My Bout with Mortality (by proxy)

The last couple of weeks have left me emotionally drained and just plain tired. A family member – my father – was hospitalized, and the only books I read were the Harlequin romances I bought in the hospital gift shop.

My father is – thankfully – convalescing and little by little the normalcy of everyday life, routines, and the notion of “that’s just how it goes or is” returns, albeit with one major difference. One ugly theme looms at the very back of my mind just below conscious though:

MORTALITY

There it is in big, bold letter, that final “the end”. Reading it can be sweet, bittersweet, or gut wrenching, but in reality encountering it, even at a distance, is paralyzing. Medusa’s gaze could turn a man to stone, but I believe that it is the next of kin who are turned to stone in real life. My father underwent serious, emergency surgery, relied on a respirator, and round the clock care afterwards. To tell the truth, I didn’t know how to react, and as my three-year-old son was with me at the hospital, my reaction was to try and explain what was going on and maintaining at least a similarity to calmness.

At times, I envy fictional characters. They get to react in the extreme. They get to fall apart, cry a puddle, hit the wall, scream, run away, and the story is how they pick themselves up again and fight their way back to some kind of normalcy, often with an added prize. Cue knight in shining armor, a new friend, profound knowledge or wisdom, but reality is more quiet and subdued. Reactions may be numbness, paralysis, sadness, or that under the skin anger that becomes wrinkles and grey hair. Even at the most dramatic moments, everyday life is right there. We need something to eat other than fast food. We have to go back to work. We go grocery shopping and give the cashier a polite smile. All the while, we conscientiously or sub-conscientiously consider what has happened and work it through.

It has been a couple of weeks now, and my father is healing well. He is up and about; he even installed a new showerhead for me! I am coming to terms with my bout with mortality (by proxy), although a scary thought has wedged itself in my mind. I am an only child and my parents are senior citizen. One day, I can become an orphan.

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