there were no pictures of it. Until now.
The ride home was the usual. John fell asleep, and I drove along, steeped in memories, and feeling that old heavy sadness wrap itself around me like a winter shawl. John knew. He was extra sweet to me, very attentive, doing everything he knew would make me laugh.
It is what it is, as they say. But I can’t help wishing sometimes that it wasn’t.
I need to get back into gear. I need to play again. There’s that word again: balance. I need it. There must be more fun and silliness.
Today: back to the gym. Tomorrow: FUN and PLAY, dammit! And back on topic!