Daddy’s Desk

image source: Bing images

image source: Bing images

In the top drawer is Daddy’s inexpensive silver wristwatch with its flexible, stretch band.  Without his warm flesh and steady heartbeat, it stopped.  I tried wearing it when I noticed, but it was too late.  So it lays here, the date feature, Mon 20, the time, 5:05 p.m. and ten seconds.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Funny that, since Daddy died on Monday the 20th.  I wonder now, did it stop the day he died, or did it run longer?  I can’t remember, which is strange, because at the time, I thought I’d never forget.

I’ve kept the yellow post-it notes he wrote and stuck on the side of the filing cabinet by the desk.  Doctor’s number, appointment reminders, police and newspaper phone numbers.  I like looking at his handwriting.  Printing, really.  The only time he used cursive was to write his distinctive and legible signature.

image source: Bing images

image source: Bing images

I was an adult before he confessed his handwriting was terrible, so he printed.  I’d always thought his familiar script was his preferred writing; neat, precise letters in a straight line, the “a” like a typewriter “a” with the tail curving across the top.  Not like the round “ɑ” they taught me in grade school.

I want to remember him in his strength; when it was easy to open drawers, when his watch ticked efficiently; when it was nothing for him to write a note to me, or to write in the checkbook.  I don’t want to think about those days he wasted away to a potbelly on a skeleton frame, the minutes and hours and days of caregiving roaring loud in my ears as we inched across the horizon toward his setting sun.

His abdomen filled with fluid as his body failed from liver cancer.  I was clueless.  He hardly ate, yet his pants were too tight to button?  I cringe now to think of things I could have done to make his days easier.

I don’t want to remember the last time he wrote.  The first time we went to the lab to have 2 liters of fluid drawn off his belly, he signed and dated the forms with ease.  The last time we went, his consent signature looked like the illegible scribbles of a two-year old.  His precise, neat printing and his one concession to cursive writing were gone.  It wasn’t long before he was gone.

Crile R. Dean

Crile R. Dean

I come often to this place that was Daddy’s domain.  I sit at the big metal desk that’s marred by years of use and run my hands over the scratched and scarred surface.  I can see how he grasped the handle of each drawer, the black paint worn away to gun-metal gray where his thumb extended to press for leverage to pull them open.  In memory I see him here.  He calls me honey.  He sings, smiles, talks ethics, politics, religion and sports.  He remains in my heart.  Until I join him, I’ll hold on to the simple reminders.  I won’t forget.

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i am subject

I am participating in Diane DeBella’s #iamsubject project http://www.iamsubject.com/the-iamsubject-project/. Here is my #iamsubject story:

It felt good to know who I was.  My job paid enough that I could live in Beverly Hills adjacent.  Just a one bedroom apartment but fine for a single, career woman.  I was ten minutes from work and in Southern California’s one to two-hour commutes, I was living easy.  My circle of friends from church and I went to movies, ate out and were there for each other.  I was loving it.

When I moved back to California, Mother wanted me to live and work near her and Daddy but my skills meant LA’s financial center and living near them in Pomona would have been a two-hour commute.  Still, weekend trips were doable.  I knew I had the best of both worlds.

I had lost weight, had a new wardrobe, learned which colors and hairstyles looked good on me, was taking voice lessons and singing regularly at church.  The new pianist and I were getting to know each other.  He had a red sports car.  Life was good, fun, exciting.

Mother was working on family genealogy when I got to the house that Friday night.  The dining room table held picture albums and family tree info.  She jumped up, piled things together and fretted and fussed about how she meant to have the table cleared for dinner.  In the study, Daddy was at his desk.  He gave me a warm smile, a kiss and a hug.

Mother made Daddy’s favorite meal of steak and baked potatoes.  As we ate, I asked Daddy about his work driving all over Southern California meeting with churches that wanted financing for new buildings.  The talk turned to genealogy and the history Mother was compiling.

I was content.  The old, Spanish house with craftsman hardwood trim was cluttered with pictures of my brothers and sister and all their kids, Mother’s plants and knick-knacks covered every space, her various projects were stacked around.  The book shelves were overflowing.  Cozy and lived in.

Daddy pushed his chair back, took off his glasses and cleaned them with his napkin.  Mother was still eating tiny bites.

“I found pictures of the house we lived in when you were born,” she said.  “I had two babies and a toddler, all in diapers.  Your father was out working all day.  We propped you up in the corner of the couch with your bottle,” she sipped her iced tea.

“Mama” she went on, “came out for the weekend and said, ‘That baby is failing; if you don’t want her, I’ll take her.’”

A knife-like pain hit my gut.  I couldn’t breathe.  I flushed hot.

“Well, it scared us to death, of course.  We never did that again.  We held you for every bottle,” Mother went on cutting and chewing.

Daddy smiled at me and stood and carried his plate to the kitchen sink.  My head was spinning.  I don’t remember the rest of the evening, but in the spare room, the twin bed tight against storage boxes, my sleep was flooded with old thoughts and feelings.  I didn’t fit in at school, was too afraid to take an art class or join in sport or school clubs.  I could never make Mother happy.  She never approved of my hair, what I wore, what I wanted to do.  I never felt pretty or useful.  I was worthless.  I jerked awake as bile rose and threatened suffocation.  The pain in my gut told me I finally understood.

The next day I limped back to Beverly Hills adjacent, wounded and scarred.  One part of me weighed the facts: she was a young mother, busy, overwhelmed, and tired.  Daddy was out working; they did the best they could.  The other part of me felt pain in my gut; ache in my heart; the need to know I was loved and valuable to Mother.  Life with Mother had always been about her, not me.  I felt weighted, drugged, my nose barely above the surface of heavy water, the swirling mists taking the shape of Mother.

I opened the door to my apartment and knew I had to choose.  I could drown in the nightmare of old memories, old programmed responses or I could embrace who I had become, be the new person I had learned to like.  There was only one way out.  It would take time, but I couldn’t go back.  I would have to forgive.  I pushed through the heavy funk that swirled around me, opened the drapes and let in the light.  The specter of Mother in the murk faded away.

Disappearance.1

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

We heard today
our friend went
into hospital.

Bed sores,
disoriented,
blood sugar out of whack,
anemic.

They noticed,
I guess.  Anyway
they called an ambulance.

I remember her
at the piano,
smiling her toothless grin.

The piano was silent
a Sunday
or two while she
won in a bowling league.

Nice retirement,
if you can get it.
Especially for one
in her mid-sixties.

Young, right?
Why, these days,
90 is the dying age.
There’s a whole
new world after
work’s decades.

Her knees said no.
The pain took over.
Her hands rebelled
with the extra effort.
The pain grinned
and dug in.

She disappeared
little by little.
Gone this day,
gone that weekend,
gone for a month,
gone over a year, now.

Comfy in her chair
and in bed, she said
via the phone.
We never see her
anymore.

Isn’t there hope?
What about knee
replacements?
Steroid shots?
New procedures?
Laser surgery?

I ask into the void
of cafeteria
medicine.

Is there no hope?
Why, 70 is
young. Right?

I know others
her age and
older,
still productive,
still active,
still interested,
still moving,
still excited.
Not disappearing.

Why, she’s just
a few years older
than me.

Is there no hope?
Bedsores and
disorientation,
why, these are
for the elderly
infirm,
for the terminally
ill,
for the disappearing.

Disappearance
looms like a black
cloud,
threatening
to maim.

Give in,
it whispers.
Let go,
it breathes.
Accept,
it calls.

My fury rises.
Is there no one
who will fight for
her life,
her independence,
her purpose,
her productivity?
Does no one care?

I look at my
elderly Mother,
older than my friend by
maybe fifteen years.
Mother knows pain.
Mother has to fight
to win;
Mother has to
determine to
make everyday
count.
Mother has to
push through.

To think of Mother
disoriented,
with bed sores,
blood sugar out of whack,
I see red.
My ears steam.
My ire rises.
No disappearing
on my watch!

Who fights for
my friend?
Do her daughter
and granddaughters
see her elderly
and infirm?
Do they think
her productivity
is past?
Do they
recognize the
disappearance?

I’ve asked.
I’ve called,
I’ve pushed,
I’ve prodded,
I’ve tried.
I can’t force
her choices.
I’m not family.

I’m sad.
Perhaps it’s time
to accept
my friend
is embracing
disappearance.

Write

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Plumb the depths
dig into the gritty nitty
else  i l q1 r b H  and
all aaaa—zzzz—2222
fall hollow?

Reach no heights;
pale to  f a d e , the flesh
unknown.
So they say.

Dig it up, serve in red
bites, chunks drip,
for drool’s only run where
pain lives.  Apparently.

Risk.  Fly off the rock.
The greater the heaven
the greater the soar,
the greater the fall,
the greater the splat.
Splat.
Splat.

Ah, splat into wisdom’s eye shine
or splat into vapid’s barren desert?

Turn the letter-word-phrase to
a golden, light, even crust on all
sides.  Perfection?

Beauty’s in the eye of
the beholder, I’ve heard.
Still, word’s truths live
tho’ understanding varies.

Does this depth skim
some other’s surface?
Miss their depth?
Is this as
deep as I get?

Perhaps it takes a dig
beyond their deep
to get me.