I have a moment while the nurse is here. I am tired. The horror of watching my dad starve to death weighs everything down and makes any laughter we can't suppress at odd moments feel disrespectful. But sometimes you have to laugh and sometimes you have to cry and it is what it is.
And sometimes you have to write. I need this chance to organize my thoughts into words to settle me a little. Or I might go crazy. My dad informed my mom this morning that it takes great effort to go truly crazy. I believe it may take just as much effort not to.
So what I would like to write about today are the parallels between my dad at this stage, and my nephew, Rivyn. The obvious themes of life and death seem to scream at us at every turn. I can't imagine struggling through this time with my parents without all the kids here to reaffirm what life is really about. But in particular to have this precious, remarkable little baby in the house---there are no words. You can't not smile when you look at that baby. We are all so sad, but then here is this adorable, sweet new person interjected into all of it. He is a lifeline. He reminds us simultaneously of what we have and what we will lose. We're all glad my dad got to meet him. We are all devastated that they will never know each other.
With Rivyn and my dad we're looking at the beginning and the end. It's striking how many details are alike. It's odd how the direction one is going changes our reactions to those same details. I'm reminded of how the first time someone asked me the question about the "glass being half full or half empty" how I decided I didn't know unless I knew the state of the glass before. If we were in the process of filling it or pouring it out changes my perception of what is there. When I make a list of some traits Rivyn and dad currently share, for one it's a gain and the other it's a loss. Rivyn's glass is rapidly filling, and dad's is rapidly being drained. But for the briefest of moments they are level.
Both Rivyn and dad are bald. They don't have all their teeth. They both have blue eyes that everyone delights in seeing when they open unexpectedly. They spit up a lot and don't seem to notice. They both vacillate between fussy and serene, and manage to remain charming either way. Neither has good control over his limbs, and both Rivyn and dad work to grasp our hands and shirts but seem to succeed at that better when doing it unconsciously. They both make soft cooing sounds when they are content and sleepy. They both look concerned in a resting state. They are both dearly loved by all the people in the house.
We are acutely aware that we don't know how they are perceiving the world as they float in and out of dreamlike states. We often don't know how to make them feel better when they express discomfort. We are relieved when they sleep.
I wanted to write this post because I kept thinking of Shakespeare's line from the All the World's a Stage monologue in As You Like It, about the baby "mewling and puking in his nurse's arms" and how it applies to both Rivyn and dad. I went online to find the exact quote and wound up weeping as I read through the whole thing. Great writing has a way of hitting you differently at different times, and bowling you flat when you catch it at just the right moment. I've read this monologue a hundred times or more, and have always thought it well crafted and insightful. But now.... Now it's my dad down to the fact that we had to take his dentures out while bile collects in his mouth. I'll never read these words the same way again. And they will probably always reduce me to tears from now on:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lined,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.