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07/31/2010

Irony may be dead, but my dad is alive. So, what the hell is my problem? Indulgence in a Blog Post.

Since the existential crisis has been co-opted by hipsters, it feels both trendy and un-ironic to have one. Or, in my case, four. If I could put it off a few years, this crisis would be totally retro. 

I think this is my fourth. The first happened at 23 or 24, just like everybody else’s. I’d been accidentally deported from New York, and my return to Toronto after 5 years of freedom felt unnecessarily cruel.  My mum, ever the optimist, tried to ease my depression with a joint audition for the Vagina Monologues (not recommended) and the adoption of a large foxhound who arrived as Miles, became known as Churchill, and ultimately was called, simply, Fuck, since that’s all you could manage when Fuck lunged at you, looking for flesh.

The second crisis followed soon after, when my dad collapsed on his way to work. He’d been sick for over a year and nobody could figure it out. Doctors told him it was the flu. He’d also shattered his pelvis. Doctors told him to walk it out.

When my dad was finally admitted into emergency and a team of residents elected to remove his gall bladder, they pumped him full of morphine, and my dad is allergic.

“Hello, Mrs. Doyle. It appears we've misplaced your husband.”

Morphine gives my dad jumpy feet. It also makes him hallucinate. On my way to work one morning, I came face to face with my wiry, spritely dad, leaping from a taxi cab, clutching the back of his hospital gown in one hand and an IV bag and pole in the other, gold toe black socks pulled straight up to the knee,  a liberated silver fox headed for his own front door.

“They’re trying to kill me, Shorts. I need new socks and a shave. “

It’s an ethical quandary when you’re faced with returning someone you love to a place that does, in fact, appear to be doing more harm than good. My dad spent one more week on a morphine-free floor, with a handler at his bedside -- some overtly religious woman who knit in plastic armchairs, while my dad cursed about how they might at least have fixed him up with someone sort of intellectual. 

The third crisis hit when my mum, the most special, most beautiful, and wisest woman I’ve known, caught a cold, or maybe the flu, and abruptly died. I’d been living in Mexico, working as a journalist and helping an aging gay Olympian paint a 16-foot rug. This crisis hit in heavy waves and, though I thought I worked through it during a stint in West Africa, I did not.

And, now the fourth. My dad has had a pre-existing heart thing for a long time, and the prospect of orphaning a daughter made him wait to have it fixed. About a year and a half ago, he agreed to an experimental procedure, and the surgeon came and told me that things had gone almost perfectly, and six months later, the surgeon told my dad that he was going to be in a medical journal. And, six months after that, the surgeon explained to us both that he’d made a mistake. By medical journal, we meant we need to operate again and that needs to happen immediately.

And thus, my dad was given two weeks to wrap up his life out of town, retire from his job, and come to Toronto for a surgery he’d dreaded for over a decade. Another one. 

Anybody who’s spent anytime in our hospitals knows intimately that the Dickensian system we call one of the best healthcare systems in the world will be considered by our children among the horrors of the dark ages. Forget the miracles of surgery, getting out is the greatest miracle of all.

But get out, he did. And then go back in, he did. And now he’s out again, and you really can’t underestimate the emotional toll surgeries take on people and, by extension, their families. And my dad is alive and well, and more and more like his old self. And he says he’s been dreaming. He’s a boy again. He’s up at 4:30 to milk the cows. He’s talking to my mum and asking her advice about what to do next. He’s starting his life again, and in so doing, it seems he’s breaking from the past by consulting with it. And, it makes sense since he came so close to joining the people he dreams about now. Maybe, after five years of mourning, he’s saying goodbye.

My dad is choosing to live, but the break has not been clean, and I’m not certain the decision has always been easy. My mum and dad had a love for one another that made life possible. I'd imagine that makes everything else feel pretty insignificant. 

I’ve spent the last few months wracked by the past as well. Could be something in the air, could be a recent wedding that felt like a high school reunion, could be the looming end of a project and the peripheral question of, you know, marketable skills.

It occurs to me that my mum was 65 when she died. In a week I turn 33. Perhaps this "crisis" is the mid-life variety. In that case, the hipsters can eat it.

 

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you want to know your marketable skills? this writing one is staring you in the face.

excuse me while i go tab my teary eyes from this piece.

this entry made my heart soar all over the page, then broke it, then put it back together again...
they sure had a special love, alright. i saw it for myself. in fact, i won't settle for anything less than the 'in love' model those two set.. and you are - & you always have been - the manifestation of that bright flame, of that one-in-a-gazillion love.
happy birthday, you incredible woman.

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