Friday, August 24, 2012

Death and the Manchild

Yep, no shortage of Death around here lately.

In addition to two notable massacres, America has been beset with a horrific heatwave and drought, West Nile Virus, and raging wildfires. These are becoming the new normal -- get used to them all. (Another mass shooting has occurred as I write this.)

On a more personal note, friends of relatives and relatives of friends are dropping like flies, or fighting chronic illnesses of various sorts. A fried of the family was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in the space of less than six months.

All the gun and self-defense courses I've taken this summer just seem like kids playing Commando, at the base of it; we all know that dying in a blaze of glory gunfight is far less likely than a more boring death. In fact, last year, at one of the ranges I was taking lessons from, one of the instructors died of a heart attack the night before the class, at the age of 59. Here he'd spent his life training to shoot his way out of trouble when he should have been watching his cholesterol.

As I said, America seems very old and very sick. The small town I live in hosts the regional medical center; giant billboards advertise cancer treatments and "assisted living" facilities. Perfect strangers in the Walgreens strike up conversations about amputations, chemo therapy, and surgeries.

It's a good question as to what my generation is going to do now that the baby boom generation is getting old and sick. Because we certainly can't afford to take care of them and most of us lack even the most basic sense of responsibility.


But on the brighter side -- funny thing happened.

My father, as I mentioned, is suffering from both Parkinson's and a head trauma that seemed to be causing serious dementia.

But, when I was with him -- I realized something. He wasn't acting like a guy who had senile dementia.

He was acting like a guy who was Fucked Up. Drunk or drugged. Slurred speech and staggering are also caused by Parkinson's, but something about his stream of consciousness speaking, glassy eyes, and giggly impulsive behavior just seemed too familiar.

I've seen people with senile dementia and Alzheimer's -- I had a few colleagues in Saudi who were more than a little senile, and I once cared for a grandmother with Alzheimer's. They have more of a blank "nobody's home" look, not the aforementioned glassy look.

My father doesn't drink, so I started examining the medicines he was taking, and sure enough, he was taking way too much of one medicine and my stepmother was occasionally giving him some of her Vicodin painkillers, unprescribed, for recurring pain from a shoulder injury.

Anyway, long story short, with proper medicine management, he is much much better. I mean, his Parkinson's isn't going to go away and he's still old, but he's much improved.

So there you go. What did I get out of all my years abroad? A very comprehensive understanding of people who are fucked up on drugs, and how to deal with them.


Tim said...

Your perception of America getting old might be skewed by staying in a small town. The younger generations seem to gravitate towards larger cities.

Awesome that you've been able to do something positive for your father. You're swinging some karma points back your way.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that you haven't spent time in South America. I have to wonder what your world view, vis'a'vis Russia, would be like today if you had spent some time living in places like Argentina, Brasil, Chile or Colombia.

English Teacher X said...

Mmm yeah, it's a big miss. Appart from a couple trips to Mexico, I'm a South American virgin. Are you suggesting I'd feel better or worse about life?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that you would feel much better about life. I've lived in BA and Santiago and traveled the continent. I've also spent time in six former SSR's, but not Russia. I'll take the Latin perspective any day of the week. Make no mistake; there are plenty of problems not the least of which involve corruption, security, instability and lousy food (save for Peru) - but I find the FSU to be grim, cold (spirit and climate) and just plain gritty. I'll take a neurotic Colombiana over a duplicitous Russian any day of the week. I'll also take a Colombian narco over Igor the flathead, though both generally leave me alone. Though places like Medellin are now full of sad gringo sex tourists and Rio is priced like Paris - there are many cool places to hang your hat and never see another expat. It will also take you a couple of months to speak passable Spanish - try that with Russian, Ukranian, etc.

English Teacher X said...

Yes, my next destination was always South America, and I was always about ready to leave, but I got swept away on a wave of Russian poontang and never recovered, then woke up one with 40 looking back at me in the mirror. . .

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me with my father though it was in a hospital. He was supposed to have fallen into a deep coma after a heart attack. Turns out no one bothered to check that he had lost weight on the IV and the morphine dosage was no longer correct. He woke up right away when they cut down the dosage to non-William Burroughs levels. As an EFL teacher I was too broke come back to the states to look in on him, so had to rely on whatever his insurance (or lack thereof) could afford.