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News and Events

by  Brian Weilert

As I woke a realized I couldn’t quite open my eyes.  Apparently, I had forgotten to shut the hotel curtains of a window facing due east.  The sun had snuck its way between a non-descript brick, building and a large billboard with the words, Welcome to Peculiar; and was laser-beaming directly into my retinas.   I attempted to reach up with my left hand and rub my non-respondent eyes but only inches into the maneuver, I realized my wrist was handcuffed to the bed post.  A realization such as this, super-charges the pace in which one wakes.  The relaxing slow ease in which I was planning to approach the day was replaced with a shock that flooded my brain with issues I had let slip.  I was so used to hotels in my travels as a risk analyst that I had forgotten that I had no recollection of the prior day…if it is possible to forget not remembering.  Upon this epiphany, panic escalated to where I feared my heart might actually explode, though statistically with no family history of heart issues and being only slightly above my BMI range the word actually hyperbolizes the risk.  Though nothing in all my training had prepared me to assess things such as survival rate of being secured to a sleeping apparatus in a filthy hotel room, I was experienced enough to know that this wasn’t good.  My eyes, now adjusted to the light, allowed me to better evaluate my surroundings. 


My wrist was indeed tightly wrenched in the grasp of what appeared to be a standard set of handcuffs.  The skin beneath the bond was in no way damaged, not even pink.  I took comfort in the fact that it meant I at least had a restful night’s sleep.  People just don’t realize the importance of an uninterrupted slumber.  Recent reports reveal that those who struggle to sleep are five times more likely to develop Alzheimers; five times!  That, my friend, is why I take a sleeping supplement each and every night.  Sure, I realize that my Ambien ritual is addictive and may lead to me one day wandering naked through Wal-Mart, but when weighed against dementia, there is really only one decision.  


I watched as my poor mother had to manage my father after he came in one day to tell her he was diagnosed with Alzhemers.  And manage is the right word.  The two of them had for years lived separate lives, not sharing any common interests.  I often felt that when I had graduated college and started my own life that I would be pulled into the living room during a random holiday and told, “Son, your mother and I are getting a divorce.”  In fact statistically I had a better than 50-50 chance of this happening, but it never did.  


They needed each other; a symbiotic relationship…though it would be impossible to point to one or the other and label them host and parasite.  My mom was smart, but she never went to college and fell into the role of homemaker, wife and mother.  Dad, well he was the breadwinner.  He would often jest that if Mom was gone, he would either starve to death or weight 300 pound from eating nothing but fast food.  My father and mother did share a few common traits and two of them were: pride and stubbornness.  Both would rather burn to death than to admit they had made a mistake by lighting themselves on fire and ask for help.    That was my parents, and I think this was the same approach they took toward marriage.   The older I got the more I felt like pulling them into the living room during a random holiday and saying, “Mom—Dad…perhaps you two should get a divorce.”  But it never happened.


As time crept on, Alzhiemer’s escorted the man she used to love, and perhaps still did, from reality and the carcass acting the imposter needed to be managed.  I don’t mean to be mean, but I went through a lot of emotions before coming to use such a benign word to describe the man who taught me how to throw a 12-6 curve.  Dad and I both loved baseball.  Unlike Mom, he and I were alike in many ways.  We liked the same movies, music, and food. I did not discard him easily…but the man I encountered in my childhood-home when I visited--wasn’t Dad; his expressionless, mute doppelganger…but not him.


After a couple of years of watching Mom fight to maintain her vows of ‘til death do us part I began hoping for this walking disaster to move on.  He had started to wander off at night and after many panicked hours over many panicked nights I had told Mom that she needed to have him put someplace for his own safety.  I told her she had done enough.  Stubborn, she refused.  I had suggested once that she would then have to secure him to his bed only to turn and see the creature, cloaked in my father’s skin, standing behind me with a blank stare.  I felt so much shame from even saying the words that I never brought the issue back up.


I had time to come to grips with Dad not being with us and now I wanted the nightmare to end.  I know he would have wanted me to do it…to kill him.  Hell, in fact he told me so when he was first diagnosed and I quote, “If I get to a point where I am a burden, just take me out in the woods and put a bullet in my head.”  I told him that he would still have a 9% chance of survival and that it would be better to hang him.  It was a failed attempt to bring levity to a macabre scene draped with shadowed honesty.  I actually thought about doing it…relieving Mom’s plight.  I told Mom I was picking him up to go get some ice-cream.  I had him sitting beside me as I drove out of town toward the desert.  He didn’t say a word; just stared straight ahead as if he knew exactly where we were going.  I had loaded a shovel in the trunk.  I drove until the sun disappeared over the horizon, before I turned around to head back to the house; a coward.  Dad would have been so disappointed in me.   When I arrived back to my parent’s home, Mom was on the front porch as I got him out of the car and up the sidewalk.  As we approached she said, “I was beginning to get worried.”  As she spoke she took a step forward to where her face was lit by the outdoor lamp and I could clearly see she was not worried but rather disappointed…disappointed that her life hadn’t changed…disappointed in me.  She would never admit it but I think she knew why I took him that night and my failings were illuminated in her forced, weak smile. 

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