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Archive for the ‘life’s twilight’ Category

So many days (weeks) have passed since I have posted. I have tried to write, especially at night, I sat in the darkened room at the little desk. As always, my Mother’s life support motors continued to whoosh and play in synchro-nized tones as I sat in the dark. The computer screen dimmed to maximum so the darkness wrapped around and cradled me.

Even as I sat in this well-known spot, the words rarely came. Instead, a stream of empty-headed babble floated in and around my head and quickly I began to feel very exhausted which then lead me to give up and go to bed. One more night wasted. Not only did I not write, but also the time sitting uselessly in the chair robbed me of the time I should be sleeping. It felt like a vicious cycle as the wasted hours accumulated and the body’s exhaustion peaked at new levels that take forever to lower. I admit I am sleep deprived and it does take rest for the mind to function. The body is a funny thing and shows you what needs to be done as it takes charge when I attempted to type. Without realizing it, I fell fast asleep. When I awakened only a moment later, I noticed that I needed to delete the letters and characters I had rested my fingers on as the body shut down for the moment.

The lack of sleep may make me continually disagreeable and it may cause my body to eat more than it should, but it is not the only cause for my lack of words. Lack of words, the blank mind, it is a worry to me. In addition, so many times, as I sat trying to write I found the things that bother me the most encroached upon my mind. These worries moved stealthily to the forefront of my thoughts and for a while I felt that it didn’t make any difference what I wrote about, yet I questioned how I could integrate them into my journey to my Crepusculum.

In the short time I have been posting, not all I write is directly related to my queries of the twilight, but I realize everything has the ability to influence my thinking and help me understand how I might react to problems during my time within my twilight. Any interaction I have is a permanent part of my experience and my experience will guide me down the path of exploration.

But then, I wonder, what do you, the reader, think if I continually make detours to salve the mind and let my worries come into your lives. Will you see them as I do or do you expect much more consistency in presenting issues that I face in preparation for the next stage of my life? Now after five paragraphs do you question the validity of my not writing before now? I am sure it seems like writing to you, but to me it has only been a way that I can move from a state of blankness to a state of combining words…. a state slightly less than written text.

Surprisingly now, I need to tell you more. I need to let you know how these past days have been so undirected. I am tired, very tired, but each day I know, I must go on. As I continue on each day (M. says I am not completely aware of what I do) I hope that I can continue giving my mother the same care as I have been, regardless that her care requirements have nearly tripled. I also wish that she is able to enjoy some form of happiness during this time and while these thoughts are active, I stop and remember all of you, as well as the other people who take the time to write me their well wishes.

Then, without hesitation, I take a very long moment to send peace to Shadowlands as she watches over her husband, and I especially hope that her heart gently safeguards her through these trying days as her husband passes into the shadows of his darkness. Of us two, she is the stronger and I read in awe of how she continues each new day, rarely beleaguered before him, yet inwardly being overwhelmed and possibly alone.

Therefore, he and my mother, as everyone does upon leaving their twilight, begin another journey, a final, unidirectional journey into a personal darkness. Some may say a light may guide you through that darkness, but even if it isn’t present often a living person can help by always being by their side. I know Shadowlands will walk with her husband every step of the way and I have promised my mother that I will be with her, regardless how long the journey may be.

The promises, the care, the worries, the tiredness are all a part of my life now. Even though they may be problematic, it is my choice. These are easy for me, as compared to that final moment, the final good bye, that realization that I will never hear her speak, just as Shadowlands will never hear her husband’s voice again. Sure, the voice has been a part of my life; I can listen to it in my head at any time, but never again in the spontaneous conversation that has always been between us. Therefore, I think of a time during my mother’s last hospitalization that becomes very poignant. A respiratory therapist told me quite firmly that I need to grab a hold and deal with my mother’s death, She repeated this even louder and firmer as she left the room…………”Deal with it! NOW!” The words still echo in my head, but particularly that day left me speechless and almost childlike. Now, with time to do its work I can say I may need to “deal with it”, I have tried unsuccessfully for too many years and now I know that there is no way I will ever be prepared!

Maybe now, once again I can write. I made it this far and my mind continues to be a tiny bit open. As I think on what I have written, it only reminds me how important it is for me to settle so much about my care when I reach that final journey, because I probably won’t have anyone I know to make sure everything will be as I want. I will be alone to walk through the darkness on a unidirectional journey.

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Each day, in various ways, I think about my upcoming years within my twilight. At first, the thoughts are not overwhelming, but as they age they lead me from generalized thinking to a defined concern. I collect the concerns, after their fruition, file them away and then retrieve them for conscious exploration. Undeveloped concerns remain floating in the periphery of my consciousness until I decide to explore it or they never choose them. Possibly the ones that I never explore are the most difficult and so I avoid addressing those issues. In addition, a worry may be difficult to explore because the information is at the time of occurrence, although some worries are innocently prefabricated with out anything proven.

Regardless of what type of concern, the seeds are in my head buried in numerous ways. Sometime within my second year of college, during the time that I was taking many anthropology and art history courses I developed an uncanny picture of a group of people that had lived during the 15th and 16th century. Most of the group lived as artists, whose work kept their memory alive in the future. There were others in the picture that did not have any recognized voice in the future. I became very tense. I sat down on the ground without moving, nor speaking, because I couldn’t stop thinking about those “unknowns” in the picture. Who were they and what did they do? Without knowing those answers they were like empty, shells arranged within the picture plane and were used for color, texture or balance as any other prop might be.

It is then that I realized the limitations of remembering. Your accomplishments and your work becomes the catalyst for a memory of you by future generations. However, if you are unable to produce something so remarkable, then the people that knew you while you were living can only recognize your personal accomplishments. Possibly those memories, especially in families, can be handed down to each generation, but eventually that link will broken and suddenly you can become just another marker in a vast field of markers for mankind

My thinking opened a magnanimous perplexity for me in justifying a life form; particularly mine when I asked, “Is living without eternal recognition sufficient enough reason to be here?” With a raised eyebrow I realized the enormity of my question and decided that it was best left alone in its entirety, but another thought tumbled forth and it required me to reflect upon my life and fill any gaping holes or quiet any inconsistencies. Through careful examination of all actions and decisions in my life, I could be able to tell if I had affected anyone even if they didn’t know me. It seemed correct to state that if someone knew of me and didn’t know me then it would be quite possible for a future person to know something about me.

All of this began to feel ostentatious. Once again, I slumped to the floor feeling a little overwhelmed and knew I needed to return to a logical and thorough reflection of my life to guide me in the future. Instinctively, I knew that this was the appropriate time to look at my life–a time before being within Crepusculum,

a time to begin reflection.

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A Puzzlement!

It is late at night and once again, I only hear the steady, electrical hum from the motor in my mother’s oxygen concentrator, which, is followed by a clunk that signals the release of extra oxygen. Those sounds mingle with the inspiratory and expiratory breaths coming from the ventilator and the whirr from the spinning of my computer’s hard drive as a utility program runs its occasional scan. The darkness and the quietude make this eerily special, as I sit at the little desk in the corner, because the darkness wraps around me like the arms of a loved one, sealing me in security; its effect heightened by the juxtaposition of computer light and the arm of the darkness.

As I listen to the sounds, it becomes painfully apparent that she has completed her journey within her Crepusculum. Now Momma waits in her darkness until it is time for her departure. Daily, she waits anxiously, patient for M to feed her, to bathe, to do anything. I am aware how anxious she is and I believe her boredom is unyielding and unacceptable to her. Up until August, art and craft projects filled her daytime and by six p.m. I reminded her to stop so that I could get her ready for the evening and Momma would always tell me she wanted to work longer.

Now the hours and minutes tick forward for her and eventually the only thing that she does is to transfer from the bed to the sofa, or another area to the bed. As I stay by her side during the day, I chatter on to keep her less lonely and bored. I am reminded how little she smiles; where once the smile was almost continual, now I need to urge her to give me one. Even then, she feels she has nothing to smile about; instead, she only tells of tales from her confabulated memory bank and creatively fills the blank spaces extemporaneously.

When I tend to her for medical or personal concerns she often wants to be obstinate because she feels the repetitive acts of care cause her discomfort as we move her legs, arms or head. I ask her why she is so stiff, is it for protection or is it a physiological change. Rather than answer, her “no’s begin and she shakes her head representing what she doesn’t want me to do, although and more importantly the no, the little break into being obstinate, is a way for her to break from boredom.

Both she and I are not good at watching her, as she exists. We both get edgy and unfortunately, I become too impatient and forget I am able to walk across the room and reach; I can reach and since I can, I must remember that patience is paramount because I know that she will not remember what she said. Often Momma does not know me. Immediately I know her agitation and I know her reaction to me is a defense against someone she does not know, some one she knows does not love her and someone she does not trust. If I look into her eyes, I can see the fire of fear and fight glimmer in the corners. She is always ready to fight to keep her “self”, her oneness, her right to be. In her life, she has defended herself continually and learned these defenses at an early age from her own family. In contrast, I rarely have that same defense mechanism. My “fight” is only to protect my occupational position, or for someone who is close to me; but I never cross into a battled defense, as she is capable of doing and winning.

Her “fight”, the key to her survival is important, particularly when you are growing old. I know I will need to remember and learn from her. I need to sit in a Doctor’s office and be willing to tell that person what I want and what my beliefs are, rather than just going along with the program. My mother still has the punch of her old character most of the time, but there are many times that she is mentally too fragile to know it is the proper time to take care of her needs. These fluctuating times and the other changes that have happened in my mother are reminders to me that I might have as much trouble, as she has had, in my upcoming program of crepuscular life.

Looking ahead, anticipating and even planning for different problems later in my life is particularly worrisome because I believe I may be alone during my final years. Presently, I like being alone; let me spend day upon day eating, sleeping, gardening, everything being alone and I am a happy person. The solitude and quiet is incredible. I am inspired to walk, paint, make my sculptures, and do whatever I like and in so doing the time quickly passes.

Yes, the time can pass quickly and pleasurably. In my thirty-four year relationship, I have always enjoyed being alone, yet if it ceased then a cold, emptiness will step-in and the aloneness will have little purpose. Therefore, I have this quandary. Even if I am able to reorganize almost everything that can negatively affect me later in life, then how can I assuage the apprehensions I have about my final destiny if I am alone?

This is a puzzlement.

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For the past few weeks, especially since I initiated this blog, I question what will cause me to begin the twilight years of my life and if certain things happen, how I will react and what will I do.

Since I am now sixty I may be at the beginning of dusk for my day. If I am the sun in my day then it is possible I have not as much energy as before. If I am the I grass or the flowers under the sun then definitely I need a little more care to make me look even half as good as I used to and especially if I am the soil that takes time to rejuvenate its richness, then I am more patient in caring about my fellow man, listen more carefully than I ever have, intuitively see beyond now and welcome the wisdom I have been able to be given.

Even though my intuition let’s me understand hidden conditions and I acquired patience as my wisdom developed I am willing to admit my deficiencies, I have yet been able to understand human aging, its causes and more importantly how it effects us. The basis for something to age does not sit well with me. I cannot accept, nor do I understand why humans, especially, need go from stellar existence to something so unacceptable when there is continual suffering or a change that makes mobility impossible. Yes, there are those who are able to live until they are quite old without harsh physical or mental problems, but they are much fewer than the vast majority of people that inhabit the earth.

Just a few years ago, during graduate school, I addressed my concerns on aging in my final art exhibition. I need to expand what I brought to fruition in those pieces and my exploration needs to discover the current issues and facts that concern the elderly. Presently I find myself fantasizing about shadowy recesses and other impediments that are within my twilight. In order to dispel these fantasies I want to collect and share the stories of others that have preceded me into their own twilight.

Not only do I think that the twilight years have shadowy recesses that will affect me, I imagine there are cracks, fissures and sunken holes I can fall into that will take some time to get out, proving that “The Golden Years” are a misnomer. When my eyes may fail from macular degeneration, when I fall and break my hip, or find that I am in the throws of a stroke, should I then be thankful I didn’t get prostate cancer, discover a brain tumor that immobilizes me completely or at this point in life should I be thankful that my journey has led me to my darkest hour so that I shall breathe no longer?

Any or all of those conditions worry me about my later years. I wonder will I be like my parents and need care to get me through each day. If I do, and if this happens at approximately the same age as they began to have problems, then I realize I may have to face the transition from my twilight into my darkness all alone.

How shall I ever get ready to do that, or more appropriately how will I progress through the ups and downs in my twilight. Will I bump along until the ups and downs become so monumental that I will pass from twilight to darkness without an option to return? I need to find a path to follow, one with preset stops that direct me how to become prepared, or is it wrong to sojourn on this path to enrich my consciousness for a realm of greater understanding? Often I have wondered if I should let all my questions and explorations go. I think of my parents and grandparents, as well as many others, who didn’t question or plan. They lived their lives and when something catastrophic happened they knew someone in their family would assume a managerial position for them. Is it because the world has changed so much that I need to be ready to plan out my stages in aging during my twilight and if they include degenerative processes is it really necessary for me to plan for them? Is it because we have blogs and other types of discussion groups at moment’s hand to write or discuss our worries or is simplicity of view the avenue of best choice?

I don’t know for sure, but even though I ignore much of what goes on around me (which is by deliberate choice) I still prefer knowing everything that I am ignoring. Yes, I must continue to question, seek answers and think around a place I call Crepusculum.

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Presently, the night isn’t far from tomorrow. I can’t sleep and so I pace back and forth in the darkened room where my Mother sleeps. The only thing you hear, in the quiet of the house, is the swooshing sound of the oxygen concentrator and the cycle of pressured air headed toward the ventilator. In between those sounds, is the poof of blocked expiratory air by a peep valve that helps my Mother’s lungs remain open after she exhales.

The sounds of the machines, the glow of the numbers on the oximeter and the sight of her rising and falling chest calm me as I run from the reality of her death. I can’t imagine not being able to speak to her, be with her, listen to her voice and learn from what she says. So often she worries that no one who is around her will talk to her. She sits waiting or trying to talk to anyone, to whoever is here and then feels they never hear her. Oh yes, anyone can hear her, but I don’t think they realize she has something to say. It is difficult for them to grasp that Momma lives in two worlds. There is the one that is here in my home, the one within the terms of our reality, as we understand it. The second world is from her addled memories that concoct a world filled with her childhood family, still run by her mother, even though my mother is now eighty-six. Everyone tells me it does no good to explain to her that all this has happened because of her big stroke three years ago. Its not her fault at all and now after a month of explaining this to her I see a beginning to remember that it is important to trust me when I help her through these frightening times when there isn’t a way for her to recognize the right world.

Currently, not only is Momma frightened of her tomorrows but, I feel the same. I have been her son for sixty years and I feel I have just begun to find out all she knows, or especially all that is troubling her. We often laugh that we don’t have a problem communicating. I talk for hours and she tells me what is on her mind. No one understands just how much she thinks. I told her yesterday, that I believe they have no idea how alive with thought she is, even though it is inevitable that she slips farther and farther toward her darkest hour.

Occasionally she looks at me with a woeful face. I see her right hand frantically moving her warmer and I ask why is there such sadness and her response is: “I’m going to die.” Regardless of how many times she says this, even though usually it is used as an opener to share a thought, my immediate reaction is for my stomach to flip. I answer her by telling her I don’t have time for death at that particular moment. I ask if she can wait until I no longer am busy! However, she and I know what has just happened. Momma warns me, I hear her statement and I instantly ignore it.

Presently, Momma doesn’t even understand how I feel. Now every word, every utterance, every movement must be recorded in my memory. Often I look at her with eyes that truly are a camera because I need to memorize her face as she is now. I have her faces and voice recorded from the past, although there are times when my eyes are closed that I think my image lens must be broken because I can’t see or hear her. I panic because I need those thoughts and images to be available when I call for them in the future.

Possibly, it isn’t good that she and I are close. Momma was always there as I grew up during my first seventeenn years. She wiped up my childhood spills, encouraged my adolescent dreams and applauded my teen successes. When I moved from home to further my education she beamed with pride, yet during the first months following my draft she successfully hid her fears, only to have them reappear even more poignantly when I left for Vietnam. Each day held her in a paralyzing, embrace; an unrecognized panic by the people closest to her. When I returned I looked into her eyes and knew that she had suffered even more than I had.

Our inescapable bond continued during the intervening years before my father’s death, strengthened while we lived in Arizona and continued into our move to Illinois. Beginning before our last move, I became her consul, then Power of Attorney and now caretaker, confidante and companion. Inevitably, our bond continues and is maintained and allowed to grow.

Now, it is nearly impossible for her to travel beyond her doctor’s office. Some days to move from the bed to the sofa is too strenuous, while on other days her breathing can be sustained easily with the oxygen.

Tonight, the tenebrous room intensifies my mother’s own darkness. Standing by her I yearn for her twilight to return. I know that isn’t possible and I have promised to accompany her along her path of darkness; but continually I ask myself how I will ever face that ineluctable moment when I see two golden wings guiding her spirit to eternity. I know at that moment I shall bid her my heart filled with love, but I shall never say good Bye.

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momma.jpgmomma-xmas07.jpg

1943 Christmas 2007

Yesterday, I am sure my mother had a TIA that may have started the day before. M. wasn’t too caring in the beginning when I felt like I was in an emotional whirlwind, turning and turning and experiencing one miserable thought after the next; each wave striking out with such intensity it was impossible to stay calm. Momma finally lay quietly in her bed with a recirculating oxygen mask on. Her oxygen saturation had been very poor the last two days and now she is having other symptoms, symptoms that are very much similar to that of a stroke. Even though I am perturbed with him, I thank God, M is a retired anesthesiologist, and knows how to take care of Momma in an emergency.As I vacuum, M. never stopped lashing out his displeasure with me. He’s disappointed that I can’t accept the fact my mother will die. He thinks the last five years of my taking care of her should change the way I feel. Unfortunately, I accept death as a part of life, except that during the first seventeen years of my life my mother was continually ill. No one told me what was wrong with her; in the dark of night I sat on the stairs behind the living room door straining to hear if she was all right on the sofa. We told her goodnight as she lay there and remained in the same place until my father came home. Each night I feared for the worst. Prayers a young boy learns tumbled from my lips yet, my father was in town playing cards at the tavern. I knew I shouldn’t disturb her; I knew if he caught me, he would be mad and so I waited, waited behind that door on those steps; waiting for agonizing hours. At other times, my mother went to their room across from my room on the bridge at top of the stairs. Again, I sat quietly in my bed unable to sleep until came home. I waited to make sure he was home to take care of her.

Even when I was with my mother when she was ill the hours passed with fear. I agonized during a week in the summer when I was about eleven. My father told me my mother was ill and I should sit near her and if she tried to get up to persuade her that she needed to be with me. Outside the sky was a dismal gray and the bushes in front of the big window looked strangely deep green. Bridal Wreaths never look like that, but on this particular day, they did. Across the room from where Momma lay was a photo of my grandfather. My mother stared and stared in that direction almost hypnotized and then began to scream because she saw people in the wallpaper. The dismal light became less as the Bridal Wreath brushed against the window as a wind blew it back and forth. Minute by minute, scream by scream I sat frozen, except to hold my mother’s hand and watch the room darken more and more. As my mother’s drug-induced, tortured cries became quiescent, she reached out and hugged me. For hours that day I waited for my mother and suddenly she returned as the became the darkest from the summer storm

I received the hug throughout my life; its effect on me was powerful, even though it was physically weak when she was ill. That hug wasn’t just when she was ill, but came to me many, many times. When I was seven years old Momma and my father had a battle in their room in the trailer where we lived. Their room was between mine and the kitchen and that day, after changing my clothes I had to pass through their room to get to the kitchen. As I got near them my Father tried to hit my mother and as he did, I jumped on top of her and knocked her down on the bed. I was on top of her. My father became quiet, turned and walked away. My mother wrapped her arms around me and hugged me very tightly.

Especially memorable was when we lived in Arizona and each time I went to my mother’s apartment and after she opened the door the next thing for her to do was to raise her arms out wide to give me a hug. Now that she is incapacitated from a debilitating stroke in 2005 it is difficult for her to hug me, although every morning when I tell her good morning the first thing she tries to do is to hug me.

That Hug is missed…….now in the months following her recent hospitalization it is even more difficult for her to move her arms. My hug from her will always be with me in my memory.

Even though her hug will always be with me it is much to difficult to watch her passing from her twilight and on towards her darkest time. The other day she spoke to me about having a dream in which she died. After she told me her dream I felt it wasn’t about the way she will die, but more about how helpless she has felt in the last five years battling every major bacteria that became resident in her lungs during a hospital stay in Arizona. The dream reminded me of how an innocent prisoner responds as he goes from his cell and walks to his execution. He is unable to prove his innocence and he is helpless at stopping his execution.

My mother broke her hip and after surgery many aides cared for her without gloves. One in particular coughed continually in front of her. Nurses and technicians took care of her without gloves. In the beginning days, M saw what they were doing and immediately demanded they wash their hands and put on gloves be for they enter the room. It took some time to initiate the request and after ward, the staff was less than friendly. .One employee me she thought we were making a mountain out of a molehill. In less than a month, Momma was ill for the first time of many times. I watched her go from enjoying life to a long period closer to the beginning of darkness. It seemed to happen over night, but now I realize this happened over the past five years.

My Mother has always been strong and has always lived for tomorrow. Her memories hold her past and she uses them when someone requests something from her, although her plans are always paramount. Now, occasionally, my mother will express a hope for today; rarely can she speak of the past because of jumbled memories, and all to often, she sadly says on the days that are the worst that she wishes she died! She only says this when it becomes apparent to her that she can do so little, but usually after a few moments, she returns with a hope of survival.

Her journey through the dimly lit days in her twilight are different than my father’s. Momma talks to me and tells me of her journey; she is aware of the change within her, and she tells me of her fears. My father spoke very little about his reactions to becoming elderly and passing between a time of life and a time to prepare for death. His fears, his thoughts, always remained within him and I believe he was unable to prepare himself. I believe strongly that he thought of tomorrow and then decided not to explore it further. At that moment he knew he needed to meet is end immediately. My mother, on the hand, will treat each day as a new day to learn and plan for the next day. She will face her fear, tell me her thoughts and make plans. She will not go quietly into her darkness—

I will be there for her on that final hour, but I know I will not be able to be calm. I don’t have her strength and I will miss her terribly even though she will live in my heart until my final day.

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A few years ago, my mother reminded me that my father was a kind, generous man before he lost his hand. When I thought of the stories she told to my sister and I, as we sat at the kitchen table after school, I could not argue. She was Cinderella and he was her prince. He bought her what ever she needed: nylons, fur coats, clothes, hats, etc. before he shipped out to the Pacific in World War II. She had worked since she was twelve and did not have anything to show for it. Her mother took all her wages. He preferred she not work so he arranged money for her to have while he was away. My father would not marry her, before he left for the Pacific Islands, lest he die in battle and he did not want her to be a young, widow alone and possibly pregnant. Now she tells me again, her voice frail and sometimes it is difficult for her to finish the words. I wonder why she remembers him now because for the last two years it has been difficult for her to organize her memories.

I look at the photos during this tranquil time my mother speaks about. It ends when I am three and my sister is five. In each picture, he has a smile on his face; he holds my sister or me very closely except in one picture. I am very young, not more than a couple months old. He holds me with both hands in front of the steering wheel of the tractor he uses on the farm; my sister sits on the bumper of the large wheel just behind us. His smile reaches from ear-to-ear in a grin that speaks of happiness and pride. When I look at the photo, I feel his pleasure and contentment and his smile brings one to my face as well. After looking at the remainder of the pictures in this period, I decide they all have the identical values. I realize I have never noticed this before.

For most of my life, my father maintained his role as head of household by being gruffly, strong-minded and determined not to let any family member change his directives. His restraints on us continued even after my sister was married and I left home. I do not believe he was able to accept that we had grown and developed our own system of living and our own values. When I stayed at my parents, I followed his pattern of living and his canon. During the forty-three years following the “initial tranquil period”, there were many enjoyable days. There were events in which my father responded appropriately and then there were the occasions that I would like to forget. We talked often, but rarely spoke to each other about personal issues. In all of those years, I can not remember a hug or sharing an enjoyable activity with my father; nor did he tell me he loved or needed me.

Over the years, I never stopped trying to get some type of recognition. Initially my mother or Aunt continually bolstered my ego with their love and compliments. Often they inserted comments they felt showed my father‘s pride. Unfortunately, for my father and I, our inability to speak with each other created an uncomfortable environment; strangers we remained within a strained circumstance.

The years passed and even though my father accumulated birthdays making him older, he appeared as if he was younger. His strength, mental and physical, never wavered. He was never sick. The only time he was a patient in a hospital was 1950 when he lost his hand. I do not ever remember a day, or even a late morning, in bed due to illness. He was the one constant in my life, an unchanging force that functioned regardless of the situation.

During the last five years on the farm and after his sixtieth birthday, he became slightly less active physically and occasionally seemed mentally tired. The changes were barely noticeable, although he was aware that subconsciously a unidirectional shift towards the twilight years began

By the time he was sixty-five he abruptly sold the family farm. When all negotiations and contracts were complete he called my sister and I to tell us, After the call, my sister and I spoke to each other and shared our reactions. We both felt excluded from the family. My sister asked that he wait twenty-fours before finalizing the sale. She wanted the family farm to remain in the family and hoped she could arrange for financing. My father told her the sale was final and there was not room for any discussion. Our exclusion from any participation in the sale, even though upsetting was a usual action for my father to take. My sister and I felt unnecessary–. I am quite sure he felt alone.

My father did not have to feel alone, although I am sure his values made him feel that way. He never discussed personal matters or answer questions about the farm. He never tolerated our concerns or requests for clarification of our mother’s health. You quickly understood that your opinion was not relevant. I am sure at sixty-five he was experiencing unusual feelings that was leading him into his crepuscule. Each of us must live through the changes in our lives, but I believe moving into our twilight can be very stressful. We all must experience the changes that lead us to a time not as bright as before. I do not know if my father was completely aware of changing as a preamble to entering another stages in life. He certainly would not have discussed any change with my mother, or even a doctor. He merely lived each day without a plan until a day arrived and the reality of life caught up with him.

Slowly a crescendo of gaffes caused his world to change. The stability founded in his health and money market was creeping away until he recognized his health was changing and dwindling assets threatened his home. Unexpectedly, I received a phone call from him. Without any opening pleasantries he said, “Would you, you and Martin, could you support your Mother and I? Buzz I just don’t know where else to go, I sure could use your help.” Feeling stunned I could only answer that I would see him, as planned, the following day. While driving to Iowa, I could not help but remember how he always loathed Martin, and yet his voice sounded warm and accepting when he called.

Rather than question his change of attitude towards Martin, we decided to support my parents and invest in upgrading the cosmetic elements of the house. When I first arrived, I gave my parents credit cards and called the businesses they received bills from each month and asked that they forward their bills to me for payment. Then I arranged for a painter for the inside of the house and crew to re-side the outside of the house. Two weeks later, I returned to do some work inside because the painter had finished and sent a final bill. As I walked into the house, I realized the painter did not follow the color plan for the rooms.

Regardless of how hard I tried, I could not let go of what happened; the same color of semi-gloss paint was on every wall and the application of the paint was poor. My first misguided step was to interrogate my mother. Her answers spoke legions describing how my father misinterpreted my note and in spite of her request that he call me for clarification of the note he wouldn’t.

I saw my father coming in the front door, turned to face him and instead of preparing to ask why he had disregarded my notes; my mind filled with enumerable memories of him criticizing me. A childish barrage of past incidents fell upon him and I realized, even though he heard me, he would not understand my reasons for being upset. Next, I accused him of being embarrassed of me and that he could not accept me as a son because I was gay. He expressed confused innocence and stumbled on his words as he said, “Sonny, I don’t know whom you’ve been talking—that’s not true”. I responded by saying, “Fine, then why did you punch me in the face when I was 17?” At that moment, I knew my attack was ridiculous. His face was expressionless.

Shortly afterwards he had two heart attacks. The first episode was during a visit in the summer at my house. It was difficult for both of them because they were a distance from home, in a strange hospital and without their own doctors. Months passed before he had the second heart attack, although this time he was at home in Iowa. This time he needed coronary by pass surgery. After surgery and recovery, he arrived in Intensive Care, shortly after his arrival, a nurse asked if my mother or I could speak to him. She said he was extremely restless and argumentative. My mother and I looked at each other and silently shared our uncertainty. First, my Mother tried to reason with him. He responded by vehemently attacking her with a verbal string of obscenities. She was overwhelmed. My attempt was disastrous. Hate, venom, strength and more obscenities coalesced into raw physical strength. He sat up, blood and fluid drains hanging from his chest, to strike me and yelled that people like me could never be his son. One guard, a very sizeable, brawny and tall man tried to stop my father from hitting me. Instead, my father hit him hard enough to land him on the floor confused. Within minutes, the staff placed my father in restraints and stayed that way for most of his hospital stay.

Eventually the hospital and our family, including my father, tempered and quieted. At home, following his hospitalization, he remained tranquil.

My father was spirited, hard working and, unfortunately silent in his love and concern for his family. It took the rest of his life for me to understand how much he cared for everyone. Unfortunately, he could not share emotions, primarily due to the mental anguish he experienced during World War II and his reaction to the loss of one hand in a farming accident.

As the weeks passed and months accumulated my father vacillated between being well and having a total loss of energy. He was showing signs of not judging things correctly. My car trips to Iowa increased month by month. My mother’s concerns broadened with each trip, especially about his skill in driving. Initially, he only swayed a little, then fought with my mother as he drove, stopping and ordering her to drive (she never had a license) or becoming unsure of which peddle was the brake. Then, one day he drove through the back of the garage. He was sure something was wrong with the accelerator.

The following week my mother left a house key for me, so that I could be in the house when they arrived from the hospital. My father had been in the hospital on an overnight stay. I arranged with my Mother to have access to the house before their arrival. I decided to ask him for the keys to the car to insure his safety, my Mother’s and the driver’s on the road. In return, I would provide him with a hired driver so that they will still be free to travel as they wished. I will never forget how he bowed his head slightly, reached into his pocket for the key and handed it to me with his hand extended to shake. He turned his head slightly to see me and simply said, “Well Buzz if you think that’s best. Here son.” That night, as I drove home, I felt very strange; he silently transferred his role as head of household and father, caretaker and provider to me. We had permanently exchanged roles.

During this time, my father would sit for long periods of time, looking forward and beyond the TV. My mother worried and often stopped what she was doing to check on him. She feared he was getting sick and I reminded her he rarely became ill. One of us would stop and sit with him, occasionally talking to him and often not getting a response. As I sat there, looking at him I could see his lips move a tiny bit and every so often his hand would rise and then fall, almost like when he gestured as he spoke. It occurred to me he was talking to himself. Later, I asked him what he was doing as he sat there. He simply answered he was looking for the path to take in the dark. Suddenly I realized he meant he was looking for the path to his own darkness. He was preparing himself for his own departure.

Eventually my Father required more care than my Mother could physically provide. Initially I turned to a professional agency for twenty-four hour assistance and later hired a woman whose husband was willing to help her. Fortunately, this final arrangement was very successful for everyone, including my Father.

He seemed happy with all of the arrangements and surprisingly did not object to them in the house. As the days and nights accumulated my father required more and more care. It became more than the couple could handle. Since I had a house in Arizona I decided to move my parents into the house with live in help, as well as I would be thereto be with them. One day I asked if he would consider moving to Arizona so I could take care of him and suggested it would be a perfect place for him to teach me to garden. I was curious when he did not object. I told him that we would be in Arizona in less than a month. Without warning, my father was hosptalized and when he was discharged my mother placed him in a nursing home to wait for our move. Wait, wait is sometimes to much to ask of a person.

I always felt I had crossed a boundary; was I right when it was necessary to exchange our roles—every once in a while he would tell me how to do something, almost like the old days, but this time the direction was given with love. Could the care I had arranged for him been done any differently. Should I have discussed it with him? Was he indeed happy to go to Arizona or was he trying to please me?

My Father enjoyed many years of life, continued his familial control on into his crepuscular years and then advanced into darkness, forever searching for a return route, yet willing to acknowledge and face his end.

On a crisp cold day in December my mother, sister and I accompanied my father on his last journey to his resting place. As the limousine pulled away following the graveside service, I saw my father standing tall and smiling with his hat on his head. He nodded and then smiled as he waved good-bye to his family.

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