Friday, December 27, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Dear Mardi,

Thanks for remembering my birthday, as you always do.  You make me feel like such a derelict.   Your birthday’s in March, right?  The 5th?  Am I close?  Anyway, next year I expect a big card for a very big event.  Can I say “50”?  Probably not without some  pained effort.

The boys and I made two trips to Warren this year, but no one outside of my family knew about it since I curiously and intentionally didn’t tell anyone else beforehand or contact anyone after our arrival.  Our visit in March was relatively short.  Four days, I think.   Most of my daylight hours were spent walking back and forth between my parents’ house and Beaty Field or the house and Jefferson schoolyard.  I was in constant demand to play basketball or catch.   On the way back to Wisconsin, we stopped in Chicago for two days, stayed at an expensive Lake Shore Drive hotel, and took in the sights.  Mostly museums, plus a trip to the top of the Hancock building, which absolutely fascinated the boys.  JoAnna stayed home as she was coordinating a special senate election and temporarily had no life outside of work.

In early August, a week after our high school reunion, we spent seven days in Warren, staying at Larry and Kim’s cabin on Valentine Run.  What an idyllic setting.  I just tuned out the world and focused on family and the 700-page book I was reading.  The boys and I did spend two day at Kinzua Beach, remembering to bring footwear the second day.    If I had called you, we could have traveled to Renee’s bat mitzvah together.  When JoAnna decided she couldn’t make the trip – gearing up for the general elections this time – I still considered making the trip to Lorain.  Once I settled into Warren, though, I told myself, I’m not driving anywhere until it’s time to return to Wisconsin.  Driving is not the joy it used to be.  And the boys aren’t to blame.  They are actually very good travelers.  Anyway, give me a big kick in the seat of the pants for missing this opportunity.  I have yet to apologize to Renee because I still feel like such an idiot, just like I did in 1970 when I missed her wedding.

I think part of my attitude of Warren aloofness has to do with our family situation.  Parkinson’s Disease keeps eating away at Dad’s physical and mental well-being.  The decline over the past couple years has been especially painful to observe, even from a distance of 700 miles.  Dad has great difficulty getting around on his own.  In fact, earlier this year the kitchen nook was transformed into a sleeping area for him.  He can’t negotiate stairs anymore.  During the day, he spends most of his time in a motorized upholstered chair, one that provides mechanical assistance in sitting down and getting up.  He’s almost always in a dozing position.  He gets easily confused; his mind, during moments of what now for him passes as lucidness, focuses on past events.  Last year during our December visit, he shuffled across the kitchen floor, stopped abruptly, and said, “I have to preach tomorrow at First Lutheran.”  Or he’ll talk about Mom in the third person and refer to some event that took place early in their marriage as if it were yesterday.  I’ve been meaning to read more about the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s, mostly to get a better understanding of how it affects the mind, especially in the later stages of the disease, which I suppose is where my dad must be by now.  It was 1990 when the first, very subtle , changes in his physical bearing became noticeable.  What really bugs me though is how little support Mom gets from the rest of her children.  I wanted to take her and the boys out to lunch, but Barb couldn’t be bothered to stay home and keep an eye on Dad.  There’s no way he can be left alone now.

Hey, great Christmas letter, huh?  Really upbeat.

Sorry about this self-indulgent rambling.

We’ll be in Warren from December 26th (the evening) through New Year’s Eve.  In fact, you and your mom are already aware of our upcoming visit.  (Yolanda probably, said, “If he’s not going to call me, I’ll call that runt myself!”  Again, the cabin will be our base of operations.  I will call this time, and when we get together, you can administer the appropriate punishment.

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