Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Comfort in the End

Here's something I wrote while I was filming a City Council meeting. It was really just a delivery device for an idea I had... So, please to enjoy.

Her cell phone bleated an old tune for a TV show that let her know the person on the other end was her older brother. When they were little, he used to watch that show religiously and in all the years from then to now, it reminded her ever of him. The song started over once more by the time she picked it up, pressed the button, and put the receiver to her ear.

"Hello?" she said, immediately.

"Hey sis," her brother replied, warmly, "How's things?"

"Things are good," she began as she stood up and pulled her knit sweater sleeve up over her elbow with her free hand. "It's been quiet, generally. Jim's been gone for work a lot and the kids have been in school for a couple of months now, so it's mainly just been me and dad."

"Dad isn't making a lot of noise?" he chuckled.

"No..." She got up from her chair and made her way to the front door.

"How's he doing?"

"He's doing good. He has good days and not so good days, but more good days than bad lately, so that's been helpful."

"How's he doing with medication? Is it the same stuff he's on?"

"Yeah, they upped the dosage but it's the same stuff."

"And it's slowing down?"

"I think so, maybe. You can never really tell with Ahlzheimers. That's what they keep telling me anyway. It's all so frustrating one way or the other."

"How do you mean?"

"It's like he's there, but he's not. His attitude, his personality are there sometimes, but it's almost like his eyes are hollow and he just doesn't understand where or who he is." She finished her sentence and turned the knob on the door so she could take the walk out into the crisp Autumn twilight.

"I feel like a jackass hearing that."

Before he could explain, she asked him, "Why?"

"I feel like I should be the one taking care of him."

"You didn't saddle me with him or anything. I wanted to take him."

"I know, but... I just feel like I should be there."

"I won't argue that you can always be here more, but you're seven-hundred miles away. I understand why you're not here more."

"If he needs me--if you need me--I'll be there in a heart beat."

"I know."

There was a pause as neither brother nor sister knew what to say.

She shuffled her feet through a red-orange thicket of leaves beneath her tree on the gray sidewalk in front of her house.

"So what's he do with his time?"

"Oh, this and that. He used to do a lot of crossword puzzles, but those got too difficult for him, so he does word searches a lot now. He watches a lot of movies."

"He always did that, though."

"Yeah. But the hardest part of it is putting on one of his favorite movies and having him ask me if he's ever seen it before. I put on, what was that war movie... the dozen? the one with Kojak..."

"The Dirty Dozen."

"Yeah. He's watched it for the first time about twenty times this month."

"Oh."

"And he always wants to watch John Wayne movies, but every time I put in a John Wayne movie, he doesn't recognize John Wayne--"

"--really?"

"Yeah. And then, he gets pissy at me that I didn't put in a John Wayne movie. It's so damned exasperating sometimes."

"I can imagine."

"And he just can't do jigsaw puzzles. I tried to help him with them, but I would just end up getting too frustrated and mad at him and it's not his fault, so then I feel guilty and Jim has to put up with me crying myself to sleep."

"How's Jim dealing with all of this?"

"It's been getting easier on him. He and dad never got along and it's always been a source of tension for him to have him in the house all the time, and he's sort of... coming to terms with the idea that this isn't really Dad anymore. I think it's easier for him to deal with it for the same reason it's harder for me."

"It's hard to realize that it's not him so much anymore. It's what's left of what he used to be and it kills me that it's fallen solely on you to make him comfortable."

She paced back and forth through the leaves, "Do you know who Dr. Hanauer is?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Dad keeps asking about him."

"That was the family doctor for years. He delivered the both of us. I think he retired just after you were born. I remember seeing him a few times as a kid."

"Why was he asking about him, do you think?"

"I think maybe it's just a matter of comfort. It's no secret that you older you get the more comfortable you like to be and Dr. Hanauer was his doctor for thirty years before he retired."

"I guess that makes sense."

"Hm. I never really thought about it like that before. You spend thirty years getting completely comfortable with your doctor and he retires right when you'd want to be able to rely on him the most. When you're set in your ways, you need to find a new doctor or, Hell, even a team of doctors."

"It's frightening when you put it like that."

"Maybe it is."

"Well, I should get back in there. His movie's ending soon."

"All right. You take care, sis."

"You too."

"Let me know if you need anything."

"I will."

"Bye-bye."