Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Surreal Life

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.


beanatude said...

Stuart Dybek, an author to whom you introduced me, wrote a very poitnant short story about relationships and loss, and wrote about the feeling of "missing someone before they are gone." I thought of that when I read this, and how that kind of sums of what you seem to be feeling for the Chronicle. Hang in there, Sue.

Ninja Of The Mundane said...

The difference for me is this:

I had just time enough to say everything I needed to say to my dad, and he to me, before he passed away.

I have had time, too, to say everything I needed to say to and about my newspaper as it dies (so slowly that it hasn't accepted it). Now we just sit and avoid looking at one another because it's still around, and so am I, and there's nothing left to say. And no love left to acknowledge. I wish it would just die already. Or, failing that, wish I could just walk away. I don't know why either hasn't happened yet. It's a living death — which is a death worse than death.

And I think a lot about how much I miss my dad, who loved what he did because he created it and built it and loved it as only one can love one's child.