Stumblers



I stumbled today just as my father started stumbling when he was about my age—64. He was also in pain everyday, although he never talked about where the pain was or what it felt like; he just groaned, grimaced, and threw tantrums. Another thing he did was that if someone asked him how he was, he would say, “Not good,” 100% of the time, but then he would change the subject. He drank to keep the pain under control, and that might have increased his stumbling, but not by much.

Not many remodelers walk around the job site with a can of Miller High Life sticking out of their striped overall pocket, but he did, and his employers kept rehiring us, so I guess they didn’t object too much. We worked for everyone from teetotalers to hardcore alcoholics, and I liked them all. I remember one of the alcoholics saying that he had pretty much traded eating for drinking. Before I knew what lushes he and his wife were, I thought she was simply the friendliest person I had ever known, and I became angry when my father suggested otherwise, but he was right, and I was naïve.

When I wanted to say something nice to my father, I would tell him that he could work as hard as a man half his age. It was a bit of an exaggeration, although he was able to work nearly full-time until he was his mid-seventies. I had no idea how devastating age and pain could be, and therefore no idea how remarkable he really was. Now that I spend a fair amount of time trying to remember what it was like to not hurt every minute of everyday, I often recall that he still had ten working years ahead of him when he was my age. I’m not even optimistic that I’ll be alive in ten years.

I don’t know if my father starting drinking more in his sixties in order to quiet the pain in his body or the pain in his mind. Now, I wonder the same about me in regard to drugs because they just don’t help that much unless I take enough to pass out, but drugs are what I know to do, and I would be hard-put without them, although, along with pain and age, they isolate me. Just yesterday, I realized that I no longer have a single friend other than those whom Peggy and I see together and who, I suspect, tolerate me for her sake.


Dad was 73 and mixing concrete at the time of the photo. That’s me in the bellbottoms.

26 comments:

The Blog Fodder said...

The stories about you and your father make me sad. At least you could work together and you respected him. My father and I could barely tolerate each other most of our lives, though we did work together some, it was never easy.

Snowbrush said...

"At least you could work together and you respected him."

One day I got so tired of his tantrums that I asked him how he thought I could respect him when he acted like that, and he said, "Fuck you, I have no respect for myself." I worked with him--and him with me--because it was what I knew to do and because I knew that even if everyone else failed me, he would still be there.

Elephant's Child said...

I also found this a sad post. I suspect (I hope) that people don't merely 'tolerate you'. You certainly don't strike me as someone to merely anything. Wholehearted emotions (positive and negative) I can understand you inspiring. Toleration? No.
I also wonder how your father kept going without self respect. When my mother lost the final vestiges of hers she stopped living and just existed from one drink to the next. A sad, bad and ugly time.

A Plain Observer said...

What a great picture. I thought it came from a magazine.
I have read a few of your stories about your father and all of them have been interesting, they also show him as being very different.
About friends, I think we all long for that one friend that will fulfill our lives with time, conversation, insight, caring thoughts. We probably long for it because the expectations of that friend are so high that no one ever matches that description. Some people don't seem to be bothered by the fact that they don't have that friends, others do.

Stephen Hayes said...

I'm sure knowing he'd always be there for you made it easier to tolerate his moods and outbursts. My dad never talked about his feelings and he was tight-lipped about his personal experiences. He did open up to me a bit in his final years. Too little too late.

Lisa said...

Living with constant pain is something I know a bit about. I am so damn strict with myself about medications but my hub still thinks i take too much.
He doesn't know.
Most of my friends tolerate him and i guess its the same for most of his friends with me.
I stumble and mumble; funny how our individual experience of pain changes us. I would love to be drug free but its not going to happen, its just not.
Fathers.
My step dad is wonderful but bio-dad was a whole different kettle of fish.
Shudder.
Lisa xxx

Myrna R. said...

It's funny how we tend to understand or at least to recognize the things our parents confronted once we get older. Your father was strong in his way, you have your strengths your way.
It's so hard to live with pain. I'm glad you write about it, your memories and your perceptions of life. (I read your previous post.) You're a smart man Snow. I doubt your current friends merely tolerate you. None of us, who read you, do so for any other reason than because we want to know YOU.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Pain makes people different. I so wish I had my mom's health. Pain has ruined much of my life.

Charles Gramlich said...

With my neuropathy, I stumble a lot more than I used to. Not fun.

kj said...

snow, to me this you at your honest best. i think that is one of your most attractive traits, even if it means you are also vulnerable. i feel for you with pain and isolation.

do you want in person friends? i ask this because you most certainly do have friends--right here. intellectual stimulation and sharing is highlighted on this blog of yours.

i am your age. i am currently waiting for a total knee replacement and i can't be very hopeful about it because my other knee hurts like hell, my back is chronically in pain, and my hip and pelvis have failed at compensating, instead being overtaxed themselves. i don't view my current level of pain as permanent, but it stops me cold and i prefer not to spend time with others.

your insight in this post surprised me. do you want inperson friends? once you answer that, i think you may know the first step. and then the second.

i am not alone in appreciating you very much.

as for your father, i cannot like him....

love
kj

angela said...

Pain is the great isolator, it even separates you form yourself. I don't like the me that I am, I'm a doer and not being able to do the things I want often make me angry. But we soldier on and only our true friends are left to walk beside us. I'm sure your not just tolerated, I'm sure that's the pain working on you to make you believe it.

Marion said...

My family's drink of choice was Falstaff, then Busch. I can't recall one single memory without someone holding a can of beer. Not one. Sad.

You are loved, not merely tolerated, dude. LOL! xo

possum said...

Wow, what a post. I, too, know about pain, but fear drugs. I have seen what happens when they take over. I haven't had a drink in 30 years, so that is not an answer for me. I figure each day I manage to dress myself, feed myself, and make sure the cats are cared for - it is a good day. Some days I am not worth much more than that, some days I am amazed at what I have managed to get done. I have learned that sitting and feeling sorry for myself is counterproductive... but to borrow a phrase you used, for many, it is all they seem to know how to do.
Having just reread what I have written, I feel I need to add, I am not making a judgmental statement about drugs or drink... I only know what has not worked in my life. As a Buddhist I accept that pain is part of what I am supposed to endure for whatever reason. And I see others who suffer more than I do and still come up smiling. Often my smile is forced, but it is there as much as possible.
Your relationship with your father might not have been perfect, but, trust me, it could have been worse - much worse. From the things you have written about him, I think he was a tortured soul. Hopefully he paid for his ticket for a better life next time around.

Snowbrush said...

"I also wonder how your father kept going without self respect."

His answer was given as if the issue was black-and-white, but I'm sure that he was like the rest of us in that he respected himself in some ways but not in others. You might recall that he identified as a transexual long before he even knew the name for his condition much less got support for his feelings; and it's my assumption that a fair amount of his negativity toward himself came from that.

"Some people don't seem to be bothered by the fact that they don't have that friends, others do."

I'm not so bothered as I once would have been simply because I don't hold other people in such high esteem as I once did. For example, there was a time when I assumed that most people didn't seem to agonize over the same things that I did because they already had the answers. It finally occurred to me that they didn't ask the questions because they lacked either the brains or the depth.

"I would love to be drug free but its not going to happen, its just not."

I have gone for two days without a single drug, and it has been tough in that I can't sleep without drugs to quiet the pain. I'm just so sick of them though, of knowing that, in all likelihood, I will die sooner because of the drugs I take. Of course, the flip side is that being in pain and going without sleep is also bad for my health.

"Pain has ruined much of my life."

Yes, the path that we didn't take because pain kept us from taking it.

"With my neuropathy, I stumble a lot more than I used to."

I must have missed something--are you diabetic, perhaps?

"None of us, who read you, do so for any other reason than because we want to know YOU."

I make an appreciable effort to be interesting by going as deeply as I am able into what I write about, and, when possible, to write in ways that reach beyond myself, even while knowing that nothing I can put to paper is as good as I could make it if I spent even more hours working on it.

Snowbrush said...

"do you want in person friends? i ask this because you most certainly do have friends--right here."

Blog friends come with advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that some of them have lasted quite a long time, but a disadvantage is that I never assume that how we relate in blogland would carry over if we came to know one another face-to-face. Another advantage is that many people share more deeply (and therefore more interestingly) on their blogs than they do in person, but another disadvantage is that they lack a physical presence in my life--and I in theirs. I try to be about blog friends the same way I am about face-to-face friends in that I assume we'll be friends tomorrow, but I don't expect it because life has taught me nothing if it hasn't taught me that friends come and go, and that no pledge of loyalty can keep it from happening.

"this you at your honest best. i think that is one of your most attractive traits, even if it means you are also vulnerable."

I don't feel vulnerable because (a) I don't expect much; (b) people's reactions don't usually hurt me much; and (c) I never get a negative reaction anyway except when I criticize religion. If I felt vulnerable, my need for support would obscure my ability to write honesty, and that would be a dreadful outcome for one who aspires to write as I do.

"I, too, know about pain, but fear drugs"

Some people assume that any amount of any drug is dangerous, and others behave as if they have no fear of drugs. What I've found is that the more drugs I've taken, the more I move into the latter category, yet I remember a time when I wouldn't take a single narcotic after dental work.

"As a Buddhist I accept that pain is part of what I am supposed to endure"

I know that theism isn't integral to Buddhism, yet without a god-belief, who or what is it that ordains pain? Are there not Buddhists who don't believe it's ordained?

"I can't recall one single memory without someone holding a can of beer."

My parents almost never drank until they were about my age, after which they both got tipsy at times but not regularly. It's funny how often liquor turns up in the photos of drinkers, but I find such things so disagreeable (if not asinine-looking) that even if there are liquor or drugs in a photo, I won't allow myself to be seen holding them.

"I don't like the me that I am"

When limitations leave a person unable to do so much and unable to enjoy that which he or she can still do, it's a heck of a problem, but I try to remember that my life would still be far from trouble-free even without the pain.

PhilipH said...

How often do you ask yourself: "What is the bloody point? What?"

I'm always asking this question and as I age the clearer the answer is. Procreation. End of.

So, once one has 'procreated' there is nothing to be done except shuffle off this mortal coil.

lotta joy said...

Dear friend in misery: I have been in pain since I was 24. I quickly learned that one cannot have a friend if one is hampered from joining in the reindeer games with them. Forty years later, I think I want a friend, but when one does pop up, they are still frisky and energetic; painfree and wanting to "go and do".

Joe started stumbling when he turned 64. Losing his balance without warning.

I stopped most of my medicines a few days ago when I realized they were forcing my blood sugar into the high 400's no matter how many shots I gave myself.

Pain is very degrading, exhausting, and it takes all hope away, even for a moment of 'normalcy'.

At our age, we know FOR SURE that this is all there is, and all it will ever be. It certainly takes the heart out of living.

rhymeswithplague said...

So Snow, now you know why you're still here....

All Consuming said...

Ahh dear Snow, you sound so low. It's a touching post this, with much pain within the lines, as often there are when you post about your father. I know what you mean about internet friends, there's a leap of faith involved if we wish to take it, but they can dissapear in an insteant, or simply not be the person we thought they were in real life. And not being able to physically see each other is hard, though the plus points you mention are just as strong. I beleive I'd get on just as well with you, and my other internet friends in real life, in fact I'm sure of it. It wouldn't be instant, getting used to a 3d version of someone you've been viewing in your head and from 2d images can be a little over-awing, but a few cups of tea, some drugs and some alcohol, and I'm sure I;d like you hahahaha. No, I'm kidding about the last part I aldready do think you're quite wonderful and that's you, if I could look into your eyes I'd see 'Snowbrush' in there. And I really do wish that could happen. Friends in 3d can be pants too, and also, you can't turn them off at the switch is is quite annoying. A large virtual hug to you my dear, I intend putting up with your for the long haul, and hope it is just that, a long one. xxx

Snowbrush said...

"once one has 'procreated' there is nothing to be done except shuffle off this mortal coil."

I wish you had mentioned this before I got a vasectomy at age 29 while still childless. My children, such as they were, have been several dogs and now a cat, but they were all sterile too. Since I'm not an invited reader of your blog, I don't know what's become of your daughter, but I do know that as long as she needs you, you will have reason to live.

"At our age, we know FOR SURE that this is all there is, and all it will ever be. It certainly takes the heart out of living."

I have Peggy, my writing, my blog friends, and a few local friends whom I still enjoy. I also have such work as I can still do, which, by a lot of people's standards, is a great deal (I just built a small deck out back, and I'm about to start reflooring three rooms), so I'm tempted to say that I retain the desire to live for these reasons. However, it is my belief that the chemicals in our brains have a lot more to do with our attitudes toward life than do the reasons we give in explanation for our attitudes toward life. This is why some people survive unthinkable conditions with relatively good humor while others commit suicide despite having youth, health, wealth, and opportunity. We're like so many pots of soup in that our natures are determined far more by our internal "ingredients" than by the things that lie outside ourselves. In regard to all things, I'm a determinist. If the rest of the universe operates through cause and effect, why should our thoughts, moods, acts, and attitudes, be exempt?

"now you know why you're still here...."

You lost me, my friend. I think you would say that the only reason for any of us to live is to worship God, yet you know of my strained relations with him, so I have no idea what you're referring to.

"Friends in 3d can be pants too, and also, you can't turn them off at the switch is is quite annoying."

This is true. It's also true that I find written communication far more satisfying than verbal communication, something for which I have little if any discernible talent (a trait that is shared by most everyone I know). Like everyone, I love what I'm good at, and if I'm good at anything, it would be writing. As for the rest of what you said, I thank you. I never can remember whether you or Joe in Ohio was my first follower, but it's been five years or more by now, and you mean a lot to me.

All Consuming said...

"I never can remember whether you or Joe in Ohio was my first follower," - it was me, Joe can sod off. Actually you always said it was me, but I might be wrong, either way you definitely were my first follower, my first comment was yours too and how glad I am of that.

"and you mean a lot to me." - thank you dear Snow, five years. It seems longer and yet not long enough all at once xxx

rhymeswithplague said...

I was referring to PhilipH's comment about procreation and knew that you hadn't yet procreated. The fact that you will not be procreating thanks to that vasectomy at age 29 is perhaps your key to immortality. You can't die until you procreate, and you won't be procreating, so VOILA!, the world is apparently stuck with you.

That's all I meant. I thought my comment would follow his, but another one intervened, causing the confusion.

PhilipH said...

"Since I'm not an invited reader of your blog, I don't know what's become of your daughter, but I do know that as long as she needs you, you will have reason to live.
"
Snowy, I've not posted on my blog for some time now. Too many hospital visits, cardio scans and tests, Warfarin probs etc. Daughter Clare is doing remarkably well. No seizures for over a year and she can drive her car again.
Yesterday she returned from a week's holiday in Malta, together with Ellie, our 11 year old granddaughter. Clare will be monitored to check on the pineal gland tumour which is judged to be benign; just must not grow bigger.
This is not really a comment but I do not have your email address so had to use this method. Cheers Phil.

The Bipolar Diva said...

My dad, too, drank to numb pain, both physical and mental. We always knew he was an alcoholic. When you see your dad get up at 7 am and pour a glass of straight vodka it kind of spells it out. We weren't really able to talk to our father, he could do with others that were at arms distance but not with those that needed it so much.

Snowbrush said...

"Actually you always said it was me, but I might be wrong..."

In regard to memory, I put more faith in what I used to know for sure than in what I'm now confused about. Now that you too seem confused, maybe you should do the same, and maybe we should help one another remember what we used to know, but no longer know because we can no longer remember, that is except in rare glimpses that mostly occur on our good days.

"The fact that you will not be procreating thanks to that vasectomy at age 29 is perhaps your key to immortality."

Granted that you're WRONG, I still think you've hit on an excellent way to reduce the birthrate (not that many people appear to see that as a good thing). Just say that childless people live for an extra ten or twenty years and enjoy better health until the end, and voila! there will be childless couples everywhere.

"This is not really a comment but I do not have your email address so had to use this method."

Well, you didn't say to NOT make it a comment, so here it is for all to read and rejoice over just as I am rejoicing.

Linda said...

I am in constant pain but will not take pain meds. Well, I might if I did not get meds that did nothing for me. So, why take them? I cannot do the things I want to do or need to do. Friends? No, I am not able to help them, so they wandered off. At least you have a spouse. Being alone is horrid to me. However, I really like my solitude.

I really don't have to worry about stumbling about at my age (67) because I have stumbled about my whole life. It just hurts much worse to fall down now. However, I have noticed that wide stance when I stumble now and dodder about, a stance my mother took when she stumbled about as she got older. It is not attractive and telling.

I just have to remember to pick up my feet and slow down instead of just trying to fly along as I did when my back and knee were not injured.

Try not to fall down.