going brutally on

I got up and sent an email to the fam about Dad’s continuing deterioration. I have been thinking a bit about aging and dementia and wanted to blog about it. Better to have family read it first in an email than here.

I recently read this in Anthony Burgess’s autobiography

On that first visit to both Berlins, I returned footsore from inspecting the free side of the Wall, peeping over and being jocularly threatened by armed official thugs, and went thirsty to a Bierstube called Der Moby Dick, with an inappropriate blue plastic whale in the window. I took a seat in the sun, but none of the young men who ran the place came to serve me. After half an hour I walked in and asked why. ‘Because,’ I was told, ‘you are of the generation that started the war. I went for a beer elsewhere.

Of course, at fifty I was old, and, to those young idealists of Der Moby Dick, I must have been of Hitler’s generation. There was no gradations of eld any more: fifty was as bad as ninety. Youth and age had become spatial concepts with a Berlin Wall between them.

from “You’ve Had Your Time” by Anthony Burgess

Burgess is writing about events that happened around 1967. He obviously was attuned to the changes in the culture around deifying youth.

Interestingly he mentions Mick Jagger (whom along with the rest of the band was considering appearing in an early movie rendition of Burgess’s novel, Clockwork Orange). Of Jagger he says how he admires “the intellligence if not the art, of this young man and considered that he looked the quintessence of delinquency.” High praise from an eld.

Later after telling about his wife awful death from cirrhosis, he observes

Works of fiction which present dissolution and death rarely show the outside world, and the trivial affairs which sustain it, going brutally on, perhaps rightly impatient with the snuffing out of the universe that a single obscure death represents.

That would be another way of viewing what is happening to Dad: that his universe has been diminished while the rest of us have to live in a bright unforgiving world that will brutally go on.

I have had very mixed feelings about my Father over the years. When I was in my twenties, I held him in my arms as he wept at his own inability to acccept me. This was the beginning of my true adolescence. He has adopted the usual male distance from me over the years. I mostly felt like our relationship had more to do with his relationships with his two brothers and his father. As usual, I felt like I was barely on his radar emotionally or even intellectually. Whoever he was relating to certainly wasn’t me, but I was comfortable with that. I loved him. But didn’t need to clarify who I was to him  constantly. 

Then when Parkinsons hit him, I wasn’t paying close attention.  In retrospect, both he and I could have anticipated how this part of his life would play out a bit better. But as I think over his misbehavior of the last few years, I wonder how much of it was as a result of the disease. Personality change is a symptom of Lewy Body disease (what he finally was diagnosed with). 

A couple of years ago when he threw a tantrum in my kitchen (also throwing his meds at me), at the time I just thought he was being his worst self. But maybe it was partially if not mostly his disease.

Family systems teaches me that it is difficult to differentiate ourselves from those we love. Hard to tell where we leave off and they begin. I use Friedman’s term, “globbing,” for this. I realize that in the last few years I have globbed big time to my parents. But I don’t really have any regrets about this. As I tell my Mom when she expresses misgivings about being a “burden” on me, these are my values: take care of those you love. It’s an old extended family deally and has not been part of my fam of origin, but somehow it has leaked into me.

Well anyway that’s the heavy thoughts from Steve today. Upward and onward to the usual pathology of church and church music. Heh. Today I play some easy Buxtehude for the prelude and easy Gerald Near (a living Episcopalian composer whom I quite like) for the postlude. The choir is singing a gorgeous canonic anthem by Robert Edward Smith. I am expecting people to do some serious acting out soon since I have started a very threatening conversation about change. Change in my role and change in the choir. One guy who told me last Sunday he was “sick of it” referring to some of his own discontent with my leadership was not at rehearsal Thursday.

This is tricky because when people don’t show, there is a world of possibilities including many completely understandable reasons they don’t make it.  I try to not jump to conclusions or as I said Thursday to the group to not set other people’s priorities for them.  Fuck it.  


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