Tag Archives: Death

How Lancelot can enter any hospital tale

16 Aug

Uncle John’s Band fills the room, and I can’t look at my Father. He’s wearing a diaper and his breathing is like a death rattle emerging from deep within. He’s been this way for hours. We have said our goodbyes two days before.

“Daddy, I love you,” I say, and he goes, “I know.”

A part of me still doesn’t believe him. How can he know? How can he know that the distance between us is because I can barely stand to be around him? I don’t know this man with a cane – I don’t know this man who does 2nd grade word problems to help with his memory. How can he know?That looking at this man makes me want to take the fetal position and never get up again – that if I did that I’d be an utter disappointment, but at least he would know how much he was loved.

Though, that’s all done now. A week before I noticed that he was silent, sitting at the edge of his bed with his feet planted on the floor. The TV was on, but I could tell that he wasn’t really watching. It rang out like empty noise that was meant to distract – not entertain.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, and as he usual he responded with, “nothing,” and I didn’t believe him because despite everything he still couldn’t admit to me when he was in pain.

I wasn’t sure if he fully realized what he was doing. How long he sat there like that. I wasn’t sure if I should try to talk to him or leave him alone. Our conversations were stilted, and at times they seemed to take away all of his energy.

Months before I had witnessed his writhing body laid out before me, and while my Mother screamed at me, “tell him a story,” and I began to tell the story of Lancelot – not the knight, but the handsome, womanizing, almost-lover that I had become friends with in the North of Colombia. I had no idea what I was doing, but I went with it.

Under most circumstances, I loved telling the story a Lancelot, and it wasn’t just because of his name. He pulled me into a corner in a dark club in Taganga, infuriated with my inattention toward him and demanded, “but Samantha, who do you like? You seem to like everyone,” and I wanted to explain to him that what I liked was being free.

Outwardly calm, but deeply panicked, I couldn’t stop the story’s telling. My Father murmured, “morphine,” and I said, “Daddy, it’s coming, don’t worry. You know what’s really funny? Well, maybe not funny, but umm, when I met Lance I was traveling with another guy..who was my friend, of course. But, um, I was annoyed with him. Ever heard of helicopter Moms? He was kind of like that, and when I saw Lance what I was really seeing was an opportunity to get rid of him.”

All the while I kept thinking, “I’m a terrible person. Not only did I ditch that guy and use Lance to do it, but now I am telling the story of Lancelot to my Dad whose every nerve is tensed in excruciating pain.”

So, I paused and wracked my brain for any other story, and all I saw was nothing.

Everything was covered in this mist, and I couldn’t even see my own recent experiences. I gripped my Dad’s hand, and plowed on, moving onto the part where Lancelot bought wine and cheese, and we laid by the pool, flirting, until I slipped and hit my head on the concrete in an attempt to be both sassy and sexy. After a bottle of wine, it seemed okay to stalk off, in false indignation, on a slick surface.

When it came time for the apology behind closed doors, I paused again. I couldn’t go on with the story, even the beginning wasn’t really parent-appropriate: the nightclub, the traveling with a man who I ended up leaving. It was all in my first months of backpacking, and it was a delicious chaos that I had never permitted myself.

But, here I was, standing in an equal chaos, and in response to my Mother’s demands to distract, it was the only story that lit up in my terrified mind.

She kept screaming at me, “what’s wrong with you? Talk to him, you’re not helping – can’t you think of anything?” and I wanted to lean across the table and scream at her, “how are you making anything better?” I wanted to weep for my life, which took me far and wide, and yet always yanked me back to where I began.

Eventually, the morphine kicked in and my Dad fell asleep. I looked at the white walls and laughed to myself; it was all so absurd.

In the silent room, I took in the white: the sheets, the pillowcases, his gown and the walls, and I knew that each room contained another person who was wearing the same thing. Some had families and some didn’t, and we had been there so many times over the years that the staff knew us. That they were witnesses to our families’ story; that they probably knew us better than our closest friends because they had seen our pain.

I looked down at my Father, “my Daddy,” and again I was wordless. Overcome, I knew that nothing had come to me because everything was nothing in the face of this – that Lancelot needed to enter into this moment because I was trying to save my Dad through a story.

Through my fully lived life; that was rich in experience, many of it joyous, adventurous, and I drove myself into the ground at times with it all because when the time came I knew I wanted to grip each moment into my hands and offer them up as worthy.

Looking into the grim reaper’s eyes, and whisper, “I’ve learned.”

Facebook is Death’s Salesman

17 Mar

ImageThe famous Death of a Salesman is back.  Unfortunately, I’ll have to travel to New York to see it, but a wonderful New York Times reporter went on to say how timely its return is because it is a play about a middle class man’s self-worth and how he bases it on his salary.  It’s a play about how people cannot always keep their homes when they don’t earn the money that they’re supposed to, and it’s a play about how a person can put years of their life into hard work that doesn’t pay off.

Still, there is another layer to this complicated American drama.  It’s about the importance of being liked – not only liked but well-liked.  In the tragic Willy Lohman’s eyes Bic, his golden son, should be a success because he once possessed popularity.  His other son just works hard.

What does this mean for us in a 21st century context?  It means this:

“Thanks to the explosion in social media, being “well liked” has become practically a profession in itself. Adults as well as teenagers keep assiduous count of their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and surely are inwardly if not outwardly measuring their worth by the rise or fall of the number. People are turning themselves into products, both for profit and for pleasure, and the inevitable temptation is to equate the popularity of your brand with your fundamental self-worth,” Charles Isherwood.

Recently, I had lunch with a co-worker and she said that she had deleted her Facebook account because it was making her unhappy, causing her to spend hours online comparing herself to others.  Wondering if what she was doing in life was enough if all of these other people were doing (what she perceived as) more.  She is not the first person that I’ve heard this from, and I must admit I’ve become a victim of that kind of thinking.

All new creations or technologies both give and take, nothing is either/or.  Life is more complicated than that; it is not an endless day nor is it always night.  However, I think that too little thought is put into the consequences of creation, as well as what it does to our humanity.

At the very pit of us is a vacuous need that yearns to be filled by others validation, and I don’t see this as a negative.  Its part of what makes us caring, considerate human beings – we’re just trying to be liked.  Though the truth is some people are more likable than others, find social interactions easier.  Some people can never stare into the mirror because it’s too frightening and create pseudo-online identities to meet the lack they feel inside.

The problem is that this need is a sandpit, and if you put others in it, they’ll sink.  Only the I, or your own self, can provide that inner nourishment that’s needed to feel content without throwing others into that inner pit.  It is our responsibility to cultivate our own happiness and this journey often takes a lifetime and sometimes death can seem like the only solution.

I’m not being a Facebook hater because as much as I’ve experienced its negative side (the endless hours of staring at people I no longer care about or thinking about the mistakes I’ve made), I’ve also experienced connections with people I’ve lost touch with or enjoyed the power to easily share my writing.  But I have taken a step back to question how I’m interacting with this technology – is it being a constructive or destructive force in my life?

If not used properly these social media technologies can turn us into adolescent monsters who are obessesed with popularity and likeability, but very few people share, “ had a terrible day are work, might get fired!”  Or, “gee, I really hate myself, do you too?”  Or, “I’ve gained 20 pounds, hooray!”  Very few people broadcast their own internal darkness because who wants to free their monsters?  Yes, occasionally they can cause some entertainment but they often cause unwanted chaos.

Death of Salesman in a way is now representative of us all.  Every person who has a Facebook and Twitter is essentially selling their identity, I know I am.  So please like me, but more importantly like yourself, regardless of which button is or isn’t clicked.