Saturday, January 26, 2008

This one is a bit personal

And I wanted to keep this blog from being too too personal. But fuck it. I need to write this. My google analytics numbers say this blog is only being read by like, 4 or 5 of my closest personal friends anyway. So fuck it. This one is a bit personal. So be it.

Where to start...

So I get this phone call, a week ago, from my father. He sounds weird. Not himself. I ask him what is up.

"I, um, guess it was a good thing you made it to see your grandfather over Christmas," he says.

My family, we seem like very blunt people at first. Get to know us, and it turns out we have a hard time saying certain things directly.

He finally manages to get out that my 88 year old Grandfather has been diagnosed with a cluster of quite lethal conditions. I won't spell it all out. Let's put it this way. The Cancer will kill him of one of the others doesn't get him first.

(Does this seem written in a manner too stylized? Does that seem cold? I feel strange about it, the prose. I'm sorry for the pretense of art or something like art here. It is selfish. But there's nothing I can do about this. All I can do is write. Writing is all I know how to do. It is so little.
It is all I have.)

Anyway, I spend this last week in a bit of a daze. Pack up after my class on Thursday. Drive back East to where my Grandfather lives... for at least a little bit longer.

And now I am here. In the condo on the Connecticut side of the sound where they moved after leaving the house on Long Island they raised my father in. The smell of my grandparents is thick here. Sweet, and somehow still faintly smoky though my Grandmother has been in a home since her stroke, and no longer sits in the kitchen smoking and making chicken cutlet. It is a family smell, somehow, my Father's home in Ithaca has taken on a hint of it. Some protein in our skin perhaps.

We are not to tell my grandmother her husband is sick. She can't speak since the stroke, her understanding is suspect. I think she's still smarter than all of us, though, I think she knows the score.

The strange thing is, how normal everything is. My grandfather has changed not at all in his outward appearance since I last saw him. He has declined any treatment. Hospice care visits the home once a day to check on him. He has been prescribed atavan for his anxiety.

The anxiety of, you know, dying.

This, I think, is the ultimate expression of our consumer culture. We must make even comfort for the dying into a consumable good, into a pill. Into a commodity to be produced and circulated. All our needs must be fulfilled by capital.

The thing that really set me off was the box in the refrigerator. A box full of morphine - the drug of last resort, the thermonuclear weapon of pharmacology.

This box, mute testament to the imminent mortality of someone I love, carries - like everything else in 21st century America, a brand label.

It is a Hospice Care ComfortPak(tm).


This sent me over the edge. Made me briefly channel Theodore Adorno. What fucking soulless marketing major threw that one out to the 8am meeting. ComfortPak. Missing a goddamn letter. You know. To make sure they can trademark it. Claim it as property. Commodify it. Properly seek return on their investment.

Oh, and by the way, shit on the dignity of the mortally ill by refusing to call the medicine that will ease the agony of their final hours by its proper fucking name. Or at least with real words. From a real language, spoken by an actual, living culture.

That, of course, might suggest that there are things that ought not to be commodified. That human beings are more than just consumers. That comfort for the dying is not a thing to be bought and sold, but a human right and a human responsibility. That caring for each other might be our human responsibility.

But what would I know about that?

All I can do - is write.


themikedubose said...

I wasn't there for my Grandmother's deaths (either of them), and all I got to do was hear about them from afar...and deal with the aftermath. You have my sympathies...and we should drink entirely too much when you get back.

kelly said...

I'm so sorry. I know how much your grandfather means to you.