"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jul 30, 2010

The Man

My father in law turns 92 in December. Rugged, Yankee, curmudgeonly. Raised by a one armed grandfather after his twin brother died of appendicitis. After his own father died. After the wicked stepmother (she apparently provided the template for the role, itself) killed herself.

Lacks social graces. A right bastard, when he gets it in his head to to do something. He has regressive notions; sometimes embarrassingly so.

He shoots groundhogs on sight, which provides no small measure of public anti-safety. I applaud this fact, out of my wife's hearing. Old men discharging firearms insides city limits pleases me beyond all reason.

He lives at home with my sister-in-law, whom he does not like. I don't like her, either. She also has Down Syndrome, which makes not liking her feel wrong. She talks to the wall. The three tenors, or something, sing to her from a knot in the pine paneling. She possesses a freakish strength, and a remarkably admirable stubbornness, to boot. I once removed her television from her telly room. Well, just because. An hour later, I gave up. Every time I carried it out, she followed me into the next room. Waited until I put it down. Picked it up, again. And put it back.

I gave up. (Secretly, I have a great deal of respect for her. But I refuse to like her. Much.)

My wife doesn't like her, either - but they have history. My wife, the youngest, had to do a lot of care taking for her older sister. During the sixties and seventies, which despite having a reputation for open-mindedness, really just continued the long record of actual cruelty and intolerance, with a hippie veneer, and the stink of patchouli and pot. Miserable job, that, I gather.

My father in law, despite not liking his third child much, and having silly notions about the constitution of society, routinely climbed the great lady mountain into his eighties. With a group of friends who brought a great deal of respect to their mutual regard. They adored him. He adored them back, probably with more openness of emotion than he ever showed his children. My wife, even on her bad days, tends to forgive him anyway. He might make for poor company in polite society, but the man could take a mountain and become its old man.

Some shit you just can't change.

A hard bit, what follows. On the day we found out that my wife carried our future child (her first, my second), we hopped into the car to drive over and tell her parents.We stopped for a celebratory meal.

Whilst we ate, she fell. Hard. From a height, while watering her plants. Onto concrete. Broke her head. I mean, really actually broke it. She suffered massive brain trauma.. My wife's father - remember, a Yankee - tried to lift her. Too old, hands too arthritic, he failed. She lay there, bleeding from her ears, while we ate.

I don't think my wife has yet forgiven herself. It breaks my heart. It really does.

Her mother's body continues on, but her mother died that day. Lost whole eras of memory. Doesn't know her own daughter (my wife). Doesn't know that the boy who gazes at her from behind his parents, in the nursing home, descends from her, carries her family forward into the unknown future. Our oldest knew her when. I think it makes it easier for him to relate. Our youngest has only ever know his grandmother for the shell of a wisp of a ghost who stares into the empty, picking at her food mush.

My father-in-law died a lot that day, too. Never the most open man, he sits by her side and weeps now that she's gone. He kept her too long in the house, trying desperately to give her love and care he probably didn't know how to show her in an earlier age of their life together.

It didn't work. Too old, too frail now - it wore him to a visible thinness. It wore my wife down, too. I still worked the long hours; she took care of him, her mother, her sister, our kids. A rough time. Family doesn't always come with rewards. I love my wife more for it. She owned those days. She owned them well and good. What a woman. A fucking excellent woman. I know it. One day, she'll really know it, too.

Eventually, his children overrode his need, and took her away. For her good. For his.

He died a little more. He started to show his age. The robustness seeped from him.

Once, when trimming back a tree he'd eventually uproot stump and all, he electrocuted himself. On the power lines. Leaned a ladder into an open current and burned a shadow of his watch right into his arm. Picked himself up, adjusted the ladder, beat the tree.

Now, that sort of thing would kill him.

Or so we thought.

He had a stroke on Wednesday. Crumpled to his porch. My sister-in-law (yes, the retarded one) didn't notice. She never does. Immovable, implacable. I once tapped on her window for an hour, trying to check up on them. She looked at me from her comfy chair, smiled, and returned to her drawing. When she'd finished her task, she let me in. I cannot always bring myself to like her, but I respect the hell out of that.

He had a stroke. I came back from my run, to find a note from my wife. Off to "make decisions," with her oldest sister It didn't look good. Consent forms and teleconferences. Shades of her mother.

He - the Yankee - just wanted to go home, sleep in his own bed.

They signed the forms. He got a new medicine (I don't know what). Responded very well to it. Paralysis cleared up, and quickly. Ninety-two, and not ready to die, it seems.

Which made him even antsier to get out of there. Can't blame him for wanting to flee the hospital. Fucking death wards, those joints.

Which brings us to the kicker.

He sported a number of scrapes and bruises. Effects of his fall, or so they all thought. We found out the real story today. Originally, my wife and her sister thought he'd fallen outside. He has a mild burn on the exposed side of his face. He'd lain there for a while, on the ground, in the heat and the sun, in almost the identical spot where his wife had broken her head and most of her memories so many years ago.

But he did not fall there.

Nope.

He fell inside the house.

But he hadn't shut off his water hose yet. This apparently irked him immensely, lying there half paralyzed. As he explained today - the Yankee - he had no need to give the city more than its due, which in his estimation didn't add up to much at all. As in, nothing. So he dragged his strokey ninety-two year old ass out of the house on his good hand, down the back steps, across the yard, and there collapsed, trying to turn off the water so the city couldn't take any more of his hard earned time and money.

This explains the cuts, scrapes, sun burn and bruises. Not the stroke itself.

Like old men discharging fire arms inside city limits, that tickles me to no end.

The man...

7 comments:

JRB said...

Wonderful post. Thank you, sir.

Joe said...

Yeah, great story, Jack.

Ethan said...

Thirding that.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks, gents.

He's apparently doing well enough to depart the ICU, for more sedate hospital surrounds, today.

Just wants to go home.

I don't envy my wife and her siblings for what comes next. He's probably going to need some sort of managed care, which might mean a nursing home. It would be nice to get him near to his wife, but the nursing home has some stupid/understandable policy about men and women residing in the same room, so he'd have to live down the hall from his wife of some seventy years, if they go that route. Which still leaves what to do with the Immovable One.

The oldest sister works long hours in the medical field. As does my wife. Their brother lives half the year abroad, mostly in Thailand, doing I don't remember what for whatever Danish or Dutch company currently owns the American subsidiary for whom he works.

It'll all work out. Or not.

Respect,

Jack

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Quite a post, Jack.

Renegade Eye said...

Home healthcare might be an option.

Good post.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks again, guys.

Looks like he might make it home by Monday. Incroyable, veriment.