Okay, you’re right, it’s me doing all the talking but you’re here, right? This isn’t just some kind of twilight zone I’m in, alone. We’re here together, maybe not right this second but soon, eventually.
I’m in LA, Studio City to be exact and it’s ten past ten pm. I’m renting a room in a townhouse from a man who offered to let me stay here through airbnb. It’s a nice room and my host is very nice as well. I’m here to visit my parents who are ailing but doing their best to stay strong and find meaning in their lives. They are living in a retirement “village” in an apartment that’s fully equipped for city living. They’ve never cooked a meal in their kitchen because all of their meals are prepared for them and served in the communal dining room downstairs. The food is good and they can order whatever they want to eat.
Yesterday, during breakfast, my mom looked around the room and said that everyone there is just waiting to die. Not exactly the kind of syrup you want to pour on your stack of pancakes first thing in the morning. She’s right of course but isn’t that what we’re all doing. Or are we all just waiting to be born into our next lives?
As I watch my parents grow older and become more dependent on others and lose their abilities to function, I can’t help but see them become younger and younger, the time clock spinning backwards, de-evolving them, returning them to their infant state of being. They’re shrinking is size, losing their teeth and hair, the skin is loose and soft, they can’t see the details before them, they’re uncoordinated, incontinent, fragile, unstable, and lost in the small world they inhabit.
I know this process is a privilege to witness. My known world is slowly coming undone and I have time to experience it unravel. Unlike the tragic, unexpected demise of life, my parents are slowly disintegrating before me and I see the process as a preview of coming attractions for my own demise, if I’m lucky, or not. It’s a little difficult for me to say with any real certainty or conviction which is better, to die young and get it over with or fall slowly apart in old age. That seems like such a ridiculous statement now that I’ve made it. I wouldn’t want any young person to die and I guess that’s not what I mean. I’m rambling. I’m sorry. Can we talk? Can we talk about death and dying and being alone in a stranger’s house in Studio City facing the short wick of life that still holds a small flame of light that is my history; my beginning, my parents.
This is how is supposed to happen, right? Children bury their parents. Its the great design of life as it should be. As a parent myself, I wouldn’t want it any other way. But life doesn’t always give us that choice, as the world has witnessed on a daily basis but here, in the Valley of S. Calif, for me, it’s happening now and I’m not ready for it. I don’t want it to happen. I lived too long up north, away from my parents and I regret all the times I didn’t spend with them.
There have been some bright spots to the visit though. My parents do their best to keep things light and stay upbeat. The village isn’t a nursing home, the women who are rich come to dinner in diamonds and lipstick. The men talk of football and the weather. There’s politics in the dining room, little bets getting made, jokes about aging and snide remarks about the food.
I’m glad I’m here to witness all of it. The final wave of a generation born in the 20s and 30s. It makes me feel young!
I saw a tall telephone pole being worked on by two men in cherry pickers. I wanted to take a picture of it but there were too many cars in the way.
Tomorrow, Friday, is my dad’s 83rd birthday. Six of us are going to celebrate at a round table in the dining room with a sugar free cake. When my dad is born into the universe again, the night time sky will glow a little brighter with a tiny star full of intelligent life.
Your faithful and rambling design detective,
We Must Play the Hand we are Dealt.