Memorial Night

May has been difficult. I had food poisoning on my birthday. The 13th was my parents’ anniversary. The 22nd was my father’s birthday. And Memorial Day weekend will forever be conjoined with the Indy 500 and my dad’s love for the race he grew up watching. More than once, as a kid, I was put in charge of holding the tape recorder next to the radio and stopping the recording during commercials (”I don’t want any Bruce Petro ads!”) or tornado warnings (that was a very scary spring), plus flipping or changing the tape when a side got close to ending. In the ’70s, no local TV station would show the race, so my dad would tape-record the radio broadcast and listen to it during the dead of winter in the garage, the propane heater doing its best to emulate late-spring sunshine.

It’s also creeping up on the one-year anniversary of my flying out to be with my parents during and after his knee replacement surgery. Many times, when I’m stressed at work or traveling for work or what have you, I find myself in a public restroom and feeling worse than terrible — but then I remember how frightened and tearful I was last July in Dupont Medical Center, during those short times I could be alone and release the agony of watching him suffer through so much pain. Pain that seemed to make a mockery of the decades of pain he’d lived through, toughed it out through. Seeing him in a hospital bed asking to die, yelling at me and my mom in a morphine haze — going through something I’d been sure would eventually lead him to a better place. (Though I turned out to be wrong.)

I miss him like crazy, and can’t quite get my head around not being able to call him up and talk about cooking and gardening and the Simpsons and my ridiculous Uncle Jerry. I used to make him laugh, and it was the best thing ever. I still feel surprised sometimes when I remember he’s not around.

All of my grandparents died relatively young: one grandmother in her 50s, when my mom was a teenager; her husband at 79, on a fishing trip in Canada; and my father’s parents in their early 70s after years of illness. I sort of expected to have both my parents around at least past their 60s.

Now my mother is having health issues: she has a consult next Friday about a cardiac catheterization that her doctor has ordered based on the long day of tests she had a couple of weeks ago. She won’t know more about it until the consultation, and I want to be hopeful that it’s for diagnostic purposes only — but even then, it’s usually done to evaluate how much damage has been done to the heart muscle. (She had two heart attacks in her 30s.) It’s unfair that someone with such a fiercely good heart should suffer the indignity of having a tube snaked up into it.

I shouldn’t be so skittish and scared about this latest news and in general, but I don’t know how not to be. It’s part of why I’ve been so lax about posting for the past six months. I’d rather have interesting and original and positive things to write about, and I fear I’m dwelling overly much on things I should have dealt with by now or fear of what’s to come. I shouldn’t still be so shattered.

7 Responses to “Memorial Night”

  1. Heather says:

    Visit Heather

    What a poignant post–thank you.

    I don’t think that as adult children we ever get over that feeling of being shattered by the (gradual) loss of our parents. I suppose that part of growing up is learning how to be in the world without our parents.

  2. Terri says:

    Visit Terri

    There’s nothing uninteresting about this. On the contrary, once again, your blog has unique depth. Your courage is really something.

    Cherish the fact that you have these memories. You are fortunate to have been so close to your dad.

    Worrying about our loved ones is natural. I worry about my family all the time–even when the only reason I have to worry is knowing what a mess I will be if and when I ever lose any of them. It just means that we love them, and that is a very very good thing.

    Facing my family’s medical history reminds me of how much I need to take care of myself. There are people in this world who cherish you and will be lost if you should make an untimely exit. Keep taking care of yourself. We need you!!


  3. LLA says:

    Visit LLA

    I’d like to echo what Terri said directly above. Because she just said exactly what I wanted to say, but she managed to articulate it at least a gazillion times better than I could ever have hoped to…

    huge. big. hug.

  4. Ezra says:

    Visit Ezra

    I don’t think you need to feel like there’s a timeline for you to “deal with” anything either. I know I don’t have a lot of firsthand experience with this kind of thing, but my cousins, whom I feel pretty close to, lost their dad last March, and I think the first anniversary of everything for the first year was pretty rough. Even now, when I think about how the youngest of them looked at Thanksgiving is making me well up. Jewish tradition has an “unveiling” ceremony one year after the funeral, and I think that makes a lot of sense. There is something similar in Indian tradition that I know some of my Indian co-workers have gone back home for a year after a parent’s death.

    Anyway, I think that modern American culture really affords too little time for people to deal with these things, and that it’s just not so weird for you to feel like you feel.

    And count me in the full-time, card-carrying Editrix Supporter camp, too.

  5. Terri says:

    Visit Terri

    Agreed, Ezra, and I meant to say that, too. I hope that you can come to peace with what’s happened, Trixie, but I also know that some bit of hurt might never go away, and there’s nothing wrong with that (except, of course, that it hurts). I picked up a quote from the movie Shadowlands (it might originally be from a book, not sure), but I think it applies here: “The pain now is part of the happiness then.” It is because you love and are loved that you feel these things, and it is a blessing more than a curse.

  6. Paula says:

    Visit Paula

    “The pain now is part of the happiness then.” It is because you love and are loved that you feel these things, and it is a blessing more than a curse.Very well put, yes!

  7. Flasshe says:

    Visit Flasshe

    Trixie, I’m very sorry to hear about your mom’s problems and I hope it’s nothing serious. We’ve all been through too much lately, haven’t we? You know I know what you’re going through, and I’m sending good thoughts your way. I loved this post despite the darkness. Too bad real life imposes on Internet life, but hey, that’s what makes it all interesting.

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