Writing in a private journal doesn't help me think things over like it used to. I've filled dozens of them over the years, and that process undoubtedly protected my sanity many times. The slow, longhanded action of it was a catalyst for sorting out my latest confusion and making, if not complete sense of it, at least enough to snap the journal shut and go on about the business of life for the moment.
At some point, from years of emailing, I could no longer stand the slowness of handwriting. My brain was out of synch with my pen, and I got more agitated instead of less if I wrote that way.
Then I got in the habit of writing personal things on this blog. I'm still not sure this is a good idea, but the impulse to do it is too strong to squelch. I cringe mightily sometimes when I look back at things I've written. But I still do it. It's a pressing need to push certain experiences out into the blog-light of day. I send them out like disoriented orphans, their eyes squinting in the sun, to walk around the neighborhood, hoping someone will recognize them.
When I was home in Indiana last weekend, my mom was ready to get out of the house and do
something. (During my visit in October she was too sick with the stomach flu to do anything but barf and sleep.) She wanted to go to the mall one town away to look for some pants and shirts for my dad. Then we would eat somewhere and come home.
When we got there, I dropped her off at the back of the mall, at Penneys, and then drove to the front entrance. My dad is struggling to walk these days, but refuses to use a cane or walker. So my plan was to get him as close to the door as possible, then borrow one of the mall's wheelchairs for him. We went inside, me holding his arm. His shuffle gets confused, and he also cannot stand straight up anymore. So already the laws of physics are against him.
He got going too fast. I told him to slow down. He kept going faster, I kept trying to slow him down. He went faster. Then he fell. He was too heavy for me to hold up, and all I could do is make his fall more of a collapse. There he was, lying on his left side on the floor of the mall. I felt like I was having a car accident. The slow motion, the shock, the sick feeling.
Panicky, I yelled: "Somebody help us!" My dad was embarrassed by that. I was embarrassed. And I was mad at both of us for being
People came to help. By a nice grace note of divine intervention, the first person to approach us was a nurse. She understood exactly how to get Dad up without hurting him, and helped me get him to a bench in the mall. A second good samaritan took my driver's license so she could use it to go borrow a wheelchair. She came hurrying back as the nurse was making sure once more that Dad wasn't dizzy or in pain. I thanked both people profusely.
I tried to gauge my level of "upsetness." I always do this. I'm always very suspicious of myself in situations that upset me. Am I over-reacting? Am I being a wimp? Should I be able to keep from crying? What the hell is wrong with me? How would a better, more capable person handle this?
My gauge wouldn't work. I felt as though I was going back and forth inside. First turning to concrete, then cold muddy water, then back. I wheeled Dad the length of the mall, him asking several times "Where's your mother?" She's in Penneys, I told him. We're on our way to meet her. How do you like this ride? "Nice," he said.
There was Mom, trying to find his size of corduroy pants. I told her what happened. I almost didn't.
When Dad needed to use the bathroom, I propped the men's room door open with the wheelchair and went inside with him, making sure he got into a stall OK, and I was mentally daring
anyone to bitch about it. I would've welcomed it. I wanted someone to punch.
Besides the complete horror I felt seeing my dad so vulnerable when he fell, the other thing that I will never forget is how it felt to be wheeling him through the mall, looking at the putridly artificial Seasons Greetings-themed store windows, hearing the mediocre brass quartet playing "Silver Bells" and breathing in the oppressive scents of vanilla and cinnamon and pine from the festive holiday candle kiosk. It was, very pointedly, the most empty feeling I have ever had in my life.
Mom shopped a little more while I wheeled Dad around. He had totally forgotten he had fallen. This, I suppose, is one blessing of Alzheimers.
And here I am, slicing open the whole ordeal in a "public" forum. I know I'm just one of millions of bloggers who do this. I wonder if our motivation is similar. For me it's this: I want to know how other people live, I want them to tell me how they get through the hard parts, where they draw strength, what enrages them, what makes them feel full-blast joy, what makes them want to give up. And somebody has to go first.