We have a complicated carpool but the lady who has put herself in charge is dedicated and I like talking to her on the phone and because we haven’t met, our chats have the liberating quality of phone sex, without the sex part. There is a school picnic on Saturday so I’ll be able to attach a face to the voice, although I am a bit intimidated, as her phone message indicates she teaches Pilates, Alexander Technique and something called Trauma Recovery, which might be another of those new agey Mount Washington crackpot things, or my destiny or probably something that just IS that I (now that I do yoga!) can be open minded about. I do wonder if I’ll be able to speak to her so freely after we breathe the same air.
Aliki is thrilled as, according to her, the old guy is “eating and pooping” which intimates he is ordering matzah balls from the Jerry’s across the street from Cedars and retiring to the commode with the Variety, but unfortunately, the old man’s bodily functions are all being performed by tubes and machines and two doctors reminded me this week how grim the prognosis is. I commanded them to respect Aliki’s fervent hope and prayer while bearing in mind, that like me, my Pop has always been a huge wuss about pain. As he is oxymoronically “stable on life support” Aliki and I perhaps have different expectations, but we are working together and harmoniously and out of love for my dad.
I can’t be in the hospital room for but a few minutes because it feels like I’m standing there awkwardly in yellow paper scrubs and rubber gloves hovering over what USED to be my dad. Yes, I will feel like an asshole (his surviving this long is already a miracle to the doctors and Aliki’s prayers are potent and awesome) if Grandpa is dancing at Spud’s Bar Mitzvah next year. But I would also feel like an asshole if I were unprepared for what seems, for all practical purposes, a huge change on the horizon, and one I, de facto leader of the family and the family enterprise, need to be prepared for. Aliki makes excuses for my glaring absence at the hospital and speaks appreciatively of my obligations. She is there with him 24 hours a day. My father, it appears, is dying. The truth is, I have no obligations more urgent than being present for his passing. If I could talk with him, or if he could hear or understand me, I would climb the 7 flights of the Saperstein Critical Care Unit on bloody knees to be by his side. I am too weak though for the current vigil and there, with the hum and pumping of the machines it is hard for me to think anything but corpse and I am desperate to flee. Aliki understands this but gently spares me the humiliation of my pathetic weakness by referring to my “obligations.”
During the time when there are no obligations, real or perceived by Aliki, I’ve been eating wasabi almonds in bed and watching a lot of HBO shows. Himself and I, watched the first episode of the new dirty show Tell Me that You Love Me (two sex acts-missionary position, one with testicles visible from a not particularly attractive position, one pretty graphic hand job and Jane Alexander sporting a shit eating grin after having obviously, but not graphically, given head). Not bad for 52 minutes. The therapy sessions themselves seems a bit off base to me but the sex looked like real sex, and more to the point, I was touched by the distress of the struggling couples and blown away by the way, in 52 short minutes, the universal desperation to connect and feel loved came through with a sort of Spartan elegance.
Summer ends in a few days. Diana had her last chemo last week. We wrote regularly all summer but I haven’t laid eyes on her since May. I get a flutter when I see a note from her in my mailbox. She is stalwart and funny and strong and bitchy and dead on and very easy to write to. In the final throes of sick making chemo, she reached out to me with kind words about my dad, when others, seemingly less afflicted, have been mysteriously and heart-breakingly silent. I am looking forward to a time when Diana feels well and strong enough to share air and lunch but am nervous and giddy about stepping out of the confessional and into the clear light of Silverlake to embrace my real friend.
Letters from Drjlmurphy in my inbox also warm my heart. I do not sleep well these days and the condition of the house is such that there’s no place to really be but our bedroom or the kid’s, so I can’t slip off to read during bouts of insomnia. Last night, it became too much and I found myself bereft and sobbing in the middle of the night. My husband wrapped me in his arms and his love until I drifted into a peaceful sleep. Aliki has hired people to help care for my dad and planned elaborate meals for when he comes home. God bless her.