I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that my father died in 2006 and this was the year that my now-husband and I decided it was the year we should get married. Largely because my dad was our favorite person and we were his favorite couple and we thought OH MY HOLY MOLY WE HAVE SUFFERED THIS OTHER-WORLDLY LOSS—WE SHOULD CREATE OUR OWN GIGANTIC JOYFUL GAIN and so we decided to wed. And we pictured how happy he would be and it propelled us into our life union.
But that’s not really the point. The point is that my father was on his way to receive the test results that would deliver his No Alzheimer’s – Yes Alzheimer’s sentence on SEPTEMBER ELEVENTH, TWO THOUSAND AND ONE. Right—you heard me. September 11th, 2001. 9-11.
While the rest of the world equates 9-11-01 with the most devastating terrorist attack our country has ever suffered, my family equates that day with the day that postponed the news that was delivered to us where we learned that our father would begin the slow decline into oblivion. The decline that all family members dread. The decline that, if you ADORE someone, is the decline that is that diagnosis you do not want to hear. How could you? If you love someone, the thing you wish for that person is that they don’t lose their mind slowly and painfully and in the most complicated and scary way you could imagine.
So. Here is the poem that I wrote, using the fuel of my father’s diagnosis. The diagnosis that eventually took him and that he, in the end, suffered with his particularly elegant form of GRATEFUL SWEETNESS…
It was as if we discovered that we were losing him from one moment to the next, however, we know that things aren’t always that way. We all knew in our hearts—my sister, my brother-in-law, my husband, ME—His Truest and Most Devoted Fans that we’d CREATE ANOTHER REALITY for ourselves simply because we loved him enough to pretend that it might not be happening and simply because we reflected his love for us back to him—and this was the thing that kept all of us going. Because of all the people for us NOT to lose it would have been him. And I tried to describe this in a poem.
It happens the way you’d fear it most
Not from one month to the next
but in one moment: predictable and happy
and in the next: all wrong
The people you hear about on the news
that could never be you
Are around the next corner
Waiting to exchange their life for yours
They want you to know
they don’t want to be virtuous
To make something meaningful from their pain
Or establish another foundation in their son’s name
They would rather you take their burden from them
Exchange their unwanted tragedy for your freedom
Your unknowing, precarious life
They’d snatch it from you in a minute
if they could
It’s Election Day and I always think of him on Election Day and so this post is for him. The Nicest Bolshevik I Have Ever Known.
The Hopeful Griever