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June 21, 2004 - 4:27 p.m.
My father once won a photography contest. It wasnít anything big, like the National Geographic one, more like the East Cupcake Local Press contest, but he still won. It was a close up photograph of a wildflower. It was completely gorgeous. The sunlight was streaming though the petals of this pinkish flower making it glow, every detail of the flower was clear and crisp, but the lighting and the color made the whole thing soft, ethereal. It was truly lovely.
Iím now looking at a cigar box. Just your basic, wooden cigar box, but this box has been decorated with magazine clippings that have been glued, collage-like, to the top and to 3 of the sides. The magazine clippings are roughly cut, at odd angles and not too firmly affixed to the box. The edges are peeling up a little and there are gaps where the edges of the pictures donít meet, where you can see the box. My father made the boxóor rather, decorated itówhen he was at the Synagogue, he goes there 2 days a week to a program for Seniors with Dementia/Alzheimerís and various and sundry other mental diseases.
All of the pictures are in shades of browns, golds and black and are just snippets of images, nothing concrete. As I stare at the images I think I can make out what the original picture was of, but itís fleeting, like when you stare at one of those illusion posters, you think youíve gotten it, but as soon as you think that, itís gone. I think that must be like my dadís mind right now. The thoughts and the memories are there, but they are fleeting. If he can just focus long enough, heíll get the words out, heíll make himself understood, but then itís gone.
Thereís something about this cigar box that reminds me of that photo he took so many years ago. Something in the lighting in the pictures, in the way he placed them, overlapping and haphazard. Thereís something so heartbreaking and tragic in this, his attempt at art, but itís beautiful as well. This is a side of my father I never would have seen before, and to be honest, Iíd rather trade seeing even a glimmer of it if it meant I could have him back the way he was, but I canít, I never will. So I take what I can get. My mom asked me if I wanted to keep the box, she said it with a note of such sadness in her voice, because for her itís just tragic, not beautiful at all. What she sees is what has happened to her husband the lawyer, the philanthropist, the photographer.
My father, the consummate Episcopalian spends 2 days a week at a Synagogue, where these amazing ladies treat him as if nothing is wrong. Where they give him activities to doóthey try to slow the progression of this disease by keeping his mind active, but more importantly they make him happy, make him feel useful in a way my mother, brother and I never can. I think when my father is with us all he thinks about is how weíll react to him, how we feel seeing our ďall powerful, Super Lawyer, photography contest winning, Board of Directors member, eloquent father as something less than what he was. These ladies never knew him before, and with them he can be comfortable and happy.
I started this entry roughly 2 months ago and never finished it; I returned to it tonight when I found the cigar box as I was packing up my apartment. What shocks me is how much worse my father is now. I donít think he could decorate this box now and Iím confident he doesnít remember ever doing it. Heís become so frail. Heís falling more frequently, and thank God he hasnít yet hurt himself or my mother seriously. He canít sit or stand up straight any more, and getting him either into or out of a sitting position takes usually 2 people. This is completely horrific and I donít know what I can do.
I feel like Iíve been beaten down and shattered and like Iím never going to be me again. I feel like one by one things are being taken away from me and I just have to take it. So I just keep waking up, going to work, coming home and feeling like Iím completely disconnected from everything. I got a new car, Iím moving to a new apartment, but nothing changes. I just feel broken, and so tired.
Wondering:If things will ever get better.
Doing:Trying to keep my head above water.
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