Thursday, July 12, 2012

Special Guest Post by Tex Thompson

Today is Friday and I normally don't post anything on Friday, but when I did my "call for help" post last week, this lady was kind enough to write something up and I loved it so much, I'm bending the rules and tweaking the format of my blog.  Tex is in my writer's group and she is not only a very talented writer, but she is also excellent at giving thoughtful/helpful critique.  Please go show her some blog love.  Seriously.
So, who is she?
Tex Thompson is a lifelong resident of Irving, the fetid and friendly armpit of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Born into an Addams family of overachievers, she struggles valiantly against success and independence by writing "rural fantasy" and waxing pedantic about the fiction-crafting arts. You can find her online at www.tex-books.com.


Like a lot of people, I was issued two grandfathers.

One, as he got up there in years, started having odd tremors. He went to the doctor, and returned with his wife to hear the results: Parkinson's. (Or as we've since renamed it, Michael J Fox Disease.) The doctor explained the progression of symptoms - increasing tremor/shakiness, loss of muscle coordination, all the rest. When he was finished, Grandma arched a salacious eyebrow at Grandpa and said, "Well, I guess we won't need to buy that vibrating bed after all." Even years later, when he was in a nursing home and hooked up to all manner of IVs and equipment, I can remember her threatening to put tequila in his feeding tube if he didn't behave. (He once got mightily sick on tequila during shore leave and never could stomach it afterwards.) His illness and death were every bit as hard as you'd expect, but that thread of humor ran throughout.

My other grandfather was just the opposite: an immensely hale and hearty fellow, he went to work every day until he was 88; renewed his pilot's license at 90. He was still in excellent health when his wife, who'd experienced serious physical and mental decline in the last few years, reached her end. All three children were there on the night she passed away. They asked if he'd like to stay over at my aunt's house; he said no thank you, and they arranged to come back the next morning to take him out to breakfast. They were on their way when my aunt got the call from the retirement community. "Don't go to the apartment," they said; "come to the front desk." As it turned out, after the kids had left the night before, my granddad had apparently written a couple of checks, shut the dog in the apartment, gone out to the patio and shot himself.

I came to find out afterwards that he'd once watched a friend deteriorate - cancer, I think, with a series of strokes near the end - and had decided that he wasn't going to risk that: he never wanted to reach a point where he was no longer in control of his life, or no longer had the ability to end it on his own terms. As soon as he was finished taking care of Grandma, he saw himself out after her.

It's hard to imagine two more different endings. If gallows humor often strikes us as sinful, suicide is far more so. But what I see on both sides of my family tree is an effort to take something as enormous and inevitable as death and control it somehow - to wrest back some of its power and say, "fine - but we're going to do this my way."

Sometimes, people who know me or read my blog tell me I'm funny. Usually I scuff my metaphorical toe in the dirt and say "aw, shucks." What I really mean to say is, "thanks so much for saying so; I'm practicing like the dickens for my final performance, and humor beats hell out of the alternative."

5 comments:

  1. This powerful post has left me...speechless.

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  2. Amazing post. Thanks so much.

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  3. Yes, thanks Tex. Lots of people are reading this post, but not many are commenting. So, thanks Linda and Jenny. You are bearing witness.

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  4. Really interesting post, Tex. It's difficult to comment on this but the thought that occurs to me about your second grandfather's desire to "wrest control over death" is that it takes humility to NOT do that. The kind of patience, humility and grace that your first grandfather had. I hope at the end of my life that I'm more like your first grandfather than your second.

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  5. Ah, Pam, you know I'm not in it for comments - it is just truly superb to have a forum to say it (because let's face it, it's not something I've brought up at the office Christmas party.) Thank you so much for the opportunity!

    And thank you ladies tremendously for taking the time. Karen, I could not agree with you more: after seeing what it did to my dad, to make the pilgrimage expecting to lose one parent and to come home orphaned in the space of a day, I can still imagine wanting to exit on my own terms, but I cannot fathom doing it without the support and consent of the people who love me. The alternative is just soul-searingly awful for the people you leave behind.

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!