X. The Human Condition

I awoke this morning with a pain under my right front ribs. I hope it is not my liver. Rather, I hope it is from the baked ziti with sweet Italian sausage and roasted green bell peppers I made and ate last night, that it is a spicy cheese ball that will move along. Emma ate practically none of the ziti, and it is one of her favorites. In fact, she used to make it sometimes so that it would be ready for us to eat when I got home from work. The recipe is on the back of the San Giorgio ziti box; I just add the sausage and peppers. Maybe I served the meal too late. I was busy working on my blog and didn’t want to quit until I had completed my project. Emma gets too tired to eat if I serve the dinner too late. Sometimes I have to think of myself first, save myself, and work towards my future – unless it is my liver and not a cheese ball. Ninety-nine percent of the time I put Emma first. Last night, though, I served dinner a little late. Normally, on those rare occasions that Emma skips dinner, she makes up for it the next day. We’ll see.

I awoke from a dream where I was exhausted and couldn’t wake up. In the dream I just felt like sleeping but wanted to be awake so I would be involved in the activities around me and wouldn’t miss anything. I wanted to be aware of what was going on. (This is pretty much me in general, I think. My father frequently announced to those among us that I was afraid I’d miss something.) Now, too, I wonder if this is what Emma experiences sometimes – that there are people around her and things going on and she’s trying to interpret them. In her earlier stages of dementia she used to ask or would say what she thought was going on. In one instance, over dinner at my brother’s house, she told the two of us to stop quibbling. We weren’t quibbling; we were just carrying on an animated conversation. Of course, being hard of hearing, even if her mind doesn’t work right, in any case she can’t decipher what is being said most of the time. It must feel like drowning. At least that’s how my dream felt. My Hospice nurse, Tess, and social worker/bereavement counselor, Geri, were here in my dream and both my home health aides plus a new aide, a young guy, a tall, skinny guy with short, silky, dark blond hair and light eyes. He seemed nice enough, was making the effort. I was sleeping in the center of activity in the living room or dining room on a sort of high studio couch – it wasn’t a hospital bed. I kept falling back to sleep, I was so tired, yet I wanted to get up. Occasionally I did get up. Then a newspaper photographer came and took pictures of me and the new guy standing beside each other. Tess and Geri were in the kitchen with Emma and others and, tired as I was, I went in there and tried to make out what was going on.

I don’t mind so much the dying, it’s what I’ll miss when I’m gone. I am curious. I want to see what happens next, even if I don’t want to be there for it all; I’m outdated for many new things already. My father said to me a few years before he died, “I wonder what it’s like after you die.” I asked him to let me know. Either he hasn’t or he does all the time and I’m just not receptive enough to hear. He died in 2004 at 90 when his aorta split. He was lucky: he didn’t suffer, he had a good life, a healthy life, and he went fast, at the end surrounded by his family – wife, children and grandchildren.

Somehow the movie I watched two nights ago triggered this dream and these thoughts – probably spurred by the condition of finding oneself in unintended circumstances, seeking a way out, yet seemingly irrevocably entangled in one’s own sticky nature. And well this story might trigger a dream – it is incisive, the writing and storytelling impeccable, the best of the best, one of the great classics. The movie, recently released on DVD, is The Duel, based on Anton Chekhov’s 1891 novella. Chekhov’s story is set in a seaside resort on the Black Sea in the Russian Caucasus in a sultry midsummer. The movie, however, is filmed entirely in Croatia. The scenery is gorgeous, the settings colorful and authentic, Dover Kosashvili’s directing is excellent. Actor Andrew Scott’s superb portrayal of the angst-driven Laevsky, the protagonist, is memorable. There is nothing like Chekhov’s observation and clever perspective to evoke deep thought and compassion for the human psychology and condition.

Above all, great literature, works of art, great thought, great music and great landscapes, as well as the people closest to me are what I would miss the most when I die. So, come visit – bring a book, a movie, music, some wine and stimulating conversation. I will have had a good rest by then.







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