New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time to take stock of the past year and make resolutions for how to be a better person, make better choices, make a better new year.
My 2013 sucked. Even if I’d followed through on my 2012 resolutions: lost weight, exercised more, been kinder to people, given more to charity, volunteered more, the end result would still have been a shitty year.
There were good times: meeting up with my brother in New York, visiting my best friend in St. Louis, having my sister come stay with us for a week, hosting various visits from American and European friends through the summer, backpacking in the mountains, going to several writing retreats and conferences, staying on a houseboat on Lake Powell. I remember enjoying these activities, but the details are fuzzy and vague. I have to look at my calendar to recall what time of year it was when they happened. That’s because one major change dominated all of 2013. It has to do with an issue many of my generation are facing: aging parents.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew it would eventually happen to me. I just didn’t know how it would take over my life and obliterate my creativity. I’d never experienced mental stress to the point that even when I wanted to write and had the time to write, my brain just couldn’t cope. Sentences were impossible to create.
Both of my parents are in their early seventies. Until the end of 2012, they were self-reliant and took pride in how active they are. Despite my mother’s slow, yet stubborn, breast cancer spreading to bone cancer a few years back, and her rheumatoid arthritis, my parents used to go for daily long walks, volunteer for various organizations, and keep up with a social calendar that I found exhausting. My mom is also a prolific textile artist and always working on a quilt, wall hanging, or decoration special ordered by impatient customers.
And then my dad started mixing up some words. He became confused about time spans. Tomorrow, yesterday, fifty years ago didn’t have any meaning anymore. His body stopped obeying easy commands. Sitting, standing, backing up, and turning was impossible. His limbs stiffened and become unyielding. People only he could see, strangers, insisted on sitting next to him, or across the room, silently staring, judging. Sometimes, he no longer recognized his wife. Read more »