Thursday, September 22, 2016


Earlier today I thought of a funny idea that I wanted to write down before I forgot. I grabbed the first notebook I saw and started turning to a blank page. This is the last piece I had written. I don't remember writing it. I think I must have written it in the hospital the day before Mom passed away, but I just don't remember for sure.


I used to think true fear was Gmork.

Gmork is a talking wolf with glowing green eyes. He appears in The Neverending Story. For most of the movie he's a shadow pursuing Atreyu. When they finally meet, Gmork starts to talk. He serves The Nothing, the force devouring the fantasy world of Fantasia. Every time I watched the movie I couldn't watch that part. I would close my eyes, but hearing his words still chilled my heart. I would stick my fingers in my ears, telling my sister to let me know when Gmork was dead. 

Just two nights ago I watched that scene again, hoping to exorcise the green-eyed demon that had hounded me for a quarter of a century. I thought it had worked, that I was finally over fearing Gmork. 

Night fell. I went to bed. I had to get up to use the bathroom, but I couldn't move. I needed a flashlight to make sure Gmork wasn't there, waiting to open his eyes and leap for my throat.

As it turns out, Gmork isn't fear.

Fear, true fear, is walking into Room 127 to find my mother lying in bed, tubes entering and exiting, violating her appearance. Her head to one side, mouth open in a silent plea for help that I cannot give. Bile flows through a tube from her abdomen, slowly filling a 32 oz plastic mug.

Her eyes struggle to open when I say, "I'm here."

Her mouth works. To say what, I don't know. Her lips are so dry that the skin sticks and stretches as if her mouth had disappeared completely.

Fear is watching her eyes clench in pain, a moaning cry wisping from her throat as she begins to hiccup, the movement tugging at her recently opened abdomen, tearing at stitches that haven't even begun to form scars.

Her left arm begins to lift, her hand flapping uselessly. She wants to lift it to her nose, to pull the tube inserted there, but she doesn't have the strength.

She had a stroke, a big one, in the left hemisphere of her brain. A stroke so big it jumped the divide and spilled into the right half. 

The doctors are worried about swelling. They offer to show me, and my siblings, pictures.

Fear is leaving Room 127 after she has been dosed with Dilotid. Her erratic movements cease and she starts to slip off to sleep.

I tell her I love her. I say I'll come back to visit.

As I turn to exit I feel my heart contract and it has to work harder to beat.

Gmork could wait in the shadows and I wouldn't care. His glowing green eyes and snarling manner of speech no longer matter, for I have learned true fear.

I am terrified that death is waiting to escort my mother away and I'm not ready.

True terror is getting a call at work that says, "You need to come to the hospital. Now."

I know what's going to happen. I also know there's nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is be there for my mother and my siblings.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Few Words...

...regarding the death of my father.

Is it weird to be grateful? It has been so many years since Dad had the full use of his faculties. He didn't know who I was, though he sometimes looked like he knew he should. I can't imagine it was a pleasant way to live. He had Alzheimer's. Dementia. Parkinson's. And he finally decided he'd had enough. And that's OK. I had long since mourned the passing of my father. The funeral was just a formality. 

It was a nice funeral. There were some family members I was glad to see again. I got to interact with the Mosdell family (the morticians), which is always nice. They were very friendly and were concerned with my well-being. Not just as family of the deceased, but as a friend. It was cathartic to go through the funeral services. I didn't have any responsibilities, which was great as I was very involved with Mom's funeral. 

I loved my father. I know he loved me. 

(Here's the part where I try to process my thoughts about my relationship with my father. This is from my perspective. There were many people, including many of my nieces and nephews and some people who weren't blood related, who had a better relationship with my father than I did. Please don't try to discredit my feelings. They are mine. They should in no way diminish yours.)

I didn't have a stellar relationship with my father. I feel now as though he just didn't have time for me. I think we just didn't have a whole lot in common apart from our familial relationship. Even though we were both avid readers, our books of choice were vastly different. I remember trying to read some of Dad's collection of Louis L'Amour novels. The only one I liked was Lando, and it wasn't a typical L'Amour book. 

Back in February I started working with a counselor. I started off focusing on my grief following Mom's death. As we worked through those feelings, we started talking about my relationship with Dad. That became the focus of the bulk of our sessions. For one session, my counselor asked that I come prepared by remembering a "disturbing" memory. 

In my memory I believe I'm around 12 years old. I'm jumping on the trampoline. Dad is working on a project with Mom. He calls me over as he needs an additional pair of hands. I walk across the lawn in my socks to help. He needs me to hold his drill while he adjusts the pieces he is screwing together. His drill that is all metal. I take it, get shocked, and drop it. Dad gets a little irritated. He picks it up and hands it back to me. I drop it again. I'm crying now because getting shocked is a bit painful, plus Dad is now upset with me. I can't remember how the situation was resolved. Thinking about it now, I can't believe that Dad didn't realize what was happening when I first dropped the drill. He taught science. I was grounded. It's no big surprise I was shocked when he, wearing shoes, was not. 

I discussed this memory with my counselor until I no longer felt it was disturbing to me. I made some progress resolving my feelings toward my father. I moved to South Carolina, then went back to Utah briefly for Dad's funeral. 

After I came back to South Carolina I spent a while trying to scan family documents. I started scanning a calendar that Dad used as a diary, making brief notations for each day. I stopped to read one when I saw my name written. He was talking about supporting me at a Cub Scout ceremony. Then he wrote the following, "When Adam was born I was jealous of him because he took my wife as a mother. He still does. I, however, have lost my jealousy feelings."

My father resented me.

This was quite the revelation. There were emotions and memories that clicked into place. From what I understand, feelings of jealousy and resentment from fathers toward their children is common. I wonder if Dad really had conquered his jealousy. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. That journal entry helped clear some things up. It helps explain why I didn't feel all that close to Dad. 

Knowing that Dad felt that way makes me feel a little vindicated. That I'm not crazy for feeling that there was a distance between us. Is there still some processing I need to do? Probably, but I feel like, as far as feelings about my dad go, that I'm in a pretty good place now.