Hell isn't a fun place 6.4.19

My dad’s oxygen machine. And my sister’s old polka-dot wallpaper.

My dad’s oxygen machine. And my sister’s old polka-dot wallpaper.

Watching someone you love die is it’s own particular hell.

I keep thinking I can’t possibly go further down, and then surprise! Another chamber of hell welcomes me in.

Today’s my Papu’s (Albert Benezra) birthday. My mom’s dad. I’m so tired right now it’s hard to type. I’ve been up for hours. I don’t talk about my sleeping problems much but I have them. Fucking menopause? Other biochemistry problems? Stress? My overactive mind? Who the hell knows.

Often, when I’m laying here, I start writing in my head so I figured, I might as well try to write for real. But wow, I’m definitely not a morning person. I forgot that writing in here makes me sleepy for some reason. I think because I’m getting the words whirring around my brain OUT.

My dad had to go to the ER yesterday. I think I told you that.

Ends up this clot is in an artery. Apparently, this is not a good thing.

Near midnight, I get a text that they are coming home. WTF?

I called her and said, you’ve got to make them admit him. He has to at least be observed in case that clot breaks off, otherwise, it’s over. Well, I didn’t mention that little part. She knows.

I get a text an hour later: dad won’t stay (which means the doctors fought her on it and he went with them).

Ahhh the stubbornness of parents.

They send patients like him home because they’re on Medicare. My mom said there were people on gurneys in the hallway.

I told her: they always have them (we are at a different hospital than before), they have beds upstairs!

People moaning. Staff that doesn’t have time to even go to the bathroom. The system is already so strained.

Lives are on the line.

So many lives.

And the denial….

I always loved this date, June 4 because of my Papu Albert. I intentionally moved to New York City on this day, in 2001.

My dad now has pulmonary embolisms, stage 4 cancer, clots in arteries and let’s not forget about the spots in his brain that they aren’t sure about!

I wonder if this was always the path. If it was my dad’s path. If this is happening to wake people up. Or, if it’s just stupid shit luck.

I just found yesterday that my estrogen patches ARE legit $60 per month - that’s my “co-pay.”

I find this out the same day I read about how the government based insurance is so much worse than private insurance.

Money.

When there’s not enough food and water, that money isn’t going to come in so handy. How do so many not see where this is all headed? Why am I not believed? After I worked so hard all these years to be trustworthy? After I sacrificed so much so that the one thing nobody could ever say is: she sold out, she makes shit up, whatever.

I realize that I could have improved my situation in various ways these last few years. Especially when I was still looking so young….

I know I’m still doing all right. I’m just saying, I could be living comfortably if I wanted to.

But if not me then who? (I think that’s a Talmudic saying? Or maybe from literature? I’m the worst at recalling that sort of thing.)

I don’t want to do any of this anymore. I don’t want to keep hollering. I don’t want to eat the same gd damn thing every day. I don’t want to be tethered to a treadmill. Or a bathroom. I don’t want to spend 20 minutes negotiating with pharmacists (I’m going to bring in coupons and hope that one of them works. Apparently, Walgreens “has no access to the Internet” so once again, the onus is on me, the sick patient, to find a coupon.

I wonder what my Papu would say to me now.

I don’t have to wonder hard. He was a unique man. Tough as nails - he owned a handgun that he kept underneath his cash register at the pawn shop he owned on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, Washington.

Part of the reason my parents are a bit different from a lot of my friends parents is because of their upbringing. My mom spent a lot of time in that store. Surrounded by people not exactly doing well in life.

I remember one time, I was there - I must have been very small, around 5 years old because he sold the store by the time I was older - and a drunk person came in. He was belligerent and demanding something back. My Papu took shit from no one.

I never heard of him pulling a gun on anyone but I’m sure his customers all knew it was there.

My other Papu (I called them both Papu because they both came from Greece / Turkey) once had someone try to rob him. He worked at a grocery store at that time. Or maybe his pawn shops (I found out recently that at that time in history, most of the pawn shops were owned by Jewish men - very interesting - both my Papus were first generation born to immigrant parents so owning your own store was definitely living the American dream).

He wasn’t a tall man, but he was barrel-chested and strong as fuck. We get a lot of our strength from him. My Bubby - who carries the Lynch Syndrome gene - could not have married a better partner, unless she married someone non-Jewish which would have been better.

Anyway, this guy tried to rob my Papu Sol and I want to say he had a pen in his pocket and pretended it was a gun? Somehow my Papu wrestled him to the ground! And then called the cops. They asked what the guy looked like and - who knows if any of this is real or not but it’s still a damn good story - and my Papu started rattling off details and he said a height.

The guy was like No, I’m taller, or whatever his actual height was. My Papu corrected himself to the police. The cops are like: whaaaa? Is he THERE? And my Papu responds: well, yeah, I’m sitting on him.

I believe it. That Papu Sol was an interesting one. He was chopping wood the week before he died. He grew up in the Bronx during the Depression era so he never wasted a THING. He’d also been volunteering at the old folks home to help people younger than himself (he died at 86 of literally nothing, they wrote nothing on his death certificate).

My other Papu - Albert, whose birthday is today - smoked cigars for years. He also enjoyed a good meal. But I think what got him in the end was sleep apnea. We figured it out when my mom was diagnosed. That machine of hers has added YEARS to her life. That, and my dad insisting that she quit smoking before they got married. Though, I have memories of smelling smoke when I was a kid, late at night.

Who didn’t in the 1970s?

I think my Papu Albert wouldn’t say much. He was definitely the more stoic type, though very affectionate and modern in the sense that he took care of babies and cooked. He was a fantastic cook - his mom’s cooking and baking is legendary. Whenever I meet someone that knew her, they’d talk about her amazing baked goods.

I always joke that I’m not even close to the best cook in the family, and it’s totally true. I’m just the only one that did it professionally.

My Papu might say: ruvia (he called me “ruvia” and loved my red hair) you’re in a tough spot. But you know what you need to do. Fight. You always fight. Now go. Go and give them all hell.

He’s the one who laughed and said “that’s my girl” when I told my brother to fuck off in Italian when I was a pretty small kid so, if that doesn’t tell you what kind of guy he was, I’m not sure what will.

I was never shamed by the men in my family for being tough. They might not have loved it! And butted heads with me over me acting alpha.

But I was never shamed for it.

It’s his first-born daughter that has talked about coming back as a man in her next lifetime. She’d often add: and powerful, the head of mafia or something like that.

We aren’t being given many options now.

It’s either go on offense or go back 500 years.

I wonder how long it will take for people to get it.

Life is not about collecting money and watching Netflix.

My eyes are shutting. This is good. Maybe the CBD pill I took is kicking in. I don’t have to be awake until 1:30 so that’s good. It took a lot out of me this past weekend, trying to get the space ready for company. But I’m so happy with how the newly painted rooms look.

It feels like ME now.

I keep hoping I’ll get to start a new chapter and then the demons grab hold of my legs and drag me back in.

When I feel like this, fighting sounds impossible. Just take me, I tell them. Just take me to the pits and leave me there. Or, I call to the heavens and say: either make it better or take me OUT.

I do. I do that a lot. I know it’s hard for people to hear but it’s the truth.

Give me something that will give me a year or so. I can wrap up all my business and have time to say goodbye. Make videos for all the kids. Probably once a day, I ask for this. I have to be careful though. The mind is far more powerful than we realize.

The mind can shut the body down like nothing else.

I don’t even know what to write on Facebook these days. I alternate between the fury and the sadness, having trouble finding any middle ground. My friends. Oh my friends. The people who stick by me through this nightmare. Are fucking angels.

The kids. I want to watch them grow up so bad. I see how much teenagers need. We like to think they don’t need much by that age, but they really need a lot. So much conversation and guidance. They don’t need to be told how to eat or how to dress. They need mentoring on how to grow into an adult, a healthy, strong adult who understands how to treat people, including themselves.

I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of punch is coming next.

I only know it’s coming. Because that’s all it’s been for years now.

I don’t feel pain the same way anymore. I ran my shin into the open dishwasher door the other day and waited for the pain to reverberate through my leg.

Nothing. I didn’t feel anything.

I read that this is common for people with chronic pain. That’s not to say that people chronic pain don’t experience a lot of pain! It was a confusing article that covered it and she explained it better than me but I’m too tired to find it. So tired. Tired of being tired.

Don’t worry. I may be having morbid thoughts but I keep going.

That tenacity is from my dad.

You can’t do something like Ironman without it. To carry yourself through pain, through struggle, through nothing except sheer determination.

I often wonder why people voluntarily do these things when they could be doing so many other things with that sheer determination. I get that it might help them feel alive? They like crossing the finish line?

I’ve never had the desire to race. Not even a little tiny bit. I race against myself. I exercise for me. To each is own, I guess.

The kids call my dad Papu.

It’s their Papu that’s sick now. I never saw mine right before he died. I was in college and something kept me from getting to Tacoma. My mom told me he would rather I didn’t see him like that. I can’t even remember what he died from. Something with his heart. He’d had like seven heart attacks by then. Some crazy number like that.

I wish I could have seen him, despite what my mom says. I was there when my Grandma passed. She waited until it was just her sister and brother in the room. My mom, aunt and I were literally around the corner. It was a pretty awful thing to witness. I was a little older, but it was still hard to see her body so bloated and yellow and weird. But I’m still glad I was there.

I don’t want to watch my dad die.

Who does?

It’s weird how when you get to the end, all the stupid arguments and conflicts no longer matter.

Death.

I was going to record a podcast on it this week because it’s all I can think about.

I can’t bring myself to pull out the microphone. I’ve been rendered speechless.

That’s saying a lot.

I should sleep, if I can.

The light, I love it. But it keeps me up.

Summer in Seattle.

Much love,

Jules