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I’m still here. Only with lower standards.

Don’t expect much. I’m only sitting here typing because I made a deal with myself. I would write something, anything, and if I did then I could have a spoonful of peanut butter. Of course, who am I kidding, I’ve already had three already today. But I’m using this contrived bargaining chip, and low and behold, results! I have completed four and a half lines so far.

It has been so long since I have even attempted to write that my mind has lost the feel for it. My thoughts are slow to form and my fingers are equally lethargic. I took both a voluntary and involuntary break this past January.  Involuntary because my husband was in the process of switching offices and while he waited for his new offices to be finished, he commandeered my work space. Voluntary because I had just completed a new fiction novel. One that I was – I mean am – pretty excited about. Jam packed with sex, murder and little league baseball politics, it’s a total homerun. (My apologies for the lame humor. The brain isn’t quite sharpened yet.) Anyway, after finishing it, I was spent, and didn’t mind the brief reprieve, until days turned into weeks which turned into months. Soon my office had multiple screens up, projecting law documents and memorandum. His files overtook my random papers of creative thought and soon I couldn’t find a bit of myself in the corporate takeover of my writing space.

At about the same time, my father took a dip in the deep end of the depression pool, and while this is far from uncommon, sometimes when my guard is lowered, my resistance down and my hormones up, it weighs on me as heavily as the ice cream I wind up eating too much of. Each trip to the pool is unique and this time he wasn’t flailing around as usual, grasping at anyone (me) to save him. No, this time he sank slowly, barely making a wave. I stopped reading, and it being winter, confined myself to hibernation, keeping busy with all the uber-important details that a mom of three growing boys must tend to, mainly doing the laundry for them to kick across their floors, schlepping them to and from school and fields while they ignore me on their phones, and preparing meals for their lackluster review. With the husband busier than ever and no mental stimulation to distract, the water seemed to rise around me as well.

But that was then. Now, I’ve spent the last few weeks diligently nudging myself toward a better frame of mind. I’ve embraced the sun (when it shines) and use it to lure me from my shell. I have started reading again. First a book called, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, a truly lovely romantic fable with so much sweetness that it gave my dark brain an attack of the eye rolls. But then a friend handed me, I Am Pilgrim, a detective thriller that has me electrified and turning pages at lightning speed. It has been a gift, offering both escape and inspiration.

I now occasionally catch myself contemplating what to do with my new manuscript, while mulling over potential freelance essays on the new dynamic of parenting my first born teenaged son, the recent birthday of my mother (No she’s not 70!) or how the girl next to me in my gym class achieved such an amazing ass. I mean really people, it’s essay worthy.

I even remembered that I have a blog. So you see, I’m slowly wading over to a safer place. But I don’t want to overexert myself. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I sat here, rubbed the sleep from my brain and rambled on a bit. It’s a start. I think I earned my reward.


Okay, so I took two spoons. But it’s kind of like therapy. Protein is good for the brain, right?! I actually think I’m going to need another one to hit publish. I forgot how stressful this was! Okay, here goes… 

Striking out (with Dad)

He didn’t hobble toward ball field number two; he shoved his walker with purpose. Even tilted, he looked pretty good; eyes alert, dress casual and passably clean, disposition aloof but present. After three weeks in New York and countless years fantasizing about it, he finally felt well enough to make one of my boys’ baseball games.

“You gotta swing when it’s 3 and 2, kid!” he yelled at some boy I didn’t know, garnering a dirty look from some boy’s father.

I grimaced. “Dad, maybe keep your enthusiasm for the members of our family, please.”

He smiled,” clearly amused by himself. “Yeah, that guy didn’t appreciate my comment.”

This was the best I had seen my father in a long time and I tried without much success to appreciate the moment.

These last weeks have been enormously stressful. Applications for disability, transportation services and a downstairs unit had to be filled out, the right doctors found, Medicaid benefits approved to secure home health aides, visiting nurses and blah blah blah. We stand at the foot of a mountain of paper work, details and calls not returned.

But by far the biggest challenge is him.

He accidentally flooded the woman’s apartment below him by letting his sink overrun. Then he accidentally did it again. He accidentally pulled the emergency cord in the bathroom. He was confrontational with the nurse practitioner who came to help set up his medications. He didn’t go down to let in another NP.

Never ending, exhausting conversations saturate every space between the dramas. Pep him up, talk him down, find reasons for him to live. Be the happy voice, the scolding voice, the voice of reason. Even thinking about it makes my throat constrict.

Yet right now, he seems okay – his glassy eyes light as he watches the game, my other boys shyly stand near him and engage, he abandons his walker to hold on to the fence.

“Nice catch!” He yells to my son then turns to me, “Do you see the way he throws? He’s got confidence.”

I nod, glad that after weeks passed out in his chair, he’s found his voice and it’s not angry or miserable. It’s cheering.

Maybe we’ve turned a corner. Maybe it’ll be alright.

I allow just the smallest, tiniest, most miniscule molecule of hope to slip in, although at this point I don’t know how it’s even possible. Hope is a sneaky bastard.

The next morning social services call. They had just seen my father and found him extremely agitated and hostile with pills scattered everywhere. They regret to inform me that “mobile crisis” has been alerted and are on the way.

Maybe this is where it ends. Maybe it’s for the best.

At least he made it to a game.

My happy cage


The road I didn’t want to travel

I stand at a crossroad.

There is no surprise. For years I pretended not to see it, concentrating on my own road full of twists and turns, dips and potholes; distracted by precious cargo, flowers blooming along the path and long easy stretches walking in the sun.

But now a new direction looms before me. It is dark and unknown, filled with landmines and difficult terrain. In fact there’s a glaring neon sign screaming, “WRONG WAY!” Yet, here I go, right or wrong, ready or not.


Even though it’s cloudy and hard to see, I continue on, reckless and hopeless trying to find my way. The rain pours down and I am in uncharted territory, lost and scared. Oh my God, what was I thinking moving my father from NJ to NY?! I spent forever getting him set up with all those benefits and a home health aide who does all the stuff I don’t want to do!

But, at least he’s not two bridges away.

Oh my GOD he’s not two bridges away! He’s going to be right here!

Air. I need air! ARGH!!! Who put this walker in front of me! F%*#&!@!

Wait… that’s why we’re moving him. So he can be closer. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing.

There are just So. Many. Doctors.

Internist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, podiatrist, vascular, dermatologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, oncologist, pain management…

Who are just So. Done. With. Him. He needs new ones.

Oh jeez! I have to find new ones!

Tape, red and hot, strangling me. Can’t breathe.

No! I will fight my way through, battle social services, find a kind, reliable and capable new home health aide. I’ll get the benefits straightened out and, and, I won’t even look at the mountain in front of me. I’ll just keep climbing up up up.

Get him packed and moved. Buy a ton of new (nice) shit (that he will destroy). Organize everything. Make sure we find the right person to manage his meds.

Don’t think. One step at a time. Call electric, cable, phone, movers.

Social services. Advocates for the aging. Medicaid.

Things will get done. We have already made some progress.

The rain drizzles down but the storm cloud lifts just a little. Even though it is dark, the mood has lightened, brightening the landscape. I can still make out the blur of the neon sign flashing ominously in the haze but there’s no turning back now. For better or for worse we are on this new road.

Maybe, just maybe we are headed in the right direction.

I hope I’m wearing good shoes.

Gee, this road looks pretty. Lets go this way!

Gee, this road looks pretty. Lets go this way!

Missing Dad

When the call came in from my father’s home health aide, I was on the elliptical machine watching an episode of Housewives. Automatically, I groaned. It was first thing Monday morning; never a good way to start the week.

“Um hey Jolie,” I greeted hesitantly. Would she have found him asleep on the bathroom floor? Would the place have been turned upside down by an evening of semi-conscious wandering? Did he throw her out again?

I tightened for the impending trouble, “What’s up?”

“I can’t find your father.”

I wasn’t expecting that, but still, for all the crazy that went on in my father’s small world, at the moment this was still pretty low on the drama scale. I considered getting off the exercise machine but then decided to power on. I needed a positive place for my stress. And it was my time to exercise.

“Okay,” I said slowly, thinking as fast as I could, “You’ve checked the tub, right? And the floor?” I gave a little laugh. Only in my world, could my father’s frequent trips into unconsciousness be cause for sad humor.

“His walker is still here,” She said, “And the door was slightly open, his meds on the table and his bed was made.”

“His bed was made?” I repeated. It was the most curious and disturbing thing she had said. “So his weekend girl was there at some point but he never slept in the bed.” I stopped pedaling. “Shit.”

I hung up on Jolie to make some calls, while she did a more thorough investigation of his living quarters and surroundings.

My first call was to the home health agency to double check whether the girl had in fact seen him on Sunday. She was a fill-in, so I asked them to double check with her and get back to me.

Still pedaling, I contemplated my continued pedaling. Was I not taking this seriously enough? Should I be pacing? After 20 plus years coping with a mentally and physically challenged parent, I had learned to go flow, which meant keep peddling until I no longer could.

So while my feet moved on, my brain back tracked. He didn’t answer the phone yesterday. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since he often slept through the weekends. The last time we spoke was Saturday, although since he was half asleep, muttered unintelligibly was much more accurate than spoke.

With no one else to call and no other realistic options, I considered the two possible hospitals where he could be and dialed the closer one.

“Hi there, I’m looking for my father. He may have come in there yesterday or this morning?”

I waited while she checked his name.

“Yes, he was brought in yesterday. I’ll transfer you.”

Okay I breathed, missing father found. But why was he there? With his health problems and history, it could be a million things, many of them terrible.

My pace slowed but my heart rate sped up significantly. I was used to hopscotching through the landmines of his life, but while my sensitivity chip was broken it still emitted some charge, and I waited anxiously.  For a fleeting second I thought he could even be dead; a realistic possibility that has loomed over my head for decades, so many in fact, that it almost didn’t seem possible.

Could this be it? Could this be the moment I had become so complacent and emotionally detached from that I didn’t even think to dread. Could the man who a lifetime ago told me stories by the edge of my bed, gave me dollars to tickle his back, charmed me with word and a smile no longer be?

I stopped pedaling. The air became more still. I heard my breath.

A nurse picked up, “Your father is fine.”

I almost laughed with relief and amusement. She clearly didn’t know my father.

“He came in for anxiety and we’re still awaiting psych to release him.”

I began pedaling again. It was just business as usual.

Missing Dad

Missing Dad… since 1992

In his eyes*

Wake up. Wake up! His brain yells through the sleepy fog that hangs low and heavy on his consciousness. He tries to lift his eyes but really he is just too weary. Somewhere faraway, a phone is ringing. Now it’s become a fire engine roaring down the street. And now it’s an alarm. The fire is in front of him.

It’s jarring but he’s a spectator even in his own dream. He’s not spurred into motion. He simply watches the house burn down around him, sensing the urgency but unable to rouse himself.

Slowly panic engulfs like the flames, but still he remains stagnant, knowing he’s about to die, but too paralyzed to do anything about it. He is a prisoner of his broken body and his over-medicated brain. His heart hammers against his chest.

Deep inside his head, he knows that he no longer lives in a house.  The small detail reminds him that he is still sleeping. The screaming alarm is once again the phone.

The call is from his daughter. He can envision her face right now, cradling the phone on the other side of the world, 45 minutes away, children flanking her on all ends – frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, but not surprised. It’s far from the first time he hasn’t been able to get to the phone, even for a wakeup call he asked for; one that he needs to make a doctor appointment he has already rescheduled three times.

She is a good girl, his daughter. He sees her as child; the long dark pig tails, the green eyes that match his own, or at least used to when his own eyes were less muddied; the ready smile reserved just for him. He has failed that little girl who he promised in her crib to protect from harm. He never expected that he would be the one hurting her.

He pushes the thought away. It wounds and he needs not to think about it. Right now, he needs to focus his energy to wake up, to answer the ringing phone, to make his appointment.

With monumental effort, he forces himself to open his eyes. Through blurred vision he takes in the vials of medication scattered on the table, the clutter of boxes overloaded with books and papers, the slop of food on the floor from a 4am binge on cereal and ice cream that he barely remembers. A few pills lie there as well. He momentarily wonders if they are medications he never took, or extras that dropped after taking something he shouldn’t have. His heart quickens.

The ringing stops.

Disgusted by his failure but filled with relief, his eyes droop back down.

She will never again look at him the way she did once upon a time ago when he was a hero.

A tear slides down the side his face. He was a hero, strong and beautiful. Ah. I remember you, he recalls wistfully, drifting off; his mouth lifting in a small grin.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. His brain now commands and all pain fades into unconsciousness.

Once again he has found peace.

Strong and beautiful

Strong and beautiful

Getting Lost

I was driving home from the gym, my thoughts on other things. Mostly, I was worrying over my last conversation with my father. He had forgotten to secure a ride for his upcoming doctor appointment. He had also forgotten to mail me a letter I had asked for half a dozen times, and he had lost his debit card. Again.

None of this was too out of the ordinary. Worrisome, yes, but it had been going on a long time. Compared with other moments like, forgetting whether he took his medications, that he was smoking before he fell asleep, or to turn off the stove, I couldn’t complain.

Still, it left me, as always, unsettled; wondering if he really shouldn’t be in some type of care facility. I knew he wasn’t capable of living alone, even with the home health aide coming in daily. He knew it as well, but that didn’t stop him from fighting on threat of his life to remain independent.

It was a lose, lose battle for both us, and one so exhausting and old that my brain moved on, remembering that I needed to pick up the dry cleaning and calculating whether I had enough time for the supermarket before school let out. Suddenly, I looked around and realized I didn’t recognize where I was.

I had driven this seven minute route to and from the gym, hundreds of times. How could I possibly not know where I was?  I certainly wasn’t far, ten blocks at most. Yet, it all looked unfamiliar. Did I not take the right turn? There were only three or four turns to take. Where was I?

I panicked, gazing around at the lovely overhanging trees, trying to place my surroundings, and drawing a complete blank.

On instinct, I made a U-turn and headed back in the direction I came. Before I even reached the first intersecting block, I knew exactly where I was. On the right road. Of course.

I turned the car back around again, and almost laughed out loud at my senior moment. I was so distracted, I had lost my bearings on a block I had traveled hundreds of times.

I made the next left and headed the next few blocks till I made another right, traveled five more blocks and pulled in my driveway. Home.

I put the car in park and felt ridiculously relieved and slightly shaken. It was frightening not being able to trust your instincts. It immediately brought me back to my father.

Every day, he loses his train of thought, his focus, his time. Every day we argue about things beyond our control. Because it’s one thing to lose your way, but another to lose yourself.


Just a bad day

I’m cold.

I know it’s officially Spring, but the air is still crisp, and with the up and down temperatures this winter, my body has never adapted. I feel almost naked, and I hunker down in my coat as the wind whips my face. I have a ‘thing’ at the school that I’m in no mood for.  Just getting to the car leaves me chilled to the bone. Lately, I’ve been wondering if I’m going to have to do the Florida migration in a couple of years. My body really hates the cold.

I left the house annoyed and unhappy. I had a bad day and it leaked into my night. It was a repeat of the night before and possibly the one before that. It comes like that, in waves, and sometimes I just can’t shake it; my dark mood wrapped as tightly around my neck as my grey wool scarf. I don’t know why the things that I usually casually brush off won’t budge, like my shovel in wet, heavy snow. I don’t know why I let it all settle, deep in my gut. How can I feel so heavy, yet so empty?

It could have been the boys, just being boys, fighting, teasing, playing too rough. And me, being overwhelmed.

Or, it could have been the never-ending laundry, pile of dishes and errands. And me, being overwhelmed.

Or it could have been my depressed, dysfunctional, disabled father throwing his burden on my back, needing more and more of my energy and assistance. And me, being overwhelmed.

It could just be my nature. I’m prone to deep thinking, and it is not always my friend. There’s so much to appreciate and yet, life is death. It’s a cold slap of reality that I never fully realized till my mid to late thirties. And now, I’ve never felt so keenly aware of how vapor thin life is. How delicate. How a strong gust of wind can push someone over the edge, just like that.

I arrive at the school and watch the people walking past. Some walk purposefully, others stroll arm in arm with a spouses or friends. I close my eyes and rest my head back against the seat. The radio is talking news, talking weather, talking sports. It’s as soothing as a sound machine set to waterfall. I don’t want to get out of the safety of the car. I don’t want to put on a happy face.

But I know I will. I always do.

I shiver and pull my coat tightly around me. It’s really not even that bad out. They’re predicting milder temperatures tomorrow. I hope so. I really can’t wait to feel the sun.