Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why I haven't been posting and a photograph of my late father


One of the things I do is take pictures. I take a lot of them, and sometimes I show them to other people, but mostly I don't. This isn't because they aren't good - many of them are very good, and it isn't because I'm modest, because I'm not - anyone who knows me will agree with this. Mostly it's because I'm too lazy to organize them into a slide show. If I'm going to show off any of them, it's because they sort of fell into a natural order because they were all shot at one event - for instance these at the Flea Theater's web site or because it's just one or two photos of some person or thing that works so well for me, or has so particular and strong a meaning for me, that I find myself compelled to show it off. That is what this is about.

It's been nearly two years since I last posted anything to this blog. Alone, this wouldn't rate an explanation. Plenty of people start to blog, expect to do it regularly, and find themselves rather soon not blogging at all. I am one of those who prefers not to have a public confessional, and if I'm going to put some piece of writing on the web, there ought to be a reason for it: a rant about something I find particularly annoying; something that moved me to words; an event that really got me thinking about the world in a way I could write about. That said, it was about a week after my last post that my father passed away at age 89 after a brief illness. I don't think it's coincidental that I didn't write anything here since then because I've written a great deal in other places. It's just what happened.

So to relaunch myself, here's a photo of my dad I took just a few weeks before he passed away. My brother is the only other person with a copy. He said it he liked it, but he wouldn't show it because it made him feel sad. It makes me feel sad, too, but it allows me to see that 89 years of a real life leaves marks. In this photo he seems calm and thoughtful.

A day after I took this photo, my father was in the emergency room of a hospital in West Palm Beach, FL. I spent hours sitting by his bedside. He was semi- conscious, the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong and I couldn't do anything. One of them told me that a lot was wrong and that there wasn't anything I could do. He sent me back to my hotel room with a promise that I'd be called if anything changed. It was after midnight.

Later that morning I went back to the hospital. Dad had been admitted but was waiting for a bed in intensive care. He was conscious and bitching that he was hungry and nobody had fed him. I was happier than I'd been in 24 hours. I called the nurse and she got a meal to him stat. I fed him and a little later he was moved to a bed on the ward. I spent that day with him and the next day my brother, who'd been on a short vacation, got back. What could we do? Keep him comfortable. He wasn't going to be there long, and in fact, he was discharged a couple of days later.

My father wanted to die at home. My brother arranged home hospice for him, and for the next few weeks Dad thought he was getting better. I won't say we knew better, but what my brother and I knew was that his heart was going, that there was a reason he could barely walk from bed to bathroom, and whether it was a week, a month or a year, we were lucky he was comfortable and could still have some small pleasures in life.

When he died, I was sad, but I didn't think it was a tragedy. I spoke with him briefly the night before, he was having trouble staying on the phone for more than a few minutes, unlike our more usual 45 minute discussions. That morning about 4AM he woke up and told the aide he was hungry. She said it was too early to go out, but that she'd give him some fruit and later they would go out to breakfast. He ate a banana and went back to sleep. About 6AM she went in to check on him and found that he had slipped away. Writing this, my eyes are misting, but that's okay, because I miss him. She called my brother and I guess whoever else had to be called in Florida. My brother called me and we each got busy with our sides of the job. Later he called me to tell me he looked peaceful and calm. I knew that even before I was told.

When I think of my dad, I remember a lot of things, and this photo helps me to remember that at the end I was close with him, and that he mattered to me right up until then.

So that's the story.
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