1970

“A conversation is interesting to me when people are being genuine, when they’re more concerned with sharing difficult truths than with showing off… we’re all in the same boat. mysterious flesh-and-blood creatures, radiant and broken – and of course the boat is sinking, but there’s still time to share a story or two as the night comes on.” ~ Sy Safransky. The Sun Magazine

he doesn’t call my brothers who are 10 minutes away. he emails me from 1500 miles in distance. he types in ALL CAPS his s.o.s, his plea, his prayer.

i call and my mom picks up the phone
“i feel like i’m having a nervous breakdown”
she can’t express how she’s feeling other than that.
“he says i have dementia”
she says it as if she’s never uttered that word before.
“i’ve been cleaning all day”
well, what can help you feel better?
“i just turned on the outside lights”
mom, would you like to go on a walk?
“he doesn’t have his shoes on”

we are scrambling across the phone lines, 1500 miles is too far. “here, talk to your father.” the line goes dead. i’ve never felt so helpless in my life.

he’s silent except for the choking back tears. this is so hard. too much for one person to carry alone.
“dad, can you take her on a walk right now?”
“i don’t know how much longer i can do this”

this looming loss is bigger than all of us. it makes us do strange things. fathers weep. brothers talk. sisters become mediators. mothers become children.

in 1970 my brothers were 3 and 1. i was not yet even a twinkle in her eye. “i feel like i’m having a nervous breakdown” she says and i think of our conversation postpartum where i learned of her anxiety after moving to chicago when my brother was six weeks old.

we bonded over that, the similarity in us new to motherhood. i think of that when she interrupts me to say “i just have alot of pressure on me. he says i have dementia” and i think how alarming that must be to her. a healthy woman of 28, that’s how she sees herself because today the year is 1970.

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