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Monday, January 6, 2014

OT: latest with my stepdad

We went to visit M this weekend. He moved into an assisted-living facility, since he couldn't be on his own anymore. He can no longer drive, so he couldn't get anything for himself. His mind is still pretty sharp, but his body is extremely frail and he needs a cane or a walker to keep his balance. He'll be 96 in March.

His new place is actually kind of nice; he has his own little apartment, all his meals, plenty of activities (although he hasn't availed himself of any of them). There's a beautiful front room with a fireplace, and a game room with a big-screen TV, coffee and snacks available 24/7. Very quiet and spotlessly clean. At least I know he's being taken care of.

He still jokes a lot ("Everyone here is so OLD!"). He misses my mother. Mercifully, he seems to have forgotten what a nightmare her last six or so years were, and his memories are fond. I'm glad for him, and a little envious. I know my mother and I had our good times, but whenever I think of her, it's in a negative mode. In my memories, she's always at her worst -- screaming at me, criticizing me, embarrassing me, hurting my feelings. I hope that fades in time. Maybe it's because we never had any sort of closure... she just sort of spiraled into dementia and I distanced myself.

My stepdad never had an easy time of it with this family, poor guy. I'd written in my book about how much I resented him when he started seeing my mother, but I was just a little kid. Turns out my brother Ken wasn't too nice to him either! M was telling us about the first time he had dinner at our house; I guess I wasn't there for this. He put a little ketchup on his steak, and Ken made a face and said, "How gauche." How rude! But you know, we were both such a mess, really. M thinks Ken would have outgrown it, had he lived. I wonder.

We went for dinner, and then M and John watched football. I didn't really mind, as that spared me from having to make further conversation. Instead, I buried myself in a photo album, discovering pictures I'd never seen before. I have very few shots of Ken and me together -- mostly ones where I was very small. So it was amazing to find the following. I have vague memories of the two of us playing duets on the piano, but I often wondered if I'd imagined it, because there were no pictures of it. Until now.

The ride home was the usual. John fell asleep, and I drove along, steeped in memories, and feeling that old heavy sadness wrap itself around me like a winter shawl. John knew. He was extra sweet to me, very attentive, doing everything he knew would make me laugh.

It is what it is, as they say. But I can't help wishing sometimes that it wasn't.

I need to get back into gear. I need to play again. There's that word again: balance. I need it. There must be more fun and silliness. 

Today: back to the gym. Tomorrow: FUN and PLAY, dammit! And back on topic!


  1. Erica, thank you for giving us some of your nostalgic life, that you used to live. And your piano playing days, with your brother Ken. What type of music did you play, Was it classical, or pop. What were your favorites pieces. Do you still play the piano. What happened to your brother Ken. I am pleased that your step-father has settled into an assisted-living establishment, they can be very comfortable, when someone is always there to look after your needs. XXX Luv ya

  2. Six -- we played classical, and I was particularly fond of Chopin. But I have not played for many years. Ken died in a car accident when I was 14 and he was 22.

  3. Hi Erica -- I am so glad that your Stepdad is getting good care :-) I Love that pic of you and your brother Ken.You are very beautiful in that pic :-) You are still beautiful today.It is what it is,was my Uncle Frank's favorite saying :-) He had a few shirts with that saying on it.He passed away 2 months ago :-( He was my Aunt Minnies ex husband,but they were the BEST of friends :-) I can't wait to read about your session with Steve. Much Love and hugs from naughty girl Jade

  4. This beautiful experience sounds like balance in and of itself.
    Up for the next balancing act! ;-)

  5. Jade -- and I can't wait to have it. I need it.

    MrJ -- not really, I'm afraid. It just made me sad.

  6. You stepdad seems precious and it's great he's living in comfort. Whether or not you agree with his assessment of your brother's potential behavioral change and even your mother's I think it's great to get differing opinions on how or why people conduct themselves the way they do.
    I know in my own family people have more positive memories of my parents than I do. It hasn't softened my stance on my feelings towards them, but I appreciate the kindness of the people who DID enjoy them in a different way from me.

  7. Thank you Erica, for answering my questions. I am sure listening to you playing Chopin's romantic melodies, would have soothed my tender ears with soothing sounds of pleasure. XXX Luv ya,

  8. Kelly -- I am very happy that my stepdad has better memories of my mother. I think what bothers me, though, is when my own memories are invalidated, you know?

  9. Erica, what sweet pictures. It looks like you are both singing as you play. But I don't suppose there were any lyrics to the Chopin, so you were probably both counting :)


  10. Hermione -- or we could have been playing chopsticks for all I know. ;-) Probably not, though.

  11. How great to find those pictures! It's nice to have some good memories captured.

  12. Lea -- yes, and in my family, they were few and far between. So these were great. :-)