Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Funeral

My father Edgardo Vega YunquƩ will be laid to rest at Calverton National Cemetary this Friday at 1PM. He served in the Air Force towards the end of the Korean War. He was stationed in the Azores and learned Greek and Portuguese. He referred to it in a journal as "three years of total decadence." He operated the radio, hung out at the beach and drank with the ladies (some perhaps shady). Then he returned to the States and fell in love with my mother. He was only 25 when they got married. It must have been some contrast.

He was not a patriot. I am not sure he would choose to spend eternity buried amongst his fellow serviceman but he didn't leave any instructions so I made the choice. He insisted we speak English and that we do so very well. Spanish was never spoken at home. He married an American woman and produced three pale children with blue eyes and straight hair. He preached independence for Puerto Rico but he did not raise us to be Puerto Rican. I think he really did love America. He just did not like that he was not 100% accepted as American. It was a shock to him in 1954 to get on the train to South Carolina heading for basic training and be told that he needed to be in the last car with the colored enlisted men. The Irish kids in his neighborhood in the Bronx never let on that he was any different from them. He was always grateful to the Irish for that.
Maybe we can get them to put McVega on the headstone?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I hate my brain injury!

I was having such a good week and now I feel crappy. Why can't everyone just leave me alone and let me do my work? Do not write me long, complaining emails about brief conversations about which I have no memory.

I am not a bad teacher even though sometimes I lose things or plan on the spot. I can improvise because I know the topics inside and out. Leave me alone or better yet just come up and watch. My door is always open and a piece of paper ain't gonna tell you what I taught. I have been driving off road for the last 18 years. There is no map for it.

I wanted to go to my studio to work on my art today but the emails were too time consuming and enervating. But check out the piece I am working on. It's not done but it is part of my "World at my feet" series. I think I will call it "If he were meant to fly..."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What remain"ed"?

My father's cremains arrived yesterday while I was seeing my cognitive therapy doctor. There is a lot of overlap between emotional issues and cognitive dysfunction these days. I am doing my best to get enough sleep, exercise, and food these days. That way I know at least when my response to a situation is inappropriate we can rule out any of those problems. Plus, they help maximize my brain functions and emotional disregulation. So, Dr. S. thinks let’s deal with the death stuff there and I will focus on the time, memory, talking, language misunderstanding, and brain injury stuff to Dr. K.

I am perhaps obsessing over my father's death. My musings change neither his life nor the choices I made while he lived. Some time before my surgery I stopped fearing death because I realized I would not know if I died. I would only be aware that I was alive because conscious thought is part of life. I was so pleased to come across this article.

I have temporarily placed my father’s cremains (such an odd word) next to Suki’s on the windowsill in my living room. His funeral will be held later this month and the cemetery does not store cremains. Ed liked cats so he and Suki can bask in the sun together. Suki only lived at home with me for the summer between junior and senior years at college. Ed put her under a broken 5-gallon glass water-cooler bottle to just see what she would do and she cut her nose trying to crawl under the tiny edge. Suki spent that summer hiding under the bathtub because Sabrina stalked her. Ed discouraged my attempts to make any modifications for her because "animals adapt" or "natural selection means the strongest survive" or some other stupid shit. I just wanted to feed her in a different room so she could eat in peace. Instead, she ate in the bathroom with the panicked urgency that the wrath of Sabrina was about to befall her. She can tell him her story.

Right out the window, he can see 240 West. We left in the middle of the night when I was 16 because not paying the rent had caught up with us and we were about to be evicted. He told us it was better because there were too many ghosts there. I loved that apartment. I left behind so many books I still wish I had. Ed can reflect the place where he raised Suz, Matt, Tim, and me with our mom Pat, and he can visit those ghosts he created.

Raised is not the right word. He reared us? Attempted to raise us to the best of his ability? My sister's tribute at his memorial showed homage to positive and there were many positives. There were also drastic measures he took to force conformity to the ideals he imposed on us. As extensions of his extremely narcissistic self, his children could each act out fantasies that he could not. He was very proud of the fact that despite brown eyes and curly hair being dominant traits, we all had blue/green eyes and straight hair. We had to speak perfect English. In the guise of WASPs we could go where he could not. He liked to call me his "Cliffy" even though when I actually learned anything in college that contradicted his doctrine, I became the kind of loathsome Cliffy who would have looked down on him. He both hated and loved this country. He wanted us to be all of the icons he revered but pretended that he hated for their exclusivity. Matt was supposed to be a professional hockey player. I was supposed to be the screen actress Ali McGraw or Candace Bergen. Funny, dramatic, all-American. He used to get very annoyed at me when my glasses slipped down on my face. Like him, I have no semblance of a bridge on my nose. It never made any difference to me but it seemed to emphasize the wideness and remind him of what he thought was ugly in himself. It was as if I was mocking him by letting my glasses slide down on purpose. I don't know. I actually grew up thinking I was ugly because of those features.

I love aging because I feel like I do not have to worry about whether or not anyone thinks I am attractive anymore. Who I am is much more about what I do and say. What was I thinking in this picture? I know it is probably my lunch in the bag but I am imagining it is something different because my face is saying, “I have a secret.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Edgardo Vega

He was on page 16 of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Junot Diaz. Irony? He had written his agent's number on a napkin in legible handwriting. He had a box cutter and some money, three loose keys, about 25 of his own business cards. Where was he going when he fainted? He had some glucose tabs and that was it. No wallet. No cellphone. The box cutter was to clip the baseball standings from the paper. It is such a shame. His mind was still so sharp. He had so many words to say and now his voice is silenced. Yesterday the sparrows were chirping up a storm in this one tree and even though it was so long ago I still remember Steven King writing that sparrows are psychopomps, harbingers of the dead. So I listened to them. I listened for Ed's voice, for a sign, a message. I think he might have said, "Don't return my cable box yet. The Rangers are on a roll."