Saturday, February 2, 2008

Good and Normal...

Posted by John Torcello

He is one of my true friends.

He was born to a set of parents who, as a family, selflessly provided and loved him and his sister; parents who, in their youth, tasted the negative effects of American politics, McCarthyism, in their lives; his mother died an untimely, early death from cancer. A very intelligent sister, who, in her teenage years, began exhibiting 'odd' behavior; resulting in her being diagnosed as schizophrenic. Parents, who, in their love, worked to care for his sister privately in order to avoid the 'stigma' they had felt of 'the mob' mentality and what it would mean for her life.

My friend's wife, facing her employer's imminent bankruptcy...was diagnosed with cancer too. Fearing she could/would not be hired elsewhere, would not be be able to get health coverage because of her pre-existing condition.

His wife had an illegitimate daughter; the biological father absent from his step-daughter's entire life. His wife’s ailing mother lived with them too. They endured together, loved and cared for one another; lived their lives as a family.

The step-daughter married a boy. The two of them living together with my friend, his wife and his wife’s live-in ailing mother. The daughter’s husband was found to abuse drugs, had a gambling habit; and stole from the company, where my friend’s wife had found him a job; he was prosecuted, jailed and ultimately divorced from their daughter.

His wife died from the effects of the cancer and from depression from the situation in which she was leaving her family, her world. My friend was left with supporting and caring for his wife’s aging and ailing mother...He did his best; projecting an image of strength; attempting, I thought, to display to everyone that things continued to be ‘good and normal’.


My friend finds himself, today, living with his elderly, but physically healthy, dad; a dad suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's....They are ‘pals’; he is with his dad 24+ hours a day...patiently having the same conversations with him over and over again...

Recently, my friend's sister, innocently walked into a hospital emergency room with an empty jar. She told the doctors there were ‘bugs’ in the jar and in her hair. She was admitted, with no recourse, to their mental care unit...My friend now visits his sister each day; bringing his dad along too. She hugs her dad; calls him ‘daddy’; but, he doesn’t seem to know her or her situation. She will most likely be institutionalized for the rest of her life.

I do not think this is the situation my friend...his parents, his wife, step-daughter, their son-in-law, his wife's mother or his surviving father...had envisioned for themselves; yet, it is their story; albeit a drastically shortened version of it...All they wanted, I think, was a 'good and normal' life.


This weekend, my friend, and his dad will be coming over to our house for dinner and spending an evening together.

My friend looks forward to the meal, the break from hours upon hours of being with his dad in his current condition and the chance to watch a movie, be served, share in good food, some laughs and conversation...

My friend doesn’t whine about his situation. It just is...He accepts it...He once wrote to me about an argumentative situation we faced:
”Regarding our conflict...I would like to say; yes it took a while for me to get past thought I was doing something wrong and there was no room in your mind for what I thought about my own situation and how to live with it.”

By the standards of ‘good and normal’, most, including myself, would judge my friend as an unhappy fellow finding himself in terrible situations. My friend, however, would not recognize their judgment. He just does what he thinks is the ‘right’ thing to do - day after day - going from what they might consider to be horrible or unbearable; one circumstance to another...

My friend does not believe in a god. His life, his actions, his purpose; his life lived and experienced is probably more ‘saintly’ than anyone I know...He is one who cares for others, who lives compassionately; in spite of my, or others, perceptions and judgment of the appearance that his life has been anything but 'good and normal'.
He has faced a lot of 'shit'. Because of my friend, I’ve come to understand the true nature of living life for the benefit of others. His life doesn’t rely on appearances or just ‘is’...found in the experience of now and in the absolute of emptiness...

1 comment:

Caralee said...

Good for people to know.