Friday, August 1, 2014

Express yourself. For my Dad.

It's been a hell of a week.

I got a call Tuesday night that my dad went into the hospital because he was completely unresponsive and they thought he'd had a stroke.

Earlier that same day Amy found out she is losing her job as her company is closing the office and moving all the jobs out of state.

At time like these, I remind myself of the old saying, "When Life hands you lemons, ask Life what the hell am I supposed to do with these lemons? And when Life punches you over and over in the stomach, make lemonade and add some Smirnoff vodka."

This ancient Irish proverb doesn't make much sense but has been a help at times.

I've lost count of the number of times I've held Amy and said "it'll all work out" the last 25 years, but I think she might be getting suspicious I just don't know what else to say.

I still don't know what to say, but I have to write. This has become one of my only outlets since I gave up crying like a girl or punching holes in walls.

We were glad to get the news the MRI showed no stroke and he started to get more responsive again. But I just talked to mom and since they'd given him some Parkinson's medicine for some of his symptoms, he is unresponsive again.

I do not know how much more time my dad has, but I cherish every rare moment of clarity and lucidity.

When my oldest, adult kid was just a baby, we had an Oregon ballot dubbed "Death with dignity" to legalize euthanasia for those dying and in intractable pain. I don't remember how I voted, but I know I have learned since then that death is almost never dignified.  It so often reduces us to the time we were babies, helpless, voiceless and in diapers.

Death is almost never dignified, so we better make the most of our lives fitting that definition.

But thankfully life can be dignified and we're so often reminded of it in old family photos. With the Internet, these pictures have become ubiquitous and I lost count this year of the Facebook birthday reminders of those who are no longer with us.

I've often pleaded on my blog that we do not have tomorrow promised to us and to make use of every day to tell your friends and loved ones how much you care. Hug and kiss them. Make fun of them and get on their nerves. Give them something to recall you by.

I love writing and it is completely my dad's fault. It all goes back to when he tutored me one summer to keep me from being held back a year in high school. It only happened because I tested out trying to pass my sophomore year by smoking pot and not even showing up to school. The results spoke for themselves.

As he had taught English for years in college, he would force me into a chair for at least an hour a day and "learn". To say it was like A Clockwork Orange scenario of being strapped down and my eyes clamped open is probably embellishing, but I was certainly an unwilling patient. Pupil. Whatever.

But suddenly a light bulb went off over my head when he told me that people strain their whole lives to be heard and express themselves and writing is one of the few chances to get it right. He said there were countless ways to express yourself poorly, but only a few ways to do it well and maybe even one way to do it just right.

My dad loved writing and my mom still does, in many books, articles and blogs. For that, I am thankful.

That miserable summer, dad instilled in me that with writing you can strive to express yourself in such a way to best be understood and not misunderstood. Even then, some will not get it. Try talking about religion or politics on the Internet if you don't believe me.

I see so many people who look like they are waiting someday to speak up and just be themselves. We worry too much about saying too much. We worry too much about what people will think. I often quote Anne of Green Gables (shut up) when she said, "I know I chatter on far too much but if you only knew how many things I want to say and don't. Give me some credit." That might even be fitting for my tombstone.

I've learned in my almost half century of making fun of people and getting on their nerves that someone will always judge and criticize you, no matter what you do. So don't think you can avoid that by clamming up and saying almost nothing.

My dad loved writing and getting up and speaking and those days are now mostly out of his reach. And though he might never be printed in an edition of Bartlett's Famous Quotes, I remember many pieces of wisdom he has given me over the years.

His manifold acts of speaking up and writing when it seemed like nobody agreed or was even listening is one of them.

So I'm not going to cry or punch another hole in the wall. At least for now.

It'll all work out.


  1. Writing this down will etch his memory into your family father son.

  2. Patrick, your words are true. I've had many peaks and valleys in my own life. However I try my best to be accessable to others in need. Love you, honey.

  3. Told your dad about the blog and he got teary. I will read it to him when he gets home.

  4. Keep on keeping on, I guess? The pile never gets any smaller, and the way that you perch on the top shouting like a crazy old man has always been a little bit inspiring. I keep you and your troubles in mind, hopefully you (guys) get a (good) break soon.

  5. Happy Father's Day to you and my big Bro. Love you both~