Monday, June 11, 2007

The World is Coming Unglued, and No One is Paying Attention

I visited my grandfather yesterday with my parents. He's not doing well. He was already suffering from dementia, but, after falling and breaking his hip and getting pneumonia, he is totally clueless as to his surroundings and what's going on. But the thing is, his speech is fine. Part of his brain is still ticking along as always, but the other half seems to have nearly shut down. He is incredibly frustrated to be trapped in this way with no clue what's happened or where exactly he is. His entire reality is disorganized and constantly disappearing from his memory. And he's bored to tears. He can't concentrate to read or watch TV, so he just lies there in bed totally confused. Can you think of a more horrific existence? And this is a man who was once Superintendent of the Naval Academy, an Admiral Three Star in the Navy. He's been in control of important things for nearly 90 years. And now he can't even remember what he's doing in a hospital bed. The title of this post is what he exclaimed yesterday at one point when he felt so frustrated. He had continued telling us how confused he was and frustrated by the whole thing. He apologized for complaining, but, at one point, he raised his arms in the air and exclaimed, "The world is coming unglued, and no one is paying attention." We couldn't help but start laughing. It was the perfect expression of his situation. My dad just kept saying, "We're paying attention!" He didn't say, "The world is not coming unglued." Because it is, especially for my Grandpa. His world is certainly unglued, and all the king's horses can't put it back together.

My mom always manages to make difficult situations funny. Well, sometimes she makes them more awkward, but always funny. I told her that when she gets to that stage of life I'm just going to go with whatever her brain is telling her. Why fight it? And why not make it even more crazy. If she asks me where someone is, I'm going to tell her outer space. If she wants to know what happened, I'll tell her the truth, that a unicorn came on a rainbow and tied all the yarn in her head together. I'm just warning her in advance. Perhaps it will make the difficulty of dementia more tolerable for both of us.

My immediate family has a solution for this period of life that we call "The Pillow Treatment." We all recognize that no one wants to remain living in that state of things, with no hope, pain and utter confusion. The solution originated some years ago. My little brother was sitting on the couch with my mom watching TV. He picked up a pillow and acted as though he was going to suffocate her. He said, "It's just better this way." It was so stinking funny. We are a rather darkly humored group. So, it's been said ever since then that when my parents reach that point of complete misery, with no hope of recovery, we bring Michael in for "the pillow treatment" to free them from the burden of life. We all agree that doing this is far more civil than letting them suffer for months or years on end with no hope. Obviously, this is not a real possibility, but my mom continues to tell me that this is her choice. I think we're all on board with the Dr. Kevorkian philosophy. It's so unfair that by the time you reach that point, where you life is just void of LIFE, you don't have the faculties or the capability to take matters into your own hands. Hence the fact that someone else has to help you along. And who better than someone who loves you and doesn't want to see you suffer any longer?

On the flip side, I know that suicide early in life is a selfish and sad end to life. And I guess the argument against assisted suicide is just that, at one point is it the best solution and who gets to make that decision? The older I get (wow, I never thought I'd say that), the more I really do value my days and my existence on earth. It's hard to imagine those days when I truly felt that life was not worth living, that every day was only pain and that I had no hope for the future. All I could see was the pain of life. It was like I was looking through infrared glasses and could only see the heat and not the cool. Seeing and feeling all that heat all the time, I thought I would burn up if I kept living. I'm really glad I didn't die. I'm glad my lame attempt at suicide was unsuccessful. I'd have missed out on Marco and Maya. I'd have missed out on my actual life. High school and college just don't seem like they were actual life - just the larva and cocoon stages. My cocoon stage lasted a lot longer. I think I've only come out fully and flexed my wings within the last year or so. And I'm still not too great at flying. But I have hope, because I've felt the breeze, at least. I truly understand that life just gets sweeter the older you get. Oprah always says that life really got great after 50. It's nice to know that there is still so much living to do.

1 comment:

kc said...

I think you should write a short piece about your grandfather, using that quote (world. . unglued).

I think it could be really cool.

Hope all's well,

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