I’m sitting at the kitchen table with a mild headache- perhaps too much red wine with dinner last night- whilst listening to a Phish album that takes me back to a time in my life when I had just finished college and had nary a clue what to do with myself.  I suppose it is not unlike where I find myself once again as I approach completion of my 40th trip around the sun.  “Oh to be Prince Caspian, float upon the waves…”  Despite rain in the forecast my cousin Brendan will be out to visit this afternoon following his outpatient treatment at Buffalo General.  His mother, my Aunt Katie, had called early this morning before I even arose leaving me a voice mail.  When I spoke to her it was evident she is on high alert, clarifying that he remains “high risk”, asking me to notify her upon his arrival and departure.  She said after this most recent incident she can no longer trust him.  I replied that it can take some time to heal such a wound, and that being out here can only serve him in such a way.  She agreed and sounded relieved thanking me before ending the call.

After meeting up with Ben to grab some lunch at a pub in the village of Hamburg I headed out to my folks’ house with a load of boxwood for the new landscape bed along the perimeter of the now completed deck.  A fair amount of blood, sweat and expletives went into that project over the last several months.  The fence is also completed and the grass seed that was sown over the area where the pool had been filled in has come in thick and lush.  We sat on the deck with the sun hanging low in the sky on a seasonably mild October afternoon admiring the backyard makeover.  There remains one more task with a heaving structure in the rear corner, a gazebo I had helped my father build some 15 years ago.  I’m thinking a rock garden with limestone boulders and ornamental grasses would make for a low maintenance replacement, adding texture and contrast to a manicured landscape.  Word has it my uncle is interested in re-using some of the lumber and will lend a hand in the demo.

I had brought over one of the 17 birds we helped to process last week and my father fired up the Weber grill slow roasting it to gustatory perfection.  My mother had prepared Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and green peas to round out the main entrée.  There was some added satisfaction knowing the source of the food, and that my hands had gone into preparing and delivering it to the table.  I was reminded of the “slow food movement” which has emerged in recent years, something of a response to the Super Size Me culture we’ve witnessed in recent decades.  My brother joined us for the nourishing meal upon returning to town direct from the airport after a brief business trip.  The Malbec I brought over was an excellent pairing with the food and flowed into several glasses.

As we finished up at the table my mother became upset at my father’s visibly inebriated state.  He had been nearly silent as we ate, a most abnormal behavior for an otherwise loquacious man.  We had even baited him with politics joking that the Obama campaign is undecided about coming to Buffalo because they’re scared of a staunch right-wing, conservative Catholic.  He left the table and bumbled into the family room to have a seat as my mother took the opportunity to plea her case to her sons citing his diabetes.  Dan & I both agreed that it was not a favorable set of circumstances, reminiscent of a moment over the summer when she had called in hysterics over his drunken stupor as we camped out with cousins.  It was the first time the tables had been turned with the kids dealing with their irresponsible parents.

When he returned to the table we probed a little asking him what’s going on and suggested that he exercise more discretion with his consumption of alcohol.  He was agreeable in accepting that his body just can’t tolerate it as it had in his younger years.  But just because we know better doesn’t mean we do better.  I’ve seen my father’s health slide downhill since retiring a couple of years ago, and I see this is not an uncommon trend in retirement.  It’s too easy to lose a sense of purpose in retirement and with all the free time on one’s hands self-destructive behaviors become amplified.  It is certainly a helpless situation for my mother, and for the kids, and for my father.  The American Dream just isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

After dinner I headed over to visit a lady friend who had just returned to town from a vacation with her sisters in Nashville.  In between episodes of passionate touch she filled me in on all the details of her trip including tourist stops to Graceland and the Grand Ole Oprey, along with the requisite bickering amongst her cohort of traveling siblings.  Before I knew it the time flew by approaching midnight as I put my clothes back on to head home.  We chatted for another few minutes in the doorway confiding in her that I don’t really know where the fuck I’m at in life or where I’m headed next.  Since the sale of the house it really dawned on me that I’m in limbo, just hanging out and seeing what comes next.  She suggested that it is a “transitional” stage, which is obvious; however, I’ve been in transition many times in my life, and somehow this time it is different.  It is new metaphysical territory.  I may not know where I’m going, but I’m clearer than ever where I am not.

In common wealth,

SjK

so if I’m inside your head
don’t believe what you might have read
you’ll see what I might have said
to hear it
come waste your time with me

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