There is an old saying; if you have to start somewhere, it might as well be here. It wasn’t referring to blogging.
In my case, more sickness and poor health may be on the way, or so goes the path of my imagination at the slightest sign. On day 10 of my hospital observation/recovery, I am starting to fall back down a little, and wondering if perhaps, the other health-related issues may show up.
I guess we’ll see. I sure hope my liver and kidneys and whatever don’t fail while I’m here. While I am not entirely unhappy in this place, I don’t really want to stay longer than I need to. I don’t want to give medical staff the opportunity to see me worsen.
It’s also day 10 without drugs. Day 10 without eating Hershey’s kisses and Tootsie roll fruit chews as my main source of food.
I expected all my withdrawals at once to have a more substantial effect, as I have experienced Cold Turkey before.
I hope that doesn’t just come on Day 12, and the doctor knew it all along. That would suck indeed. I flip-flopped between living through suffering, or selecting Monty’s door #2 and choose the ultimate in Instant Gratification… Hospitals seem fairly well designed to keep any suicide tools out of my reach, but that may be because I didn’t really look too hard.
I no longer have any interest in suicide. It’s virtually off the table. The only reason I can’t tag it a 100% no, is because I am in a place where I see ultimate suffering on multiple levels and that scares the shit out of me.
I am not afraid to die. I am afraid to ALMOST die… I am afraid I will want to keep living, even if in a veritable hell.
In Canada, as far as I know, suicide is still illegal and even in a hospital, everyone will always work to save you, even if you’re screaming LET ME DIE at the top of your still recovering lungs. I watched my father ask to die many times. It was horrible but not nearly as horrible as seeing how close I could be to that.
I came into this hospital not really “with it” enough to know what was going on. I recovered to mental clarity on day one and have spent the next 9 days trying to breathe a little deeper, but for the most part, feeling like a healthy being told day after day after day that I had to be here another day. Recovery.
So I did what I do. I embraced my now and started being a spectator. I watched the nursing staff and the patients. The joys and sorrows and the panic and agony. I watched grown men in the middle of a happy conversation with family, suddenly gasp a second breath and transform into a screaming panic without awareness of where they were. Literally, mid-sentence from a hospital bed with a nurse to a man who thinks he’s in a war being bombed, or in another case, a very loud man asking why everyone was in his house.
I tried to imagine what that would be like if it were me. I tried to ponder whether my years of mental training in understanding my own mind would let me tackle that kind of panic better, but of course, all that training did, was help me better understand how easy it is to lose your sense of self.
Perhaps that is the “Later Jeff” I have referred to, that lives on the other side of my wall of tomorrow. The version of me I have been burdening with all the life-long troubles that I ignored and abandoned and handed off tag-team style to tomorrow.
I understand the idea of a mental breakdown. It’s when that version of yourself is asked to step up and be accountable, finally. The amount of shit that will rain down on me when that day comes will be heavier than I can even imagine.
I talk of my current mind being skilled at joy crushing but when the time comes to be responsible for all my procrastination shit, it might just be mind crushing. Soul Crushing.
Our family lived through an extended period of decline when my Grandfathers mind started to fade. He hit all the landmark symptoms that are all too common today but were new to us at the time. He’d do things I never really could understand, like hide the daily newspaper in some of the weirdest places. We found copies year old as many as 10 years later as I remember.
When my father started to fluctuate his moods, even more, than previously and at the starting edge of what we learned would be a similar decline, it was doubly terrifying. My Grandfather didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t have perspective.
My father had a roadmap of misery to anticipate both filled with the fear that starts in your 50s when you begin to struggle to remember specifics, but also with the full and total awareness of how it affected his family.
My father was a proud man and one of those subtle intellectuals that truly understood how many things worked. He was a secret inventor of solutions and he was a fixer of things. He built much of our first house and and and…
And then one day, it was clear he no longer was. It might have been as simple as no longer being able to fix the coffee maker. Whatever it was, he detected it before we did, but it wasn’t his secret for long, mostly because he could not hold back his anger, now doubled by his newfound incompetence. That is probably not a fair word for me to use when describing dementia, but it was the word he used.
From his perspective, my father had become useless.
I wasn’t present for much of this. It was too painful on so many levels. I developed my own anger but mixed with sadness and fear. I took on a bit of a “not my problem” approach and visited two or three times a month, which was supposed to be every week at the minimum but I’d make up reasons to appear busy for as many as I could without suspicion.
From the beginning, I could see this pain crushing my mother, and I tried my best to keep down my emotions of how bad it must be. Having lived my own life without really ever having to face the bad stuff, I would just use sentences like; I know I couldn’t handle that.
Sadly, I believe I am much stronger than my mother was. we were both witnesses to how father affected each of us. We were the team that could make each other laugh after a session of tears caused by his anger and mean words.
The task of being caretaker to a man who she probably still loved, but must have not-loved as much inside her head was not one you’d look forward to under normal circumstances, but when you are given the responsibility of caretaker and that person is loud and scary and mean in new ways even harsher, you either can — or can’t.
Something snaps inside and you transform from John and Mary Goebel to Patient 1 and patient 2. It’s not unlike throwing your entire life of memories and cares and wishes and desires over that wall of tomorrow with the understanding somebody will take care of you. It might even have been a percentage voluntary.
I’m not insinuating that my mother was faking it, or that she really wanted to decline in that scary way. I’m more likely to believe something we have yet to discover is the cause, but I can’t deny that “going crazy” has been something I’ve considered as a solution to that day yet to come when I am asked to choose. Will I live on during the decline suffering mentally each day to remember? First to remember details about the story I am telling, followed by an even more frustrating struggle to remember the people I am sitting next to telling the stories too.
It’s selfish, but I will claim my fear is even greater than my father’s because my entire existence as far back as I can recall has been to not be a bother. The mantra of “don’t interrupt, don’t agitate, don’t annoy” is why I am so weak to progress in life. Asking anything of anyone is so hard for me, I don’t do it.
Asking somebody to help me finish my sentence will be hard, but asking somebody to help me do EVERYTHING is an inconceivable burden.
Is it fortuitous then, to add to this horror, the fact that I don’t actually have anyone to ask. I have no wife to put through that.
This is the point however when I think of my Mom, On her second loop of watching her life loves change and become a chore. I’d choose crazy. I know I would. I might even break down far before it comes to that.
For the next several years, the two of them declines together but I wasn’t present. Throwing that responsibility over my procrastination wall as is my way, it was intercepted and accepted by my sister, the family elder. Julie had lived a life almost in preparation to be the family saviour. Her youth was divided between a social life, a school life, and a hospital life.
From her birth deformity to a slew of recurring visits, it wasn;’t surprising she pointed her goals to nursing and care. I believe Julie is also the strongest willed and stable minded of us 3.
To be honest, I never really knew either of my sisters. They were 7 and 9 years older and gone by my age 10.
There was some guilt on my part, having thrown my parents over that wall, but the more you live a life without inconvenience and tragedy, the more you need to. I was conditioned to instant gratification from the start.
For me, my parents died about 10 years before my parents died. I do my best to not regret or feel too bad for that decision. When your mother doesn’t know who you are, I didn’t feel the need to continue that sadness.
I have had memory issues of my own since — I do not know.
I’ve been obsessing over it for decades, and it has helped me in my work on understanding the brain a little better and how it stores memories vs stories. I have a full memory of the stories that have been told from my youth but am unable to remember people or emotions or things that happened. I don’t remember any order to my past. All my memories of saved as separate, recallable self-contained stories and in most cases could have happened last week, last year or when I was 30.
I’ve worked my skills as a storyteller around those limitations and have almost been successful in not talking about my bad memory because I have enough stories ready to go as to appear functional.
In truth, I suspect I saw my first red flag triggers a few years back that I may be on that same path forward, except without a spouse.
When my mom started to decline almost simultaneously, most of the people we encountered were surprised. Dementia wasn’t usually a contagious illness and the likelihood of two people living together contracting symptoms at the same time was so rare, the extended care homes all claimed it was a first for them to receive a request for a couple.
To me, it seemed more obvious. For 30 years, at least once a week or more, we’d all eat a sausage casserole out of that same aluminium pot. I can visually describe that pot even today with enough detail you could sketch a picture. I especially remember it’s deep grooves caused by years of wear from continued stirring and washing.
It is conceivable the pot was over 60 years old, as I do remember a great many of our dishes were owned by my great grandmother. The plastic bowl and spoon I have used to eat cereal is possibly as old as plastic. I often wondered how much lead or pewter dinnerwear contributed to the madness of our ancestors. As I remember it, history is filled with people going looney later in life.
I blame that pot, but even still, I’d give anything to have another serving of that sausage casserole or the locally famous singular meal my father ever cooked; Noodles and Breadcrumbs, also from the same pot.
Believing the aluminium pot was part of the decline comforts me only in knowing they probably ate from it more than 40 years more than I did so maybe I am not destined to follow them.
My memory issues are just as equally caused from that time I slept a night in a teeny camper trailer in Florida and woke up smelling gas. The oven had been filling the camper presumably for 9 hours or more. Brain damage is to be expected, but I never pursued it. I also thought it made a better story without confirmation but since that time I have used that as my fixed point by which I have no personal memories previous. That would have been about age 40… ish.
I’d be content with this level of insanity and memory loss if it didn’t get worse, but I’m 54 and it will. It already has.
It’s 10pm on a Sunday. My second Sunday in the hospital. I’ll start my new routine to sleep shortly, and they’ll come drip another litre or so of antibiotics into my arm. Then I’ll struggle and toss and turn all night, inserting some NetFlix binging in between restless cycles.
Today was a hard day at times. Fathers Day. I’m on a reasonably quiet wing on the eighth floor, but when the shouting starts, it is so coincidentally similar to my Dad’s loudness it was hard to listen to without reflooding some of that sadness back in.
I’ll be glad to rest, even in 15 segments and wake up. Tomorrow is a new day. A new week. A new mood.
Happy Monday’s Eve.
End of Part 1, June 17. 9:58pm.
I think I’ll spell check and do some slight editing. I might share this one a little more publically.