Monday, February 11, 2013

Fenstad’s Mother – Charles Baxter

I thought over these past several months that perhaps I had dried up.

That there possibly couldn’t be any more thoughts generated by these stories.

Of course, that is impossible, and I soon realized that I just lost my creative drive a bit.

Lost the groove. There needed to be a pause. Not like I was writing furiously, or really writing at all, but there needed to be a space for fermentation.

Here I am early in the morning – struggling through my overnight shift at the university, lack of sleep making me a little loopy – presenting you with a disjointed essay that will cover everything from my guit on being a bad son to me being scared shitless about having that little Alzheimer’s defect swirling around in my DNA.

I have thought a lot about this story. I have written several drafts of this little essay…all of which have somehow become” lost”. My subconscious has allowed me to forget which email account or which drive I stored them on – only for me to find them one day and quickly delete them knowing that they were not the right version – that this version, the one that I will post is exactly the one that time has dictated to be placed here.

At this point in my writing of this essay, I feel that I should mention something about my mother. This story was pushing it on me but I refused to see it. I don’t want to get into remembrances of my mother because I don’t think that this is what I am supposed to write about.

Simply, I think this story is telling me that I’m not spending enough time with my mother. That I am not providing her with the support she needs now.

I am slowing becoming more aware of time and the amount of time, and not just our time but the time of our loved ones on this earth.

I have become more aware of this over the past few months through my father’s slow death from Alzheimer’s and the physical change in my mother as she takes care of her husband who is in his 90s also suffering from dementia and well from the fact that he’s in his 90s!

With my mother, I see a woman in her late 60s being sucked into an age well beyond her years due to the emotional and physical stresses of caring for her husband. And I’ve been a poor son, living 1 mile away from her house, and going sometimes a full week without even texting her. I am so fortunate to have a wife who will step in for my failings and have a communication stream with my mother that absorbs some of the hurt that I know my mom must feel knowing her son is so close but so far.

This is nothing new though.

I have a note from her written some years ago, I can’t remember exactly; perhaps it was in the 90s, where she pleaded with me to let me let her into my life a little. I was stubborn, and I honestly can’t recall if my behavior towards her changed after that letter but I have a feeling it didn’t.

Now as a father, I can’t imagine the day that may arise that I too will have to write a note to my son asking him to allow me into his life once again.

When my step-mother was in her 30s and she decided to marry my father did she ever imagine that she’d be in the position she is in now? Did my sister and I ever think that our father would be re-entering our lives the way he now? As a man who can’t walk from one room to the next and know why he walked into that room?

My mother who in her early 40s, just over a year after my father left, would she have ever imagined that she would be in the position that she is in now? Would my mother who can’t walk out of the house for more than 2 minutes ever think that she would be charged with feeding her husband, helping him walk from one room to the next, calling the rescue squad after he’s fallen out of the bed, spending an hour cleaning the bathroom after not making it there in time for him to use the toilet?

The disease that has gripped these two men, my father and my step father is dragging down 13 others with it. And I have so much more I’d like to say about this…and will but not in this entry.

I sit a mile from my mother’s house and can’t make it over there for 5 minutes to say hello. That is simply unacceptable.

It’s hard being a father but I think it’s more difficult being a mother. And I think it’s even more difficult to be a mother to a son.

I’m middle aged now and I need to stop acting as I did when I was younger. Middle age. And to further heighten the necessity for me to get my shit together, if early onset Alzheimer’s hits me…well, I have about 20 good years left before I begin my slide. Twenty years will pass in the blink of an eye. And what will I have to show for it?

Daily, I need to recognize those around me and know their value and to appreciate them for what they give me. Perhaps through that recognition I can give a little to them in return – a feeling of worth that they didn’t expect…a bright spot in a dark day – we pass through this space only once.

So, quite a bit has come from me sitting on this story. A new level of guilt has taken up firm residence on my shoulders – perhaps I can ease that weight a bit by actually calling mom every-so-often.

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