My poor father…*now,* I just laugh and laugh over this…but back then I had quite the adolescent drama fit…
It was my sixteenth birthday, and somehow, magically…even with a disability…I had aquired a boyfriend. Said boyfriend was scheduled to do the MeetTheParents thing at my favorite local pizza joint.
The boyfriend called that day and said he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t come. It was a short conversation and left me feeling like a huge hole had been shot in my birthday and led shortly thereafter to me deciding he needn’t bother to call me or consider me a girlfriend anymore.
(What I never knew until I married him, was that he was just recovering from knee replacment surgery and was confined to bed…but in his 18 year old mind telling me that wouldn’t have been macho or manly so…he waited till the last minute told that partial truth in a quick neutral tone, and ended the call…)
I sulked for a good bit, and my mother was torn between telling me to get over myself and really wanting me to have a good time…so she let me open one of my presents early. I was fond of story song singer Harry Chapin at the time and a difficult to find album (yes, before CD’s and IPODs there was vinyl.), was my present…There was about ten minutes of happydance over the present, and then we settled in to wait for my father.
two hours later, at 7:30 he called (drunk) to say he’d be home at 9:00 which kinda ruled out dinner. More sulkage and geniune anger from me, and a very stiff quietness from my mother that meant that after I was done yelling at him for wrecking my birthday he was going to get real true hell from her.
Well, at 9:00 he rolls in.
He had brought a pizza with him, I suppose as an acknowledgement that he knew we weren’t actually getting to go out…
I have to explain the side entryway to my house from the garage.
One opened the side door, turned right and there was a single step up into the kitchen. If one wanted to do laundry or something, one came in the side door and straight ahead were the stairs down to the paneled but oft flooded basement with a half bath and a laundry room off of it.
Well, my father opened the side door, gave a slurred fuzzy series of sounds I believe were meant to explain his pizza… and kept going straight…. missed the stairs, and fell down the entire flight, and landed on the moulding linoleum floor. Luckly for his head, it was cushioned by the open pizza box and the pizza inside it.
Sometime, in midair, between the top of the stairs and the basement floor, he also passed out.
My mother screamed: “Neil!” She was terrified, but I don’t think she was sure what she was terrified of, that the fool had accomplished death-by-pizza, or that he had not.
She bolted so quickly from the kitchen table downstairs it looked like a cartoon of “The Flash” from my youth. I hustled down the stairs on my backside, the only way I handled them well.
She had checked to see if there was any blood, swelling, broken bones, or if he manifested signs of head trauma already. He was bruised I’ll bet, but completely ok otherwise, passed out and unresponsive his pupils were not odd or funky…the side of his face resting on and melded with all the ingredients of the pennance pizza.
She stood up all hard and cold again…there were a few beats where she was just mastering all of the 800 emotions that had to have been going on for her…
I perceived that he appeared ok, and was stunned that he was passed out and alseep!
“What are we going to do with him?” I asked, at a loss.
She was in control again and the delivery was both clipped and immovable.
“I’m just going to leave him down here. He’s fine and I can’t stand to see him for one single minute longer. Let’s go upstairs.” She softened when she knew that I wasn’t sure how to feel, and let that show on my face, but didn’t argue.
“When he wakes up, he’ll just come upstairs and get undressed and [hopefully] clean up. We can’t really do anything else tonight. Let’s go upstairs.” I was in full agreement on the “not looking at him another minute” part, and I didn’t trust myself not to spit on him, cover him with dirty clothes, or do something else inappropriately juvenile in retailiation.
But the picture of my father the lawyer in his expensive coat and suit…unconsious with his face in a pizza….I think I remember that when we got upstairs…
There was a long while there where we couldn’t stop laughing.
Note: The people who think differently about me than I do might very well be right.
I’m high verbal. I’ve been accused at various times of being too intense, too morbid, narcisscistic, selfish…and my personal favorite that was meant to put me down and I take as a badge of honor: being, and I quote: “A bitter judgemental bitch…”
If, in my offline life, as well as in my blogging, I’m too *me* centered, it’s because I have a perception that: When I was young, my father’s alchoholism and my mom’s own self involvement often (not always) eclipsed what I wanted to make clear about my life.
When I was married, cancer and AIDS did the same thing…
I had to figure out my depressive stuff for awhile there, and didn’t have it pinpointed, and that is always rough on the others in one’s life.
I regret that people feel that I take up too much conversational space….But, as I’ve become more self aware about it I tell people to interrupt me, be direct and use humor to get in their share of stuff…and I make a conscious effort to ask first what’s interesting, new, celebratory or troubling in my friends lives…and any “attention junkie” quality I may possess has as it’s counterbalance the irrational shame that hits me daily if I have trouble “keeping up,” at work.
But I’ll take my corner to clarify some things.
I have no case worker.
I have no parents or paid PCA’s helping me with day to day things.
Having a roomate helps, but they have their life too and it isn’t as if they are formally trained in PCA skills.
Not much time or money for that luxury item, a social life even though I have a job. Having a job doesn’t necessarily equal a lot of discretionary time.
I’m not easy to be around sometimes.
Never claimed to be.
I used to be an academic. I left because my perception was, I had to make a choice between continung my masters almost from the beginning when my master’s thesis notes were stolen…and putting my energy into what I knew would be a marriage that needed all of my focus in order not to run off the rails, either medically or emotionally…and went out to find employment at places more often known as “jobs” than “careers”
I began to question how smart I was…You first get rusty at the heavy reading and writing and then you forget about it all together…
But the industry I’m in requires an examination of great length….they allow 210 minutes for candidates to complete the first two out of four tests…
I was done in 65 minutes. Passed the first time…It feels to me commensurate to the understanding of a given subject that I had to have as a junior in college, for example.
The one good thing about my worst ex boyfriend-post-marriage, TheMostEvilDisabledManAlive, was the creativity of nicknames he used to assign to his friends…
I was Front Row Girl, the image of that annoying curve-wrecking student who had the answers, according to the nickname…
It’s good to know that at 45 all the grey matter hasn’t rendered itself down to mush yet….
Yank your chain….
It’s the late 70’s and myself and a crowd of my cousin’s neighborhood cronies were enroute to the amusement park…
This was usually an all day affair and well into the evening, so I took the wheelchair and was cheerfully ‘pushed around’ by the group, some taking shifts, so that my cousin didn’t have to push all day.
We were in line to get in…and one of the kids said…”Wait Wait…I’ve got an idea…”
So she swung full tilt into tent revival mode, fire and brimstone preaching right into my face loudly and at length, commanding that I be healed. She was high volume and we drew a small crowd that turned to look without ever quite giving up their place in line.
At a given point, I was told to ‘stand and walk,’ and obediently stood and took a few awkward steps, well within my capabilities at the time… The group stood amazed with stunned looks…the little ones clapped, appreciating the show…
And then we all started laughing and I went back to the chair…
And the adults in the crowd looked either sheepish or outright pissed off, to have been had in such a way…
But some scenarios are just too good to pass up.
You said it again. Last week on the phone.
“It’s all my fault.”
I know you’re ill now, and that’s playing into things in a big way.
He used it as an excuse to get wasted constantly until the day he died, and sang the same song.
I don’t blame you.
And I don’t blame him.
I’ve heard *several different versions of this story* from several different people over the decades.
Maybe, on that Tuesday in November 1961, he was already drunk. Maybe he’d never quite gotten undrunk from the Sunday football game. And yelling at his twenty year old pregnant wife. And as drunks will, he got fixed onto some idea. Locked like smart bombs.
Maybe it went like this:
“S—-, how many times do I have to tell you! *MOVE* the goddamn sofa!” Again and again, that morning, nothing else mattered. His hygeine. The smell of gin. Your discomfort. Other things that needed doing.
And, finally, that yelling got to be too much.
I know about husbands that go off on yelling matches. It gets to the point that you’ll do whatever the dumb*** thing they want is, just to *shut them the he!! up!*
You were pregnant and twenty, and did not ask to be pregnant and *not a parent yet.* So anyone that got sanctimonious with you about “protecting your child…” Your universe had not yet shifted…you had not held your child yet.
So maybe, you got up and helped him move the damn sofa. Just to shut him up.
Or, worse yet, the lazy sonofa*itch made you do it all on your own.
But, he was only twenty one. And his judgement was possibly impaired by alchohol.
You were both *kids* and I cut twenty year olds, even drunk ones, a lot more slack than I used to.
Or, it could have gone like this:
You might have been having an OCD kind of moment. A precursor to the yellow sticky notes, and the notebooks full of facts and the neat stacks of papers.
There was no one you knew who was more out of control than your husband.
Stuck with him, and his child, and the worst part was you weren’t even in love.
Your life must have felt *profoundly* out of control.
And going to the hospital and having some kind of surgery, that medical intervention was the ultimate surrender… that was just more control over yourself that you weren’t going to lose…no hospitals. No way.
But, the sofa could be perfect. The sofa could *go where you wanted it to go,* and probably stay there.
Everything else seemed going to hell, but the *sofa…* By god, *it* would stick.
So you took some control and stopped waiting for he of the sharp breath and fogged brain to do anydamnthing at all….
And *moved* *that* *piece* *of* *furniture.*
And I got born that afternoon…Early.
Perhaps because of the sofa with the lousy reputation.
Or…randomness. nothing at all.
You used to weep and blame yourselves, but take no action for change.
Or use it as a vindictive weapon, one against the other…
I’m the only person who has the right to blame either one.
*I* *don’t.* And if I do not and did not and will not, because I think it was just a metaphorical brick falling on my head. The first of a few.
Then you need to *stop!*
Put it away, and look after yourselves, both here and in the After.