There are certain times when life takes on a surreal tint, when opposite emotions co-exist and make perfect sense. A time when I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, and everything seems meaningless -- and poignantly meaningful.
The first of my adulthood was when my mother slipped into a coma the weekend before Christmas in 1989. That one lasted three months, until she passed away on March 15 (fittingly, the Ides of March). Next up: my brother's two-week trial on bank robbery charges in June 1994 (conviction on circumstantial evidence). Then there was the two-month hell of knowing my husband wanted to leave me but he hadn't yet moved out (also June, in 1999). Followed in 2005 by my father's diagnosis (guess what month? Right) of late stage stomach/esophageal cancer.
It is this last that feels the most familiar now, with The Chronicle having been diagnosed as terminal. The question is: How long does it have?
In my dad's case, it was 16 days.
He insisted on opening the mail, paying his bills, taking his eye drops for borderline glaucoma. This aggravated one of my other brothers to no end. "Why bother with anything?" he asked my dad one day. "Why bother with anything," my dad repeated and responded.
As my father became more incapacitated and uncomfortable, I would wish for it to be over at the same time I would hate myself for thinking that and sink into denial that it ever would be.
I feel like that now: I want the layoffs to start at the same time I hate myself for thinking that, and I can't believe they will. In my dad's case, I knew who I was going to lose. Now, I look around the newsroom and think, "Will it be me? Will it be him? Her? You?"
My boss and I had lunch on Friday and he observed that all we're doing is commiserating on Facebook and talking and writing about saving The Chronicle. But the thing is, how do you have the stomach to try to save something that, in the end, might not want you to be part of it? How identity-crushing would that be?
So I go through my days in a surreal-tinted haze, trying to convince myself that my loved one has more days than the doctor said. And desperately hoping that, regardless of what state he is in after surgery, I will be welcome in the hospital room.