Tuesday, July 5, 2005

My Own Feeling of Paralysis

My childhood friend's father is dying of cancer. His cancer has now paralyzed him from the waist down. My sister, a nurse, said she went to visit him yesterday and his eyes looked set in like little bird eyes.

Like ... little bird eyes.

I can't seem to get that description out of my head. She said, "He's scared, Shawn. He doesn't think he has two months to live and he doesn't want to be bitter about it, as he had a good life. You should go see him. He asked all about you... "

I was so touched by that. I DO want to go see him.

He was a barber all his life. Annette was an only child. And every Monday while in elementary school, on his day off, he would bring her a hot hamburger, steaming fries and a coke from a local hamburger place. I was so envious! A typical lunch for me, would have been a bologna sandwich, an orange, cookies and some chips or grapes. We rarely ever had the luxury of eating at a fast food restaurant.

I'd wait with her in front of our school and she would always share her fries with me. Her dad always drove up in his green dodge truck. She now owns that truck. It must have a million miles on it by now. She learned to drive in that truck.. long before she was old enough to get her license. I was a year and a half older, so when I got my drivers license at 16, and her parents went out to dinner, we'd sneak off in that truck to a new neighborhood being built where just the streets were paved and I taught her to drive.

Over the years, we grew up and apart... (I have seen her only a handful of times since high school) ... but I will always treasure the memories we made in our growing up years.

That truck took us everywhere with it's camper shell on top. She and I would lay on top of the bed above the truck's cab and tell stories and listen to her transistor radio playing "Hotel California" and "Cats in the Cradle" on her transistor radio.

That truck took us to South Lake Tahoe, where we slept in that cold camper in the Harvey's Casino parking lot in the snow. I was 12 years old. I remember laying there under blankets with my jacket on for added warmth and her mother said, "we better blow out the kerosine lamp before we get affixiated." It was the first time I heard the word "affixiated". The way it sounded to my ears and the way it felt in my mouth when I said it was just so much fun. I repeated it inside my head the rest of the weekend so I would memorize that word so I could use it sometime. And, I HAVE used it. And, it still makes me smile. Just like when I say "dilapidated". Dilapidated. Dilapidated. -- The way my tongue moves all over my mouth. And the sound of it is just so cute. I must stop. The enjoyment is enormous.

The following morning, I learned to snow ski at Heavenly Valley .... snow-plowing down the hills. Her parents took the tram up to the top of the hill and met us to take pictures. They slipped all over the snow in their tennis shoes. I felt embarrassed and worried everyone would think they were *my* parents. But I loved them. And they would have made nice parents. I still feel a tinge of pain when I remember my embarrassment toward them.

That truck took us to Disneyland for my first time just before the 8th grade. We stayed at the Jolly Rogers Motel in Room 212. I would also vacation with them up north in a seaside town called Anchor Bay.

I watched The Wizard of Oz in color on their TV for the first time. And, when Annette grew out of her Adidas tennis shoes with the blue stripes... she gave them to me, and I wore them proudly.

I will never forget one night, spending the night at her house, and we laid in her big, double bed and watched, endlessly, the Prisoners of War unboarding the airplanes from the end of the Vietnam War. She wore braces and had the neck gear. I remember seeing all these teeny, tiny rubber bands on her pillow.

We'd stare up at the screen searching for their names as they scrolled down while hundreds -- thousands of soldiers limped and walked down the steps in their fresh crewcuts. In case we forgot, we'd stare back down at our oversized, metal POW bracelets dangling on our wrists, hoping their names would appear, ... but ... they never did.

I DO want to visit her dad. I miss his laugh. The way he would throw his head back and grab his stomach to feel it wiggle as he laughed hard and long. I want to thank him for introducing me to so many wonderful adventures.

It hurts that I'm afraid to drive to the hospital. Park my car. Walk into the lobby, take the elevator up a certain floor. Walk down the hall and then turn into his room and say, "remember me? You took me to Disneyland when I was 12-years-old".

I feel immobilized.

I need to get past my own feeling of paralysis. Once I do, I will be happy I did. I feel small and belittled in admitting, it takes a lot of guts for me to drive down to that hospital to visit him. I hope I will be able to tell you that I did visit him. He introduced me to a lot of "first time experiences" as a young child. I would like to extend it to him in visiting him.

Oh, I pray that I can.


shamu said...

Sweet, touching story. I believe overcoming the fear, and giving back to someone that brought you so much in your childhood will be a blessing to you both.

danny said...

that was a wonderful story, so many memories that I can relate to also...I know that feeling of paralysis, but if you go see him, you'll be glad you did, and he will too.

Joycie said...

Shawn, you are not small for admitting your fear of going to the hospital to visit your friend's father - you are human for feeling that in the first place, and honest for admitting it. I know that nothing will keep you from that visit, because you have all the courage in the world.

Monica said...

This was a beautiful story, and almost brought tears to my eyes. Your honesty and sensitivity are amazing! He would be honored to know that you had such wonderful memories of him for all these years!

Ian T. said...

Confronting mortality is hard, there's no way around it. Still, if you have any love for this man at all, please do go and see him now, and think about him - he's apparently not feeling sorry for himself, so you don't need to be overwhelmed by feeling that way either. It isn't easy - I watched my father die similarly over a period of time, and we had some unresolved conflicts :(.

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I was afraid of my parents dying... for lots of reasons... but when they got ill (one by one) I avoided them. First my father took care of my mother and then my uncle took care of my father while I remained safely 1500 miles away. Out of guilt I began working with people living with AIDS in the early 90's. And they gave ME the gift of seeing what human kindness and connectedness and honesty means.
Your writing shows that you have that gift to give your friend's dad, AND, in my opinion, that you are ready to receive the poignant blessing of his memories of you. Take tissues (or anti-anxiety meds(!)) and tell him what you wrote here. Even if it isn't picture perfect, I think you'll be glad you did. (And if you aren't, you can vent to me!!)