Monday, September 19, 2011

The Day My Father Died

I was with him in the afternoon. He was 85 and had been ill but wasn't then, that day. He was the same. His year round Christmas tree was decorated for summer and he was wearing shorts and a loose shirt and was barefoot.

He had hated the hospitalization of a few months earlier. It had meant a recurrence of the German POW camp memories and the PTSD was terrifying but that was behind him and he was the same. Nearly indestructible. He was the same.

I left then and drove the 10 minutes home and took the dog out and then the phone was ringing and it was him and he couldn't breathe and he sounded scared (a little) and he asked if I could come back and I said "Of course" and I went back and when I got there he was in distress and he put it in my hands.

I told him that I thought we should call 911 and asked if he wanted me to. He said that if I thought so then we should. He put it my hands.

I rode in the ambulance, in back with him (man it was so hot and I got so car sick) and held his hand. He put his hand there in my hands and he was quiet, thinking (I think) about being the same, seeking the same (if you will).

I called my sisters and I told them "Lights and sirens" and Mary raced to meet us at the hospital while Jeannie planned for plane fare.

At the hospital, in the trauma bay, the Doc said that a cut down line would do the trick. Put things right and my dad said okay, do it, go for it and we were surprised. We didn't expect the "yes". We watched, we saw bright red blood slip down his coat hanger shoulders and onto the floor and then we saw the change.

We saw his eyes come back to himself. We saw him become the same again. We saw him consider, look around and decide and then...he walked away.

I turned to Mary and said "He's dying" and the surgeon looked back over his shoulder at me  "Oh, no” he said “he's nowhere near death" and a few moments later he looked up and called us to our father's side. "He's dying" the Doc said. "He shouldn't be but he is. You might want to say good bye."

And so we did. I (we) cried because he would be gone from us- not that he was going, choosing. We knew it was his to decide. Only his hand was in my hands then. I told him I knew he was leaving and I said goodbye.

I remember thinking at the time, in that moment, that he had done it on his terms. He had considered the future after the "life saving" and that he had walked away. That he had become the same in that moment of decision.

They offered us time in the trauma bay. "As long as we might need,” they said. But we didn't stay. He was gone; he had left on his terms.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Barbie and My Bad, Bad Hair Day

When I was in grammar school (somewhere in the early-middle grades, I can’t be sure) my grandmother took my sister and my two “girl cousins” and me to Gimbel’s Department Store Beauty Salon for our first PROFESSIONAL HAIRCUTS (this was my father’s mother- she had four sons and may have imagined that this would a wonderful “just us girls experience” <my mother’s mother sewed dresses for us and baked cookies but would never have taken us to a SALON, I seriously doubt she went herself>).

I imagine that we were excited but the way things ended I don’t really remember (wait for the end and you can judge) but the day started out well enough.

My grandfather picked us all up in his big blue Lincoln Continental (my sister and I were first because we lived farthest from Gimbel’s and because we both got car sick so we needed to spend the maximum amount of time possible floating around unrestrained in the giant back seat too short <well I was too short- Mary was older so maybe she could see> to see out of the side windows with the heat blasting and my grandmother’s perfume filling the super-heated air insuring maximum quease factor) and dropped us off at Gimbel’s for the BIG DAY (clearly he was not hanging about while four little girls got their hair done).

We had lunch in the Gimbel’s Lunch Room (a thrill on its own back then <in my world kids didn’t go to restaurants very often>) and I know I had a strawberry malt coz, well; I had a strawberry malt every chance I got. I have no idea what else happened at that lunch. I know I was car sick and nervous. We were all nervous. This was big.

There we were: two gawky redheaded, freckled girls with long, THICK, coarse, wavy hair and two ungainly little blondes with long, THICK, coarse, curly hair handed over unknowing and unsuspecting to four different beauticians (they were not stylists back then- oh no- these women were making BEAUTY).

I don’t remember much about the actual haircut. I have images of my waist-length hair coming away by the handful. I recall the smell of someone’s permanent wave solution. I recall that my lady teased and ratted my hair and that it hurt when she did it. I remember that the hairspray made me feel all “chokey” and I remember being turned around to face the mirror and well (even at the age of 7 or 8 or 9) being horrified and too well brought up to say anything.

To quote my mother here I looked like “a little girl under a middle-aged woman’s head of hair”. I had a ratted and teased bee-hive-like mound behind super thick bangs that started at about my crown and dropped to my eyebrows. All of this splendiferous beauty was lacquered firmly in place by layers of hairspray in an attempt (a rapidly failing attempt) to constrain the bristly-thick little girl that was trying to re-assert itself.

My cousin Laurie suffered a similar fate but her mop of bangs was desperately trying to coil half way up her forehead and she had been embellished with a bow.  I have no memory of what was done to the older girls (they both wore glasses poor souls- I may be blocking whatever it was).

I have to assume that my grandmother was a little horrified because she whisked Laurie and me off to the toy department and bought us Barbie Dolls (the only Barbie Doll I ever owned) before my grandfather picked us up.

My mother burst into tears when she saw me. I remember that part clearly. I know that my mother and my aunt were not well pleased that my grandmother had not supervised these “transformations” a little more closely (poor woman, she was probably the one getting the permanent- she raised boys). I remember what a mess it was getting my beautiful “do” undone and I remember Barbie.

My poor, sad Barbie...I was really nearly too old for Barbie (even though girls played with Barbie at little older ages back then) I remember that and I only got the doll herself clad in the striped one piece suit, no clothes, no shoes no nothin' but permanently “high heeled feet”, a pony tail and a blank cat’s eyed stare (and she had brown hair- not even a perky, peroxide blonde). It made it kinda hard to play with her. I did take her to my friend Theresa’s house once (Theresa had everything Barbie- she was an ONLY CHILD in a baby boom neighborhood) but (like I said) we were getting past Barbie play and well, my poor under privileged Barbie still had to go home, half naked in a swim suit, shoeless and disgraced, from the prom.

Me and Barbie, we didn’t fare well on beauty day.

I didn’t set foot in a SALON again till I was an adult.

I don’t know what happened to Barbie...I fear for her sometimes…I had five brothers y’know.