For most of my post-high-school life, I've compared my life path with my mom's. She was 19 when she got married; 20 when she had me; and by 28, she had 4 kids. She separated from her husband at 36 and went to college at 38. Each year, on my birthday, I'd imagine my good fortune at escaping her fate. I sometimes wonder what I missed, though, spending my 20s destroying my brain cells with chemicals and using post-secondary education to avoid taking any real responsibility for my life. My mom was a responsible adult at 20. It took me until I was almost 30. The comparisons aren't quite as satisfying as they used to be. I don't have regrets - I don't think I would have been happy living a version of my mom's life - but still. I wonder sometimes.
Last weekend, as ana reported, we hung out for a couple of days with iGrrrl and family. I had a great time, and I fear that I've been re-bitten by the boating bug. I've only sailed twice, counting last weekend, but the complexity is fascinating, and I would like to learn more what to do. I also want to go up the mast, as iGrrrl did. She didn't look particularly happy up there, and fiddling with parts to replace with carpal tunnel can't be a great deal of fun. But I think it would be really cool to be fifty feet in the air, with a tiny-looking boat down below.
When I was a kid, my family (brothers, mom, grandfather, and assorted dogs) would take our 15-foot jon boat and our 13-foot canoe out on the Northeast Cape Fear River. Over the course of several summers, we traversed the entire navigable length of the river, from just north of Chinquapin through downtown Wilmington. We'd take a few miles at a time, trading off who would paddle the canoe and who would ride the knee board behind the jon boat. This was really rural country, and we saw alligators, herons, otters, beavers, and lots and lots of white-tailed deer. I don't think I realized how much I miss doing that sort of thing until last weekend.
My 87-year-old grandfather had a car accident a couple of months ago. Single-vehicle, in his gigantic Dodge pick-up truck. He cracked a vertebrae and a couple of ribs and had a rather serious knot on his head. He spent a couple of weeks in the hospital and another week in a rehab center before moving to a nursing home. ana and I went to see him when we were in NCia for B's wedding the end of May. Prior to the accident, he'd been showing signs of increasing dementia. He'd call my mom in the middle of the night, not knowing where he was - thinking he was at a long-deceased cousin's house or at his sister-in-law's house and not knowing how to get home.
Since the accident, it's gotten progressively worse. Apparently, he spent some time fighting in Iraq recently. This week, he refused to leave another resident's room because he was watching a non-existent fire in the nursing home. He hit a physical therapist. He was convinced that my mom's older sister was pregnant with a black man's child (this one is a direct result of his racism). He is certain that my mom is cheating him out of his money. And every day, my mom goes to the nursing home, feeds him his dinner, tries to convince him of what has happened, and goes back to her house discouraged and hurt. It's a miserable situation all around. I imagine that he probably doesn't have much time left.
Neither does my mom - her last oncologist appointment showed that the protein marker for cancer, CA125 has gone up slightly, after decreasing remarkably over the past 18 months. It's still in the "normal" range, but she also has an infection in her abdomen, and the antibiotics will delay the next course of her medication. Her cancer is terminal - I know this, though I can't quite accept it.
My grandfather, with all of his faults and his overbearing personality, and his horribly right-wing views on women, gays, and the world in general, was more of a father to me than my biological father was. It was his boat we took out on the weekends. My brothers and I worked in his garden every summer. He taught me how to ride a horse, how to milk a cow, how to drive a tractor, how to shingle a roof without falling off. He had a wicked sense of humor, and if he were younger, he'd be a dkos troll, I'm certain. He survived his first heart attack when I was six. A week or so after he came home from the hospital, my grandmother found him in a tree, cutting down dead branches with a hand saw. He's one of the most stubborn people I've ever met. When my grandmother died, he admitted to my mom that he wished he'd not had heart surgery - he just couldn't imagine living without her. My grandmother often disagreed with him, but they really seemed to have a happy and solid marriage.
My mom is now taking care of him, and this puts both of them in an odd position. As a father, he was overbearing and exacting. My mom intimated that she never felt she measured up, and I think she's spent a great deal of her adult-hood trying to make him proud. She succeeded, absolutely. And now she watches him forget that pride. She watches him as he moves backward in time, forgetting the person he was 20 years ago, and becoming someone completely other. He's become some sort of demanding, almost evil, child. I ache for him - for the loss of self-ness - and I ache for her. And I watch it all from 800 miles away, helpless to do anything but light candles and guiltily hope for resolution.
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