Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recess: He Is King Lear


When the mind's free,
The body's delicate.
King Lear Act III, Scene IV

Last month I posted a story about my dad. How he'd been discovered on his bathroom floor after lying there for two days. How doctors diagnosed him with an infection and he spiraled deeper into his Alzheimer's dementia. How the family had been told his future was in a "care home" and that he would not be returning to his fifteenth-floor high-rise apartment where he lives on his own.

And I wrote how my dad was no King Lear, aside from insisting on living his life on his terms no matter how precarious we might find his choices.

Ahh...the stubbornness is all.

O! let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven;
Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!
King Lear Act I Scene V



Turns out my dad had picked up a robust case of E. coli, perhaps from the greasy mall food he'd been eating. After two months of hospital food, which he deemed delicious, by the way, his strength came back. In his weakened state, Dad had complimented the nurses, thinking they were waitresses and cooks.

After the consistent care of these professionals, my dad's brain function recovered to a state of periodic confusion instead of continual dementia.

Who is it that can tell me who I am?
King Lear Act I, Scene IV



My brother brought me a video of Dad in the hospital. There he was, out of his walker and on to a cane. Out of a disoriented stare and into a book. Able to track the plays of a quarterback on his beloved football team. Because he was aware that I would see the video, he looked into the camera and gave me a "Hello, Mel!" as a gift.

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!
King Lear Act I, Scene IV



So, my dad went back home to his apartment, to live on his own. Twice a day professional caregivers came by to help and provide food.

Until it all stopped. He told them not to come anymore. There will be no food delivery, because he doesn't want it. He'll shuffle back to the mall. When I expressed dismay and insisted he needs support, he answered with the coolness of a bluffer in a high-stakes game: "Thank you for your concern, Mel."

You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age; wretched in both!
King Lear Act II, Scene IV

My dad is well cast as King Lear. I, however, am hopelessly miscast as the gentle, resilient daughter, Cordelia. I'm failing, floundering and edgy.

And so it goes. Until the next phone call. Until the next fall. Until....

The worst is not,
So long as we can say, 'This is the worst.'
King Lear Act IV, Scene I


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