So I’ve been absolutely sucktacular at posting lately.
I feel kind of like a bad Jell-O salad from the 1950s. I seem to be stuck in this gelatinous, undecipherable state of…blah. I’m suspended in this gray, chilly place that I don’t really like, but can’t seem to find the energy to work my way out of.
Lately, I’ve been rotating between three general moods: 1) anxiety over something I can’t identify, 2) a vague general sadness, or 3) feeling nothing at all. Season with a pinch of irritation and a teaspoon of fairly random anger, and serve on a platter of bitter arugula to a bunch of society ladies who are harshly judging you.
Occasionally, I spy a bit of brightness, like a maraschino cherry*, just out of my reach. It looks…nice, and even though I think, at least intellectually, that I’d rather be warm and engaged in life a bit more, I’m not motivated to actually DO anything to move towards it. Besides, moving would take energy. So here I stay.
When the sadness or the anxiety creep in, I shut those bishes up with other vices. My emotions are drowned out by the crunching of chips, the munching of popcorn, the suddenly urgent work project, the flood of wine. The world around me is gearing up for the holidays, but the joy and exuberance of the season are muffled by the thick layer of apathy clogging my eardrums and blurring my eyesight. I’m not powerless, really. I’m just uninspired and unmotivated. So I shrug back under my shawl of numbness and do…nothing.
*Did you know that, in most of those beloved fruit cup snacks from childhood, that the cherries weren’t even cherries AT ALL? They were GRAPES. Grapes with makeup. TRUE STORY. Nowadays, the USDA has defined standards for what percentage of fruit cocktail actually has to be cherries – but many of those cherries STILL wear blush. And often, the dye is carmine. WHICH IS MADE FROM BUGS. That’s fine with me; I’d actually rather eat bugs** than a lot of what we attempt to pass off as “food”; this is more of a PSA for you vegan types.
**Speaking of eating bugs – if you want to get in on the hippie-trendy-sustainable-food bandwagon and try some really tasty bugs (come on, all the cool kids are totally doing it!) visit chapul.com. These folks make some seriously good energy bars – out of crickets, of all things. Yes – crickets:
Now, before you jump on your chair and scream like a little girl – hear me out. I swear they have NO weird aftertaste – when I first tried them, I was actually disappointed because they DIDN’T taste…I dunno…exotic? I’m not sure what I was expecting. Something more unusual, I guess. But although they won’t make you hear colors or grant you metaphysical genius powers, they’re energy bars that actually taste good. Like cookies. And the bugs are all ground up, so I promise you won’t get a cricket leg in your teeth. Taste some adventure and buy some. I TRIPLE-DOG-DARE YOU. I mean, unless you hate Mother Earth or something. Whatevs.
Anyway. I’m trying to figure out why I just don’t FEEL this year. And, while I’ve been dealing with a few things this year, I think this particular funk may have something to do with my dad. So this post is super long, and I’m sorry, but selfishly, I need to get this out of my head so I can start to deal with it in a way that doesn’t involve a bottle of wine, sharp words towards my family, or gallons of delicious, brain-soothing popcorn.
Almost exactly a year ago, my phone rang at work. Now, this was unusual for a couple of reasons: One, it was my personal cell phone. I don’t get many calls on my cell phone – I mean, who actually talks on the phone anymore? We all text and Facebook and InstaTweet and a bunch of other things that your average preschooler has figured out and I will never understand.
Two, I don’t have cell phone coverage where I work. We’re not entirely sure why, but there are theories. One is that our building is haunted. Even though I totally believe in ghosts, I’m not buying this one. I’m more aligned with Team Crappy Construction and Leaky Windows. Our building actually used to be a window factory before the current company bought it. In the winter, my office gets so cold that I get ACTUAL LEGIT FROST ON MY WALLS. (Gee, and the window people went bankrupt WHY?) Suffice it to say I have a space heater cranked at 80 between October and May. (And the rest of the year, because air conditioning.) And I’m sure somewhere in this shoddy shack is a solid, scientific explanation why my office can’t hold heat, yet is impermeable by cell phone signals. (And probably isn’t bulletproof, but has successfully shielded me from crazed local wildlife.)
So my phone rings, and I see from Caller ID that it’s my brother. I stare at the phone for a minute, surprised. My brother? In the middle of the day? He works all day. How strange and random. Why would he call in the middle of-
<insert that sick, sinking feeling you get when the pieces fall into place>
I let the call go to voice mail, knowing that if I pick it up, I’ll be rewarded with a frustrating round of “What? WHAT? Can you hear me now? Hello?” I call him back from a land line and get voice mail; meanwhile, he’s leaving me a voice mail. I call him again. No answer. YAY TECHNOLOGY. Frustrated, I try him one more time.
“Dad had a stroke. It’s bad. Come home.”
The next twelve hours are a blur. I blurt out to my team that I’m leaving. I get in the car and call my spouse. I retrieve the five voice mail messages I couldn’t get before. (THANKS VERIZON.)
I start chucking clothes into a suitcase (not wanting to discern what I might need for a funeral; do I jinx it if I pack a black skirt and dress shoes? or do I risk being the relative who went to her dad’s funeral in yoga pants?) while I call Delta to get my Christmas flight rescheduled. (Mad kudos to Delta for helping me out. On any given Sunday I’m typically cursing them for stranding me in Detroilet YET AGAIN, and their number is stored in my phone as Another F@#$ing Flight Delay, but they came through for me this time.) I dump a week’s worth of food into bowls and pour six bowls of water for the cats, hoping for the best as I head to the airport.
I check a bag, wondering, as it trudges along the conveyor, when I might see it again. I wonder if I will see my father again. If he’ll have passed before I get there. If he’ll know I’m there. If he’ll know who I am.
I pick at a sandwich during my layover at JFK. (Seriously, airports? I was ONE gluten-free sandwich away from STARVING TO DEATH. I know us sensitive types should plan ahead and pack our own food, but seeing as how sometimes air travel is an emergency and OBVIOUSLY it’s my dad’s fault for not requesting to have his stroke two weeks in advance so you could provide real food I could actually EAT, would it kill you to have a meal option here or there for those of us who can’t eat normal people bread? If not for that one lone sammie, I WOULD HAVE TOTALLY EATEN ANOTHER PASSENGER’S DOG. I had a packet of grainy mustard and I was eyeing the Chihuahua at gate B17. Don’t challenge me, bro.)
Hours later, I’ve aged forty years. I get to the hospital, prepared for the worst. I find my father’s room in the ICU, darkened, machines whirring and beeping. Tubes. Lots and lots of tubes. And in the center of this artificial cobweb, underneath a gray, dark cloud of wires and a ventilator, I find my father. The man who bravely swatted bees and dried tears, who fearlessly chased both bats and boys out of the house, lies there, motionless, small and shrunken and vulnerable.
…to be continued….