Are You There, God? It’s Me, (evil).

I got a Facebook message from my sister yesterday, checking in and making sure I was OK. It occurred to me that perhaps I haven’t been mourning enough. Mostly, I have thrown myself back into work because that’s what I know how to do. In my experience, if you give yourself the option of losing your shit, you probably will.

I didn’t understand most of 2008. I generally don’t believe in an interventionist God. OK, I just don’t believe that there’s some guy with a big white beard sitting up in the clouds watching me. If said guy did exist, he’d probably have much more productive things to be doing. Thus, it would take a level of narcissism that not even I can muster to think that The Supreme Being was up in Heaven saying, “let’s throw her Hell and see if she survives it. Just for LOLs.” If he’s up there, even if he’s not, I think I understand now. 2008 was a dress rehearsal.

I think that’s part of why I’m not losing my shit more. I talked someone through death, voluntary death, looked it in the face and realized that my love was not enough to change his mind. I sent all my horses and all my men, and Humpty Dumpty sent them back, egg on faces. With a Bible. Irony.

We’d all had plenty of time to accept the whole cancer thing. Years. Knowing something is going to happen and having it actually happen aren’t the same thing, but I do appreciate the advance warning. In his typical way, dad planned everything out so mom would have less crap to deal with. I don’t feel that badly for myself because I mostly feel badly for mom. I have been getting used to the idea of my parents dying since I grasped the concept of death. Ah, portrait of the goth at age five.

I will be OK without him there to walk me down the aisle (if I ever lose my mind and get married), because he did his job. He and mom raised us to be independent, strong, and to be able to do for ourselves. The point of being a good parent is to make yourself obsolete. That’s not to say that he’ll be unneeded or replaced. That’s just to say that my dad raised me to keep my shit together, even if he wouldn’t have used the word “shit.”

Still, one of his paintings looks at me as I leave the house. He hung my closet shelves. I can still feel him standing behind me while I play. It’s like there’s one more hand on my back, pushing me forward to be the legacy for one more person. Now I have to be fabulous for Diah and play Jim Croce songs for dad. (Note to self: steal the other half of his chord charts.)

Yeah, 2008 sucked. There were several times when I kind of wanted to jump off an overpass. Dad knew 2008 had sucked, as I’d lost so many things that were so important. He sat on the couch at Christmas, doped up but still in pain, and he just wanted to make sure I was OK. I’m OK. Strangely, I cashed in my old life for a new, better, one. If they didn’t kill me last year, they never will. I’m not being bizarrely cavalier. It just takes a lot more to throw me from the horse.

One day, I will play you a song that always made me cry when dad played it. Because that song is my job now, too.

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Caturday Catch-Up: Betta Late Than Neva

I didn’t holla at you over the weekend cause I was busy doing stuff with the fam. Now, I’m writing but I haven’t turned off my music (Murphy is bitching on the other side of the door and I’m drowning him out), so you’ll have to forgive the possible typos. Shall we?

Jen and I took a non-fabulous road trip up to Lexington for my dad’s celebration of life thing. I shall henceforth be referring to this as his “party,” because Celebration of Life is too damn long. Anywho, Friday night had Jen, mom, sis and I packing up 7 or 8 of dad’s paintings to display at the “party.” This was a sketchy process, involving much packing tape, foam core, and use of the phrase “we’ll just have to be careful.”

The next day, we took all that packing over to the sales pavillion at Fasig-Tipton, where we met up with a posse of sis’s friends, who helped set up. The only missing piece of the “party” was a sign downstairs, telling people that the “party” was upstairs. Thus, Jen and I were stationed downstairs to direct traffic.

There was a steady stream of people whom I questionably stealth-greeted. What’s stealth-greeting? Saying this:

“Hi! We’re here to direct traffic…everybody’s upstairs.”

Instead of this:

“Hi, I’m Bruce’s daughter, Amy.”

Half of the people sniffed me out anyway, since they knew they should be looking for one goth chick and one lawyer for the “daughters” category. I just didn’t want to give the “well, you know….he fought hard for a long time…he was just done…” speech 300 times. We’re OK, guys. We’re tough broads. Now go upstairs and have some wine, kay? Also, while hanging out downstairs, Jen and I invented a goth gang sign because I’ve felt for some time that we need one. “How do we make our fingers look like a bat?” “How about this?”

I saw the side of the family from Eastern Kentucky for the first time in 24 years. They’re nice people, but I never hear about the reunions and, when I do, I’ve already got something scheduled. I’m thinking they need Twitter. The other side of the fam, who I see at Thanksgiving and Christmas, were also there. Also people dad worked with. And people mom works/bowls with. I found myself feeling very glad to not be unemployed, as that makes the usual “so, what do you do?” conversation rather awkward. It’s awkward enough to tell them that I do graphic design. The people who get it respond with, “so, you got your dad’s artistic abilities?” (Half of them. He was way better.) The people who don’t get it think I do I.T. stuff. Other question: “you live in Nashville? Are you in the music biz at all?” (No, thank god, as I’d probably be unemployed right now.) I guess they all figured that they shouldn’t ask if I’m married, as a husband would have been standing next to me, rather than Jen. OK, Jen still would have been there…just on the other side.

Anywho, we got all the paintings (and a buttload of food) home without damages. Whit’s posse, my aunt, and aunt’s friend stayed the night. Translation:

I drank more than I ever have in one night, and got the second-drunkest I’ve ever been. Everybody else (except Jen) got way drunk, and Jen and I went to bed hearing everybody downstairs singing such awesome tunes as “Broken Wings,” “Rocket Man,” and “Wanted (Dead or Alive).” On the last one, Jen and I joined in, singing backup from upstairs. Sadly, though we had a screening for sis’s posse, she says I can’t show you a video I have named “Drunk People Say The Darnedest Things.” Something about how she doesn’t want her clients to see it. You people and your grown-up jobs. Kill joy! 😉

Everybody (except sis) headed out on Sunday, and Jen and I made it home in two pieces. Things got a little sketchy around Bowling Green, when my brain took the opportunity to have two panic attacks. Notes to self:

1. Do not skip brain drugs to drink vodka.
2. Do not drink that much vodka ever. Stomach will smite you.
3. Do not think pulling over will help. Blast some music. That always works.

Sorry today wasn’t Movie Monday like it normally is, but my video got vetoed by the subject. Besides, the schedule’s been a little fuxed recently. Will get back on schedule, back on track, and caught up. Promise-omise

Thank You, Thank You, To You and You and You.

I’m back at work today, fielding emails, blog comments, tweets, etc. I have realized two things:

1. My friends kick ass. Thanks for being so supportive and huggy and everything. It’s very sweet, and I feel loved. For real.

2. I have gotten terribly behind in sending out individual thank yous, and I lost track of who I’ve talked to (and how many times). That last week was such a blur that I didn’t fully realize how long I’d been relatively off the grid until I got home to find dishes in the sink and wet laundry in the washer that had been there for 6 days. It doesn’t sound like a very long time, but trust me…don’t leave laundry in the washer for 6 days. (Luckily, it was just my painting drop cloth, so I didn’t let any good clothes mildew.)

Anyway, the point of this post is to try and mitigate my own complete assholiness and thank all of you collectively. I know, collective thank yous are assholey, but I’m in the middle of a clusterfuck here. Besides, I can’t type “thanks, we’re all hanging in there” any more. Please to forgive? So THANK YOU. You guys are awesome.

As for trying to dig myself out of the hole, I’ve cleaned the dishes out of the sink, done multiple loads of laundry, and cleaned the stove and bathroom. I got a couple of logos done. I’m still WAY behind, but I’m hitting it hard this week before driving back to Kentucky for the Celebration of Life thing. Sis stayed in Kentucky until yesterday afternoon, so I assume mom is still hanging in there. We’ll be shoving sangria into her before the Celebration of Life, which will probably involve plenty of public crying. Oh, how I enjoy public crying (not). At least there will be tiny cheesecakes.

…and the end.

Didn’t mean to run in yesterday and leave you with a cliff-hanger, but I guess it’s only fitting. I spent 23 hours waitingwaitingwaiting, and mom spent years waiting to see what would happen.

After about 23 hours off the respirator, dad passed away yesterday afternoon. No weird jerking or weird breathing, as the doctors warned. He just exhaled and didn’t take another breath. It sounds really crappy, but we’re all glad that this happened over a span of days instead of months, and that nobody had to stand by and watch dad lose his faculties as the brain tumors continued to not respond to treatment. Mom wasn’t looking forward to the next six months and, they had both been through enough years ago.

We went to the funeral home to arrange the cremation and look at urns. Everybody in the immediate family wants to be cremated, and we’re not really a “have a viewing” kind of crew. I understand why some people need it, but I just find it creepy and expensive. Mom is thinking that she’ll take her time shopping for urns; the one she liked the most was 700 bucks, but not really worth it. Yeah, it’s high-gloss, but it’s still 700 bucks for a 12X12 cube of wood. Dude. Please.

We’re not having services at a funeral home, because those places are also on the “kind of creepy” list. Besides, I don’t think the funeral home would let us play James Brown, serve booze and display his paintings. Thus, here are the details:

Saturday, February 21st
2-4pm (come and go as you please, it’s more of an open house)
Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavillion (upstairs in the bar)
2400 Newtown Pk
Lexington, KY 40511

Do I expect you to come? No, but I thought you might like the info just in case. If you want to do something but can’t come, please don’t send flowers. Instead, mom asks that you make a donation in the name of Bruce Mauk to The Markey Cancer Center Foundation. They took good care of him, and let us camp out on their couches.

More Sucking…

I have finally broken down and brought my computer to the hospital, as I feel like I’ve been living on Planet Respirator for 4 days. Not that Planet Respirator isn’t where I’m supposed to be at present. It’s just that you can only talk to the same three people for so long until you start to hear the same story 5 times. Besides, my throat hurts and everybody’s pretty much moved out of conversation mode and into “watch Regis & Kelly” mode, and I can’t sign up for that and maintain and reasonably pleasant disposition. I just need some quiet time in a side room for a little while.

To catch you up, we took dad off the ventilator at about 1:30 yesterday. Doctors have assured us that he’s not feeling anything, and whenever he makes a face or his heart rate shoots up, we call the nurse and they shoot in some more morphine. He’s breathing on his own, but he’s been slowly developing more and more of a rattley sound. It’s a bit like a fish tank or coffee maker and is kind of soothing until you remember that the sound is him trying to breathe.

Everybody’s holding up pretty well, following the idea that this is not an opportune time to lose one’s proverbial shit. Get through this, do what you have to do, THEN lose your shit. This would explain why I’m typing right now. It’s what I do. Like it or not, I’m comfortable here and being here helps me get my sleep-deprived brain in order. Oh, and coffee. Coffee also helps.

Caturday Catch Up Sucktacular

**If I’m related to you, and you’re not my mom, aunt, or sister. Don’t read this. Call my mom instead.

I started this post once already, some 14 hours ago. I was sitting at my desk, listening to my phone beep and vibrate as last night Twitter conversations came through after a night of having the phone turned off. I hit an all-time high-low this morning, with 45 tweets flooding in while I drank coffee and started a Caturday Catch Up. I flipped through tweets about Japan, boys, and booze and came to one from that morning. From my sister:

Dad is in the hospital. You need to get to Lexington.

And so I type to you, 14 hours later, from my parents’ house in Lexington. Let’s back up.

Dad went in on Friday to have a feeding tube put in (see last Saturday’s post about him needing a feeding tube). The tube went in and he was waking up from surgery when he crashed. (I just looked down at something on the desk in a very shaky hand. No wonder mom had written the address on the birth certificate they mailed me for my passport.) Anyway, the Rapid Response team was called in, they got him stabilized, but still didn’t know what was wrong. Until late this morning.

I shut down the computer, took a shower, packed a week’s worth of clothes (including, per the sister, funeral attire) and ran out to the hardware store to get a key made so Jrob can feed Murphy for however long I’m gone. Hoping I didn’t forget anyone, hoping that freelance work, world domination, and tiny cartoon pants can all wait, I started driving. I picked up sis at the Lexington airport and we went to the house to find out what was really going on.

It’s a lot of crazy medical words, but basically being on hard-core pain meds for the last three years had caused part of his digestive system to die. Lactic acid was building up in his lungs, making him feel (if he were awake) as though he was drowning. The doctors have said that there are things that they could do, but none of them are pleasant, painless, or permanent. Stage IV cancer is still stage IV cancer. Right now, he’s in a comfy unconscious state, and they’re sucking the liquid out of his lungs at regular intervals. While the next step is mom’s decision, all us gals talked and we all agree. This is better than waiting for brain tumors to make him blind or incoherent. This is better than having to move a hospital bed into the house. Tomorrow will be unpleasant. Tonight, I’m hearing my sister sing in the bathroom because she and mom polished off two bottles of wine. (I have Nytol in the party mix I keep in my purse.) Oh, and she just interrupted my typing with this:

“Amy, I need you to help me!”
“With what?”
“I’m just saying that tomorrow morning Anderson Cooper’s going to be like ‘Ashley Judd!’ And I just need you to assimilate.”
“What?”
“Brush your teeth with me.”
“Dude, I already brushed my teeth. Go to bed, or I’m going to video tape you some more.”
“All I’m saying is that Anderson Cooper is on youTube is this bitch.”

She’s in the bathroom singing along with her iPod, wearing a wife beater and a gigantic turquoise necklace, trying to get a toothbrush out of a cellophane wrapper and yelling at it. “For fuck’s sake! Just brush me! Do you know what I’m saying?”

That’s all for now.

Lalala

I’m about to bum you out, but today is a day for bumming out. Hey, at least I have the decency to bury the post in the weekend when most of you aren’t at your computers.

I awoke this morning to find a text message from my sister and a missed call from my mom. In mom’s voice mail, she was using The Voice. The tone of voice that’s only used for “we’re moving” or when somebody dies. Since I haven’t gotten the “we’re moving” speech since 1993, I figured I should read sister’s text.

Luckily, nobody’s dead. Somebody is, however, rather sick and the cruise scheduled for the end of February is off. I was kind of looking forward to having a vision quest to film and post (and to introduce you to the fam via festive cruise footage), but not enough to voluntarily get on a plane. I’m sure that day will come. It’s just not going to come in February. It seems dad’s lung cancer is pressing on a nerve that allows him to swallow. He’s lost 15 pounds, so they can’t do any more cancer treatments until he gains that weight back. They’ve put in a feeding tube. You may only be meeting mom and sis via video when I go up to spend the intended cruise time playing euchre at my parents’ house. Filming someone with tubes is the nose is, I’m guessing, an even bigger party foul than filming a drunk person.

I SO wish I’d started carrying around a camera sooner. I wish I’d hijacked dad and made him record songs back when he could still sing. He doesn’t have spit anymore because of the throat cancer of a few years back, so he doesn’t even talk much. It usually works OK when it’s just him and mom because, after 40 years of marriage, they probably communicate telepathically like magic wonder twins. But it still sucks to see him fading into the background, sitting there quietly while everybody else talks. It’s almost like he’s getting us ready for when he won’t be here.

At Christmas, dad and I were sitting in the living room and he asked me if I was doing OK. A valid question, as 2008 saw me bury a friend, get fired for the first time ever, and have the longest and most dramatic home-buying process known to man. But by Christmas, I had gotten my shit back together. New shit. Better shit.

“Yeah, I’m good.”
“You sure?”

I can’t tell if he was trying to feel out whether I was still in danger of throwing myself in front of a train, or if he was just trying to make sure that his youngest child would be OK without him. The work’s already done, dad. You raised me to be strong and bulletproof because you knew I’d need to be. I’m little and neurotic, but my bones are adamantium. Besides, when you’re gone it’s my job to be the living legacy. Just like with Diah, except that I’ll be doing it with your face, your feet, and your disappointing baby fine hair. Your hard head. Your obsessive attention to scheduling and organization. Your last name, which I’m keeping even if I lose my mind and get married (unless the guy has a last name I can’t refuse, like Ravenclaw or something). I’m going to be OK because I’m going to have one more hand on my shoulder, pushing me forward.

Mostly, I worry about mom. What are you supposed to do after 40 years with someone? What are you supposed to do waking up next to an empty spot? What are you supposed to do when you see Dad’s Chair still sitting in the living room? In a house filled with his paintings? Finding things unexpectedly in dresser drawers? Opening the snack closet and seeing his stash of macadamia nut cookies? Going through his meticulously-kept tax records? Looking at your youngest daughter, who looks like him in drag? I worry about mom. I know I’m supposed to do something, but I have no idea what that is.

The whole thing is like one of those 72-ounce steaks that they serve somewhere in Texas. If you eat it in a one sitting, it’s free. My brain doesn’t work pain that way. It never hits me all at once. My brain figured out what it can handle and eats the big pain steak one ounce at a time, meteing out the pain little by little for as long as it needs to. On one hand, mourning anything takes forever. On the other hand, I don’t throw myself in front of a train.So, I haven’t wrapped my head around this yet. It’s still like an abstract concept or something happening in a movie with really good 3-D. My head is just watching it happening, with hands over ears, going “lalalala….”