Observations on quality time with my 84 year old father, day – 10 (because on the -9th day, I rested)
Of the five trips I made to Los Angeles during my mother’s illness, the third was a quick one after she suffered a small stroke due to endocarditis. Her heart valves had become infected, forming broccoli type growths, destroying 80% of their usefulness. The doctors said these growths would flake away, travel up to her brain and cause strokes. In time, the infection even spread to her liver, after spending time in her spine, causing more pain and damage. After the stroke, my sister called me to say one of the endless stream of doctors told her they didn’t think my mother would last through the night. She actually lived more than two additional months. However, right after the stroke, it seemed she was going downhill fast. Then suddenly, she rallied. I’ve been told by others there are often rallies before the final descendancy to the ever after.
Her brother, my dear Uncle Michael, came to LA this time. His partner Sam was too ill at the time to come with him on this trip. My uncle is 78 year’s old and slowing down. That he’s alive at all is a wonder as he came close to death himself back in 1997 when it was discovered he had AIDS. A combination of AIDS cocktails, a large circle of supportive friends and his own, and Sam’s, focused determination get the credit for his continued robust survival.
Although my post-stroke mother was comatose, we were told by the doctors to try and communicate with her. It was espescially heartbreaking to see my uncle, who never thought he’d outlive his sister, tearily try and speak to her, attempting to break through whatever blanketed layers stood between us and her damaged consciousness…and through the ear canals of someone who’d lost both their hearing aids months before.
On this trip, my rental car came iPhone ready. I set up a playlist on my phone of 30’s and 40’s songs for my uncle and my dad, figuring I’d be driving both of them around more often than not. It was no more than 15 songs total. Lots of Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. In particular there was a Billie Holliday track I had recently discovered called “The Man I Love.” I had somehow stumbled upon it, tooling around Youtube one day, while sampling different songs. The combination of the Gershwin composition, Billie’s 100% convincing and emotive voice, those heart tugging descending horns in the verses and Lester Young’s signature solo telegraphing both economy and confidence, is to my ears, which are less familiar with this genre of music than the music I grew up with, one of the most sublime recordings I have ever heard. It’s a musical marriage made in heaven. Conversely, here are the three of us, with so much bad water under our respective bridges, all sighing simultaneously under the spell of this transcendent music. Later on, when I was less receptive, my father said these trips in the car listening to music were some of the highlights of his day. He may drive me bananas but it takes too much energy to hate him. Better to soothe the savage beast.
© Curt Weiss 2014