This is one of those nights where I know I am not going to sleep well, if at all, and not going to wake up anywhere near rosy and enthusiastic. I sit here with two fans and an air conditioner blowing toward me, Butterscotch half-mooned on the bed corner because I was bugging her. The bed is strewn with (excellent) books, the tv is on but not tuned to anything but a screen saver, there's half a glass of going-flat Diet Coke on the bedside table. I just took my meds.
I am not sure if it was the late afternoon yoga class, the beer I had at Taco Tuesday dinner at Taco Surf, or just the stress of dealing with someone who has lost much capacity and cannot even remember that. Janet treats me like a servant. When I mention this to her, she acts surprised.
It was hard enough growing up as the female anomaly in what would have been a pretty happy boys' town without me. I remarked to my niece because it occurred to me while swimming laps that my father would have been a better parent, the family would have been happier and more prosperous if my younger brother, Carl, and I had not been born.
Wally doted on my older brothers, taught them to shoot and to drive, took them to work and on other excursions. He took me, too, sometimes, but he was clearly more bonded with them. He got tired of the family. He couldn't control it once we were older and he seemed to be just tired of it. He relinquished much of the day-to-day and pretty much all of the emotional wrangling to Janet. It wasn't her forte either. She just wanted her cats and her yoga.
The trait or bad habit I inherited from both of them was dismissiveness. For a long time, I thought it was passed father to sons. But then I saw it in myself. And what a shitty thing it is. Of course, I dismiss myself almost as much as I dismiss everything else. And then I realized Janet does it too.
Is it some sort of defense mechanism? A decision in a series of decisions to not deal? Not to hear, not to listen, not to heed, not to respect. Not to consider. Well, I am here to tell you that it gets worse when you get older.
I know my mother is old and losing it, but she has also lost her awareness of other humans. SHE NEVER DOES ANYTHING KIND FOR ME. I mean, she might make enough of her coffee for me to share, but that is about it. (I drink espresso, not drip.) She doesn't think nor offer to do anything else. I exist to serve her. I guess I am some sort of slave as I don't get paid but room and board, and I can't leave.
I dislike who I am these days. Not all of that is due to this situation, this care-taking. Being so isolated rather strips you down in an unpleasant light. You get to see the imagined you you thought you were ... as I quoted in the last post ...
You had so many ways of deciding which way to live your life. It made his head spin to think of them. It hurt his heart to think that he decided on the wrong way.
A thing seemed important until there was something more important.
— Carys Davies, West
oooh yeah, that wrong way is a damn doozy.
I do not want to be a graceless, mean, impatient, dismissive, angry caregiver. Yet, I do not know nor see a way to be patient, gracious, loving, and kind. I cannot see a path. I cannot break my reactions down into steps. I can't make progress with that end of goodness in sight.
And I know I will be devastated when Janet is gone. I will regret not kissing her goodnight every night. I will regret my anger and swearing and frustration and dismissiveness. More remorse up ahead.
The fleas are terrible, although the cats have all had their flea meds this month. The hot weather is good for those fuckers. They like me too and every trip to the garden or across the lawn results in those bites and the cycle of itching, scratching, bleeding, infection, soreness. The ladies at the pedicure place tsk at my scarred legs. Perhaps I can get the flea abaters in again.
And then there is all of our despair about the fall and failure of the American dream or even some of the American reality. The Craven Capitalists have won and we are strictly in Auden country. Come on, say it with me:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity ....
There was a substitute teacher in the Sunday Restorative Yoga class. I knew she would have patience for Janet, who is a bit slow on the uptake and can't always hear well. After several rounds of going/not going, I had given up due partly to the heat. At the last minute, she decided she wanted to come, thought it would be good for her. The class was terrific. The teacher paid extra attention to her and was most kind. At the end, Janet sat on the floor and wept. She had not been in this kind of "yoga space" for so long.
|Janet sleeping in a chair.|
Janet talks about Ariel every single day, several times a day. Her sorrow and her missing Ariel is so sad. There is no comfort I can give. I know Janet is mourning herself and her life, but when I try to get her to think or talk more deeply, she won't (or can't) do it.
Ariel was the kindest being of any species I have ever met or known. She was never an asshole to anyone. She was loving, appreciative, and had an extremely calming presence. She was Janet's familiar and there will not be anyone or anything to replace her.
Most losses add something—
a new socket or silence,
a gap in a personal
archipelago of islands.
We have that difference
a going-on of sorts.
But there are other losses
so far beyond report
that they leave holes
in holes only
like the ends of the
long and lonely lives
thought dead but not.
— Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, New York, Grove Press, 2010