Wow. Hadn't actually realized I'd been gone for a couple of months. Sorry - I hadn't meant to disappear like that. Sincere apologies to all regular readers and posters. I've appreciated your recent comments - it's nice to be reminded that the blog means something to you and that isn't just my personal exercise. The fact that that's so is reason enough for me to kick it back into shape.
I can continue to report that they're right when they say it's a process, this mourning business. I can report also that it still doesn't feel like what you're led to expect. Months on and still no overt grief or anything like that. On the surface I seem - even to myself - to be back in shape and fully functional. I do my work (there's a lot of it at the moment, thankfully - I still need to make up for the three months of income I lost during my father's move to Maryland, the apartment closeout, his nursing home stay and his departure). I slowly get re-engaged in life - I go to movies and concerts and such. I don't feel exhausted the way I used to - at least, not as much. No, all normal and functional and re-engaged except that, as you may have noticed, I find myself avoiding the subject of Alzheimer's and the company of other caregivers for months at a time.
Which means, I suppose, that below the surface, there's still work going on - the usual business of deep unconscious forces bumping and crashing into each other and re-arranging the furniture.
By way of confirmation, there are the dreams - still. They're less frequent than they were, and the content is different than it was in the first few months after he died. He seems less decrepit now - sometimes younger, almost always a little more competent. And the storylines are different - less about managing him through the specifics of Alzheimer's, more about other matters.
Case in point - a fragment that came in at the end of a long elaborate sequence about some other topic entirely. Just as it wraps up, I suddenly find myself sitting next to my father on a park bench. He's old but for the most part seems intact.
For some reason I'm telling him about upcoming performances I'm supposed to see at the Kennedy Center here in DC. In particular I talk about musicals. I'm not sure why - I don't actually like musicals, though I'll go to a couple this season because the productions are supposed to be good.
He listens and then suddenly there's tension in the air. I notice he's got a tight smile - the kind he used to get when he was pissed off and just about to blow up at you (he could never admit to having a violent temper so when he started to get angry he'd just grin in an enraged way). He says, "I wouldn't have minded going to some musicals, too."
I immediately feel stricken, which must have been his intent. I'm thinking, oh, hell, that's a huge oversight, how come I didn't invite him? I start trying to scramble through excuses, though I haven't worked out what they are. At the same time my mind is going full speed - I'm thinking to myself, can I still get tickets for him? He's not going to get anything out of Hair, of course, and he won't like Wicked, that's too commercial... but wait, there's South Pacific, the Lincoln Center Theater production on tour, that would be perfect. It's his timeframe and he loved Rodgers and Hammerstein. That's it! I can probably get him into South Pacific. It shouldn't be a problem. Tickets are easier to come by here in DC than they used to be in New York, even to big events. There's less friction in DC.
So the crisis is solved and I turn to him to tell him about South Pacific when suddenly I stop and it dawns on me - hold on, wait a minute... the reason I didn't invite you to South Pacific is... that... you're dead! Of course it didn't occur to me that you'd want to go with us to the Kennedy Center. Because, you know, you wouldn't actually be able to show up.
I'm thrilled to realize this is the answer. I'm vindicated. Not inviting him, it wasn't just an oversight on my part, I actually had a reason. And I also realize that at this particular moment I feel great. Because, face it, I'm about to deliver the ultimate comeback. Somebody - and not just somebody, this extreme, anxiety-provoking authority figure - asks you, why didn't you do something for me? And you say, well, because, face it, you don't exist!
And naturally, right at that instant, just as I was turning to him to tell him what I knew, I woke up.
Can you spell frustration, boys and girls? I wanted to punch a wall, or anything else hard and nonsentient. I even tried to fall back asleep so I could continue the dream and slam him. Didn't work. Never does.
The Germans call this treppenwitz. I'm thinking about submitting this one for honors to whatever body it is that hands out treppenwitz awards.
As to the meaning... well, it doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Message to deceased father - I'm happy to maintain the relationship and maybe it'll even get better and deeper over time, but as to the guilt and sense of obligation and the long overhanging burden... well, there are limits. And I think we've just reached one. So how about some slack?
Maybe this new sense of freedom will get traction. Maybe it won't. Time will tell.
But with it or not, it's past time for me to pick up the story again.
More soon. Again, thanks to all of you for your patience.
It's good to be back.