Just a few years ago I was wasting my breath telling people how great the internet was (“look at this awesome experimental Flash website!”), and getting sideways looks that said “sure, for nerds like you.” Now I’m inspired to reboot my blog by the fact that, of all things, my mom is now blogging. If that’s not full circle, I don’t know what is!
Mom is writing about the seismic shift in her life becoming a caretaker for my dad, who’s been hit with Parkinson’s-related Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). Several years ago we moved back home from NYC to spend time with him and help provide much-needed family support. That has been time well spent, it has meant a great deal to me to be able to spend quality time with him even as his faculties wane. The fact that mom is starting to work out her many extreme difficulties through writing is also a very healthy sign. At the time we moved back, things were pretty rough. My sister was putting in a good number of hours every week helping them out. She has been inspired by that experience to return to graduate school and pursue an OT doctorate. And we’ve all had to laugh at some of the crackpot phrases dad has burst out with since his dementia – for example, “I’m not confused – I’m… (angrily after a long pause…) pork!” It’s not always like that though, he’s also impressed many of his doctors with how well he’s able to comprehend and articulate what he’s going through. Recently during his last visit with his best friend who was dying of cancer, he lucidly explained the verbal condition that causes him to mix up words (managing to not do that for several sentences), then to all of our surprise accurately stated, “It’s called speech aphasia.” So we are looking for silver linings, even as we grapple emotionally with the slow loss of such an important man in our lives.
That pretty much leaves me. I’ve been waking up to what it means to be a man, perhaps a little late in life – I’m somehow already 42. That seismic shift for me is occurring after our beautiful daughter was born last year. Her birthdate was in 2013 but I can tell that the turn of 2014 signals the start of a whole new life. Becoming a father is momentous, it begins to change your whole outlook on just about everything. (We shouldn’t have dawdled on the decision to have kids! I wish we’d taken the plunge about 5 years ago when the topic started coming up over Sunday brunch. But we were grappling with getting our feet on the ground in NYC and weren’t sure we were up to the much steeper challenges of raising kids there.)
To now need to be the protector, essentially the last man standing in my little clan, is a new role that’s just starting to sink in. What a load of wasted time and energy before. It seems I was drifting through a vaguely nihilistic fog, plagued by a deep self-doubt, that probably led me to do some things I could now do without. (Repeatedly shredding my liver with drinking binges, for one.) I was also a classic case of a boy with big dreams moving to New York and getting his hard knocks, and in my late 30′s no less. On the bright side, I now feel a lot more solidly capable of making better decisions. In fact at this point it seems easy. It’s like quitting smoking: if you have a reason that drives you to the point that you truly want to quit, you’ll find it’s not hard at all.
Letting the past be the past, I’m eagerly looking forward to raising a family alongside my smart, spunky and loving wife. What a tremendous blessing, and responsibility. I’ll be sharing my experiences as a new dad here, and will probably also use this blog as a platform for spewing random thoughts and ideas. But don’t worry – no iPhone app programming lessons!
Although she may not end up remembering him much, seeing my daughter in my dad’s arms just about brings me to tears. Here’s to the good things in life!