Desolation Row

I was nine or ten when my father's mother died. I remember that he was upset because he'd taken her a bathrobe to the hospital, and what ever color he'd taken, she'd preferred another. He was terribly upset because he felt that he should have known that she would have liked pink more than blue. Or blue more than pink. Whatever.

I think of that often, these days.

This morning I started out at the vet's trying to negotiate when we would put down my cat. Is it too soon? Is it too late? Is he suffering? Is there more I can do? My cat and my father are both dying of leukemia. What I would do for my cat the government will not let me do for my father.

I told my dad about the cat, and he said, don't let it suffer. I know what suffering is.

I ended my day with a phone call from my cousin, telling me that my father needs another transfusion, but refused it because it might have kept him from being home when my mother came back from her day of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is the politically correct term for what you do with someone suffering from end-stage Alzheimer's Disease. It means that she spends her days doing flash cards so that she can remember her name, remember what two plus two is.

Years ago I saw a cartoon that I thought summed up my life. It was a solitary person sitting in an auditorium under a banner that said "Adult Children of Normal Parents." My brother, the therapist, doesn't agree. He says that what ever you grow up with is normal, even if it's not.

But he's wrong. They were normal. They loved us. They cared for us. They cared for their parents. We belonged to a country club and took summer vacations to a family home. They worked. Our mother cooked meals. Our father mowed the lawn. We were the archetypical 1950s family living in a small town. I grew up -- we grew up, in a Norman Rockwell painting. That is, if Norman Rockwell had painted Cisley, Alaska.

A couple of years ago I offered to bake a cake for my dad for his birthday. I asked him what his favorite cake was. He couldn't tell me. This is a man who has lived his entire life in the service of family. He hadn't a clue what his favorite was. I made an old-fashioned coconut cake. He loved it.

His birthday is coming around again. I have no idea what cake I'll bake for him this year. I have no doubt, however, that whatever comes out of my kitchen will be, for that day, his favorite.

There are no words to tell him how much I love him. There is no end to the pain I feel. Why don't they tell you how hard it is to lose a parent? Why don't they tell you that there is a hole that will never be filled?

I think because if we knew, none of us could go on. And yet, we must. I pour through my book of Bartlett's Quotations, looking for the verses I'll read at their funerals. For my mother, I have chosen Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." Do you know it? It's required reading in almost every English Lit class.

"Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

But for my father, I need something else. Something that will make clear what he is/was to me. For my father, I have chosen W. H. Auden's "Funeral Blues."

"Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good."
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/28 at 12:16 AM in Maudlin Crap Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/28 at 12:16 AM in Pets

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