Reprehensible in retrospect.
The other morning I was driving Wilder to school and in an attempt to snap him out of his foul mood I put on the toddler pandora station. From the back seat an excited voice said, “Mommy please sing. I love it when you sing to me.” In that instant I realized the last time someone said this to me, it was my father. Occurring years ago, before Wilder was even a thought, before my father became sick. I was filled with such a mixture of sadness and joy. I believe the only thing larger than the saudade I feel for my father is the love I have for my son.
I’ve said it before and it might as well be my epitaph – I struggle with allowing myself to be vulnerable. I can more easily send a nude than tell a person face to face when I’m feeling sad or afraid. If I do open up, it will generally occur in a text message, where I can control the flow of information, or in a nonchalant public forum, so that I know any real chance of intimacy is unlikely. I certainly know it is easier for me to write about my difficulties than to engage, even with my partner. There is something safe about being able to edit and curate what I allow the world to see of me. But with that safety comes emotional exhaustion.
Sometimes I feel like an impostor. In these instances I suffer from an underlying discomfort in my own home, in my own skin, in simply being me. I feel as though I am playing the role of being Lori, but that I am not truly committed to this character. I can go through the motions. I can follow the schedule. But sometimes I am afraid I’ll be discovered. Not by just anyone, but by my true self. After Wilder is asleep and the house is quiet, sometimes I will doodle pie charts, trying to decipher what percentage of me is a true essence, and which percentages are chemicals, hormones and societal expectations. I smile and hug the gracious people who tell me how wonderful I look, and how they are inspired by my confidence. But I really want to lovingly whisper in their ear “It’s all smoke and mirrors. I loathe my body most of the time. I spend a good five minutes a day staring at myself naked and counting my flaws. My thighs are consistently covered in fingertip bruises from me unconsciously pinching them. I’ve spent a disgusting amount of time debating if whether or not my happiness quotient would increase by 20% if I could reduce my body mass by that same amount.” I can imagine the nervous laughter that would follow.
I worry that I’m not a good mother. I try to remember the sound of my own mother’s voice and I realized I’ve forgotten it. I think about pulling out old home movies just to see and hear her, my brother and father. But I’m afraid if I hear their voices something inside of me might break that I am unable to fix. There is so much happiness that has come from being a parent, but it remains tinged with a melancholy undertone of loneliness. As I witness people I love lose their parents to death, I am reminded that time is the most precious thing we have. I worry I don’t have enough time with Wilder, but what truly is “enough” time. I know I can’t be there for every moment, but I also fear how fast they seem to be going by.
Before my father died he suffered from dementia. It was torture. I watched him go from the man who I loved and respected most in the whole world, to a sick, powerless and confused stranger. I wish I could say that I handed this with empathy and grace, but that is very far from the truth. I fought against his illness. I did not want to accept that he was rapidly becoming less of my father with every day that passed. I felt as powerless as he did. During his lucid days we would plot ways for him to kill himself, but he would forget before he could go through with it. In the end I fought with him more than I should have. I martyred myself over the burden of being left to deal with his tragic illness. I acted reprehensible in retrospect. At the end of his illness it took my father over 48 hours to die in the hospital and I stayed with him the entire time, mostly alone. I held his hand and asked him to forgive me for being such a selfish child. I told him stories and jokes and begged him to let go. It was very surreal to beg the person you love most, to die. I reminded him of how he always said that if he had the choice, when it was time to go he would love to take a bunch of morphine and holler “Adios motherfuckers!” He was hooked to a morphine drip at the time and I surely hope somewhere in the ether, that wasn’t lost on him.
Andy and a dear friend of mine were there with me when my father passed. They had come to relieve me and I started telling funny stories about my father. We all began to laugh at one point and that was when he died. I know he held out to hear my laugh one last time. I have so much guilt and shame about the way I handled his illness. I know his reaction to this would simply be, “Don’t be so uptight over all that bullshit. I love you and that’s all that matters.” Still, I have a hard time forgiving myself. What does it say about my true essence if this is how I treated the person whom I loved most in the world?
I feel like I have a track record of acting like a selfish asshole in my last interactions with my loved ones. The last words I said to my brother were angry shouts over him waking me up when I had a final the next day at Tulane. He died in his sleep just a bedroom away from me, within a few hours of that exchange. The last time I spoke with my mother she called me while I was at a fucking ski-ball party and I blew her off for acting so weird on the phone. She killed two people and herself within the next 24 hours. I don’t remember the last moment my father was lucid but if I had to bet, I probably acted like an asshole. I think this is certainly why I strive to be very empathetic and aware these days. I’m partially motivated by guilt.
I used to think that one day I would just “get over” my losses. It’s been over 4 years since my father died. I have come to realize there is no expiration date on mourning.
I dreamt about my father the other night. I was in a barroom with him mid conversation and he asked me, “What would you change about yourself to make you happier?”
“I would have more patience. I would be more focused. I would figure out why I often feel so lonely.”
“You would forgive yourself, baby.”
“Yep, that too.”