Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Flesh and blood

I apologize to all of you out there for not posting more frequently, but quite frankly these last few weeks have been hectic. I've been working a lot, plus I've spent a lot of my time at home working on applications, so that leaves me very little time for posting either to this blog or to the film blog. And to compound matters, I just found out last week that my dad has to get triple-bypass surgery. So as you might expect it's been pretty tense around the house since then. The surgery is tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and while I'm not really fearing the worst (I can't even bring myself to type out what "the worst" actually would be) it nonetheless gives me pause. I know my dad's in good shape, heart notwithstanding, but anytime they cut a loved one open one is bound to be concerned.

I had a conversation with my dad about this earlier tonight, and he asked me how I felt about the whole thing. To be honest, I wasn't sure how to feel. My dad had a mild heart attack about ten years ago, yet this still didn't quite feel real to me. Bypass operations are for old people, right? Well, not exactly. The truth is that heart trouble runs in his family. His dad has heart problems, and now he does. And what has really hit home is that, in terms of body type, I'm very similar to how my dad was at my age. Add to this the fact that I had a great-uncle who died of a heart attack when he was 29- yeah, I'm a touch nervous.

The other emotional issue I mentioned to my dad was that I figured out a while back that I'm the kind of person who get more frustrated when something bad happens beyond his control than when something happens that he (at least partially) caused. This is unfathomable to my mother, who is the "no sweat, it's all out of my hands" type, but my dad knew where I was coming from. I guess it's the control freak in me, being disturbed more by powerlessness than by responsibility, but it's just the way I am. And now when it comes to my own health, I feel more powerless than ever before. As my dad said, "I could probably have eaten salads for every meal and this still would have happened eventually." Even if this is a slight exaggeration, my dad's gene pool has a tendency toward heart problems, and that's part of the legacy he's left to me. Now let's see if I can do anything about it.

But in spite of the tension, the plan for tonight was to get the family together for one more nice sit-down dinner before my dad's surgery. I had the day off work, so I prepared a nice meal, but alas, the plans came crashing down. From my vantage point, my brother was to blame, but I should accept at least some responsibility for it happening. The story as I remember it: I'm in the kitchen making dinner, and my mom's changing out of her work clothes. My dad comes home and changes, then comes out to the kitchen, and we start talking. My dad comes calls to my brother to come upstairs for dinner, and eventually my brother comes up. My dad and I continue our conversation in a fairly innocuous manner, and suddenly my brother seizes upon a harmless thing my dad says to sneak in one of his infamous offhand digs, this time at my dad. The conversation screeches to a halt, and I get PISSED. I tell my brother that I'm getting really fucking pissed at his need to tell jokes at the expense of others, especially his family, and he starts getting all defensive. "I'm just telling a joke! That's the kind of jokes I always tell!" he says. And I tell him that we were trying to have a civilized conversation, and that his humor is best kept to himself. And he starts getting pissed at me, so I reach for the nearest knife, although I fail to get a good hold on it, and it goes tumbling across the floor. But even without a knife, I start yelling at him (by this time mom has come out of the bedroom and is trying to make sense of it all) and my brother decides to get the hell out of Dodge. But, this being my brother, not before he can get in one more feeble remark- "Dad, good luck with your surgery. Paul, go fuck yourself." And the door slams.

I felt suitably guilty for my actions, of course, but the weird thing wasn't that I didn't feel guilty so much for attempting to draw a knife on my brother as I did for breaking up the nice family dinner we had planned. But why would I, a person who considers himself to be a peaceful sort, impulsively pull out a knife when my brother crosses me? Well, I've been thinking about that all night. I suppose a lot of it had to do with my dad. The whole point of the night was to give him a pleasant send-off before tomorrow's surgery, and after making dinner I wasn't about to let my brother pull his usual mouthy shit. But I also think that it's the culmination of three tumultuous months of my brother living with us. Simply put, all of the bad things I thought about him before he moved back have only been exascerbated by experiencing them with great regularity. Would you live with a roommate who lied, consistently made jokes at the expense of you or your housemates, left half-full glasses of soda sitting around the house, had piles of filthy dishes in his bedroom even after they started to get moldy, inserted inappropriate language or jokes into polite conversation, actively antagonized the mistress of the house, and watched television late into the night, loudly laughing heedless of the sleep schedules of everyone else? How much are we supposed to forgive just because he's family? Yet I've practically been a saint up until now. He's come to me numerous times, cornered me while I was busy with something and engaged me in insipid hour-long conversations about which I could really give a shit, and I've done my best to humor him even though I don't really want to, all in the name of keeping everything smoothed over between us. But now this. A knife, drawn on my own brother. True, it never would have made for much of a threat, not only because I dropped the knife but also because the knife I pulled out was a serrated bread knife, and lord knows that couldn't have done much harm. But still, it's the principle. Nothing good can come of this.

Anyway, my dad. I hope he comes out all right. He'll be home for the next month or so, so I'll see plenty of him then. I'll be in the hospital with my mom tomorrow morning, trying to keep her level. I wonder if my brother will show up. Just in case, I'll leave the cutlery at home.


Donna B. said...

Your dad will be all right. Not that any surgery is a walk in the park, but bypass surgeons get lots of practice and have a high success rate. The recovery will be long, but it will be steady. More important to feed him well after he gets home from the hospital. So don't feel bad about your dinner -- plenty of chances to have an even more meaningful meal afterwards.

We'll be thinking about you.

Champaign American said...

Geez Mr. Clark...Ah, You need to tone it down a notch..There's plenty of jerks out on the sidewalk in this world that need a bread knife in the head. I know your bro is annoying, but c'mon..Remember the saying (is this the hill to die on?)

Champaign American said...

By the way..Don't sweat the bypass stuff as it is much better than it used to be. Hope your dad is doing ok.

M. Lieberman said...

My dad has had two open heart surgeries (once at 39 and the other at 55), so understand. Granted my father drinks, smokes, and eats horribly.

I hope all is well.

Jason_Alley said...

Hope your Dad's ok, dude.