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.”

5 comments:

Allison Guerriero said...

That's a good post, Aly. It fills in some gaps about 240 that TMV told me when you moved into your current apartment. But we don't need to rehash what TMV said...

Shayne said...

You were a beautiful little girl and It's tragic that you were made to feel differently. I hope in time the good memories you have of your father will overshadow whatever pain you may have felt and that in time, you will find peace in everything that made you who you are.

Anonymous said...

hi aly, how strange to see the collection of his final belongings. yes I agree his mind was sharp right up until the last moment. i am thinking of you, love suzy

Suzanne said...

I didn't mean to be anonymous...?

Allison Guerriero said...

I just re-read this. This is really a good post. And I personally think your nose, along with the rest of you, is wonderful!