Recordando mi papa, dos anos despues y todos los dias

Hoy era el hombre mayor tan tierno empujando un andador junto con su mascota mientras estaba corríendo en Central Park. No era el perro (mi padre no era el mayor fanático de los perros), sino el uso del andador, y la forma en que el hombre tenía la cabeza inclinada ligeramente mientras caminaba lentamente.

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En otros días, es música de mi lista de canciones favoritas, o un plato que mi madre cocinó, ya que mi padre siempre adoró como cocinaba. Pienso en mi papá todos los días, y especialmente hoy, dos años desde que murió.

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Pienso en él con tanto cariño cuando estoy manejando mi bicicleta en el parque para hacer ejercicio, o mientras viajo en Citibike para recorrer la ciudad y tal vez le grito a un automovilista que se acerca, como mi papá se imaginaba a sí mismo un conductor y ciclista muy defensivo.

Él inculcó en mis hermanos y yo un sentido del humor (ver lo gracioso en todo), un amor por los parques y la recreación, y la música, por supuesto. Una cosa que mi madre siempre dice sobre sus últimos años es que a pesar de pasar por momentos muy difíciles con complicaciones debido a la enfermedad de Parkinson, nunca se quejó. Él nunca preguntó: “¿Por qué yo?”

¿Puedo decir con certeza que él nunca se preguntó sobre eso? Por supuesto no. De hecho, a veces, cuando visitaba a mis padres en casa, entré en su habitación y lo encontré pensativo mirando por la ventana, o tratando de garabatear su firma en un cuaderno (los efectos de Parkinson su capacidad para escribir / sostener un lápiz ).

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Dad in the red shirt and a look that says he just told a joke.

Pero él nunca se quejó. Él prefiriá hablar con nosotros, y preguntarnos cuándo era su próxima cita con el médico, ya que quedarse en casa no era divertido para él, ¡porque tampoco es realmente divertido para mí! Las mariposas sociales somos nosotros.

Debido a que estaba confinado en su casa, hospitales y hogares de ancianos en sus últimos años, y perdió su capacidad de hablar, escuchar sobre la familia fue una de sus mayores alegrías y estoy seguro que esta mirándolos con cariño. Estaba tan alegre cada vez que mi sobrino, RJ, o mi sobrina, Bella, estaban cerca. Incluso en la UCI en su último mes, ver a Bella lo hizo sonreír.

Descansa en paz, papá. ¡Te amamos y te extrañamos!

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Remembering dad, two years later & every day

Today it was the most adorable older man pushing a walker along with his yellow labrador while I was running in Central Park. It wasn’t the dog (my dad wasn’t the biggest fans of the four-legged), but the use of the walker, and the way the man had his head cocked down slightly as he walked slowly.

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This adorable man reminded me of my dad today.

On other days, it’s music that shuffles onto my Spotify from my favorite song list, or a dish my mom will make, as my dad always worshipped her cooking. I think about my dad every single day, and especially today, two years since he died.

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My dad on the exercise bike when he still lived at home.

I think of him so fondly when I’m riding my bike in the park for exercise, or while on a Citibike to get around the city and I maybe tell a motorist who gets to close to “Watch it!” as my dad fancied himself a very defensive driver and cyclist.

He instilled in my brothers and I a sense of humor (see the funny in everything), a love of parks and recreation, and music, of course. One thing my mother always says about his last few years on this earth is that despite experiencing some very tough times with complications due to Parkinson’s disease, he never complained. He never asked, “Why me?”

Can I say to certainty that he never wondered about that? Of course not. In fact, sometimes when I’d visit my parents at home, I’d walk into his room and find him pensively looking out the window, or trying to scribble his signature in a notebook (Parkinson’s effects your ability to write/hold a pen).

But he never let on to us, instead choosing to talk to us, and ask when his next doctor’s appointment was as staying home was NOT fun for him, as it is not really fun for me, either! Social butterflies are us. 🙂

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With family from Colombia (and me, my brother Rich, and nephew, RJ) and my mom in NYC during Christmas time

Because he was homebound, and later in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, in his later years, and lost his ability to speak, hearing about family was one of his biggest joys and I’m sure he’s looking down on them lovingly to this day. He smiled SO WIDELY whenever my nephew, RJ, or my niece, Bella, were around. Even in ICU in his last month, seeing Bella made him smile.

We’re thinking of him lovingly today, and every single day. Here is a piece I wrote about him in 2015, and an obituary post I wrote a couple of days after he died in 2016.

RIP, dad! We love and miss you!

My Suicide Week

Reliving hell in the 24-hour suicide news cycle.

When someone famous, especially someone who means so much to so many, dies by suicide, a voice in my head screams at me to get out of my own thoughts and do something. This is the consequence of having had intimate experience with suicide. To know suicide is to be obligated forever to give witness, not just as an act of communion with people who’ve experienced something similar, but also as a sort of activism — haunt the conscience of people entertaining thoughts of killing themselves, act as a stand-in for their loved ones, show them what wreckage might be left in their wake.

Every suicide is personal. I watch as the entire internet begins talking about this thing that I carry with me every day, this thing that nags and pulls at me and that I know I’ll always feel crouching in the corner even on my best days, even when I’m mostly able to forget. And I read about the circumstances of the death of this person I’ve never met, and it’s tragic and sad in its own right, but I’m also reliving where I was when I found out that people I loved and needed chose to no longer exist. I read about the devastated family members they’ve left behind, but then, I’m also just reading about myself. And when I talk to someone about the tragic loss of this person who was so sick and in so much pain, I’m also talking about my loss and my loved ones who were so sick and in so much pain, whether anyone else realizes it or not. It’s exhausting.

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Earlier in the week, a tweet from TMZ popped up in my feed advertising the suicide note that Kate Spade had left for her 13-year-old daughter. I was also 13 when I read the suicide note my dad left for me, so my stomach dropped and my pulse started to race and it felt as if I was being exposed for something I couldn’t put my finger on. But I clicked the link and I read the words and I felt sick imagining thousands of strangers reading the words my dad left for me, so I got up and went for a walk and tried to do anything I could to clear my head, but it didn’t really help. So instead I embraced it.

I don’t remember exactly when I last read the note he left me, but I know I’ve read it a lot. Hundreds of times. So many times that the paper has become worn and fragile and dotted with smudges from old tears I can’t remember. I know it mostly by heart, and it’s mostly seared into my memory, so I surprised myself when I decided to get it out on Friday and, two lines in, I wept. I’m not sure I was crying for my father, whom I continue to miss every day. And I’m not sure I was crying for my sister, whom I continue to miss every minute. I think I was crying more for the time I’ve lost to the grieving process and the laughter that used to come easily and how much more difficult I know days like this will always be.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

Dreaming with my father.

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Dad looked like this in my dream!

I have always been the type to remember dreams, but I’ve never dreamt with a dead person before. I dreamt of my father last night.

It was pretty weird. There he was, gone in his bed at the nursing home (a sight I’ll never forget), and then he was in one of those drawers they have at the morgue, but awake. They called us three weeks after, saying it was a mistake, so there I was to pick him up. He was awake. And so I drove him back to the nursing home.

I hung out in his room and talked to him, catching him up on all the madness, namely the election and the raging dumpster fire that is our President-to-be, and the ‘bad dream’ (pun intended, I guess) that was the relationship I recently got out of (both stories complete with protagonists who are fond of to gas lighting! Yay!)

So what does this dream mean? Well, I’m not expert in how to interpret dreams except I’ve heard when you dream of the dead they’re thinking of you. But here’s the best I could get from Dreammoods.com (I’ve bolded and italicized the parts that may be relevant to me):

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To see or talk to the dead in your dream forewarns that you are being influenced by negative people and are hanging around the wrong crowd. This dream may also be a way for you to resolve your feelings with those who have passed on. Alternatively, the dream symbolizes material loss. If you dream of a person who has died a long time ago, then it suggests that a current situation or relationship in your life resembles the quality of that deceased person. The dream may depict how you need to let this situation or relationship die and end it. If you dream of someone who has recently passed away, then it means that their death is still freshly in your mind. You are still trying to grasp the notion that he or she is really gone. If the dead is trying to get you to go somewhere with her or him, then it signifies that you are trying to understand their death. You also don’t want to be alone.

To see and talk with your dead parents in your dream is a way of keeping them alive. It is also a way of coping with the loss. You are using your dream as a last opportunity to say your final good-byes to them.

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You didn’t think I only had one dream, did you? I had a very frustrating dream in which my older brother, Richard, was arrested for shooting at his cell phone. That’s all I remember. I don’t remember where he was, but I arrived at a police precinct to bail him out and I was very frustrated, yelling at him for hanging out with the wrong people. LOL. I wish I knew what that was about! I can tell you my brother is not fond of guns and he’d never destroy his cell phone!

Dreammoods.com isn’t really helpful on this one, since all the gun interpretation seems to involve the dreamer, and I wasn’t holding a gun in the dream. The same goes for their interpretation of bail:

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To see a gun in your dream represents aggression, anger, and potential danger. You could be on the defensive about something. Or you may be dealing with issues of passiveness/aggressiveness and authority/dependence. Alternatively, a gun is a symbol of power and pride. Perhaps you are looking for shelter or protection in your dream. From a Freudian perspective, a gun represents the penis and male sexual drive. Thus, the gun may mean power or impotence, depending on whether the gun went off or misfired.

To dream that you are loading a gun forewarns that you should be careful in not letting your temper get out of control. It may also signify your ability to defend yourself in a situation.

To dream that a gun jams or fails to fire indicates that you are feeling powerless in some waking situation. Perhaps you need to attack your problems from a different approach. Alternatively, a malfunctioning gun represents sexual impotence or fear of impotence.

To dream that you are hiding a gun implies that you are repressing your angry feelings.

To dream that you shoot someone with a gun denotes your aggressive feeling and hidden anger toward that particular person. You may be trying to blame them for something.

To dream that someone is shooting you with a gun suggests that you are experiencing some confrontation in your waking life. You feel victimized in a situation or that you are being targeted.

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To dream that you are making bail symbolizes your need to accept help in your business dealings. This dream is trying to make you acknowledge that it is perfectly all right to accept a helping hand.

 

 

 

 

Mi papa, Virgilio Vergel, 73

Desde que tengo uso de razón, a mi padre siempre le gustó hacer sonreír a los demás. Siempre armado con chistes, letras de canciones y bailes de moda, imitaciones de personajes, o saludos jocosos, le gustaba hacer reír a amigos y desconocidos por igual. Me gusta pensar que todavía está haciendo eso. Y, así es con el corazón encogido y una gran sonrisa en su honor que anuncio su muerte:

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Virgilio Vergel always wore a smile.

Virgilio Vergel murió el lunes 8 de agosto, 2016, en Fair Lawn, Nueva Jersey. Tenía 73 años de edad.

Nacido en Ocaña, Colombia , Virgilio, o “Gillo” como era conocido, era el sexto de los nueve hijos de la familia Vergel Cabrales. Se trasladaron a la ciudad portuaria de Barranquilla cuando tenía tres años. Mi papa consideraba “la Arenosa,” como se le conoce, su tierra natal

Cuando era un niño, Virgilio era enérgico con una amplia sonrisa que hoy se puede ver en su nieto, RJ , que tiene un parecido sorprendente. Le encantaba jugar al fútbol con sus hermanos. Cuando era un adolescente mi papa se distinguía por sus chistes, su pasión por el fútbol, y su amor por el baile y la música colombiana.

Cuando joven, trabajó como un cajero de banco, pero continuó con su amor al baile, las películas, y el ciclismo. En 1969, conoció al amor de su vida, María Socorro Díaz , cuando ella se embarco en un autobús de la ciudad y él le ofreció su asiento. Se casarían un año más tarde y se mudaron a Paterson, N. J., donde tendrían tres hijos – Richard, Gina, y David.

Virgilio le inculcó a todos sus hijos su amor por el trabajo, la música latina y americana (animaría a David en sus pasos para convertirse en un DJ), el futbol, ciclismo, vestirse bien, y el buen sentido de humor. También les hablo mucho sobre la importancia de seguir y terminar sus estudios algo que no pudo completar ya que él y su esposa se dedicaban a varios trabajos para darles a sus hijos una vida mejor.

Nunca le importo lo cansado que estaba después de trabajar un día largo. Virgilio hiso todo lo posible para que sus hijos vivieran una juventud “americana,” completa con excursiones en bicicleta a los parques locales, juegos de beisbol y futbol, o excursiones a las playas de Nueva Jersey, entre muchas actividades más. A veces la diversión de fin de semana consistiría en proyectos en la casa seguidos por asados en el patio. Otros fines de semana Virgilio iba a la disco tienda en donde le tarareaba una canción popular a los vendedores y compraba discos para que los niños los tocaran en el tocadiscos. El siempre fue divertido.

Virgilio tuvo una variedad de puestos de trabajo incluyendo como maquinista, personal de mantenimiento, y por último, un conserje en las escuelas y el departamento de policía de Teaneck, NJ, donde se retiró antes de tiempo debido a su diagnóstico de la enfermedad de Parkinson en 1999.

El Parkinson es un trastorno cerebral neurodegenerativo resistente que progresa lentamente en la mayoría de las personas. La mayoría de los síntomas de las personas afectadas tardan años en desarrollarse, y viven mucho tiempo con la enfermedad. Virgilio vivió durante casi 20 años con la enfermedad de Parkinson, y tuvo un hermano, Raúl, que murió debido a complicaciones relacionadas con el mismo mal en el 2011.

Virgilio tenía esperanzas en los avances médicos en el mundo del Parkinson, y se sometió al implante de un estimulador cerebral profundo en la década del 2000, y si bien se llevó los temblores el efecto secundario fue el empeoramiento del habla. Virgilio era un comunicador apasionado y el no poder hablar claramente lo frustró muchísimo.

¿Cosas que echaba de menos? Montar su bicicleta y visitar a su familia en la Florida, Colombia, y otros dispersos por todo el mundo. Habló de ellos muy a menudo y el vive con cariño en sus memorias.

Hay muchas cosas que no dejó de disfrutar hasta que se fracturo la cadera en enero del 2015: Ver partidos de sus equipos de fútbol colombianos favoritos, hacer ejercicio en su bicicleta reclinada, escuchar música (tocando las maracas) , y ver películas . Por encima de todo, Virgilio fue capaz de vivir muchos años felices en su casa con el amor de su vida , María , y visitas frecuentes de su nieto , RJ , y su nieta, Bella.

Le pedimos que recuerden el amor que Virgilio tenía para la vida cada vez que escuchen música colombiana o historias divertidas. Le pedimos que considere hacer una donación a la Fundación de Micheal J. Fox, que está trabajando para encontrar una cura, o la Fundación Nacional de Parkinson, que se esfuerza por mejorar la vida de las personas que viven con esta enfermedad.

Virgilio le sobreviven su esposa, María, sus hijos Richard y David, hija Gina, así como hermanos, hermanas, sobrinos y demás familiares dispersos en la Florida, Canadá, Colombia, Argentina y España.

 

My father, Virgilio Vergel, 73

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Virgilio Vergel always wore a smile.

For as long as I can remember, my father always loved to make others smile. Armed with jokes, song lyrics with dance moves, imitations of characters, or funny greetings, he was fond of bringing a hearty laugh to friends and strangers alike. I like to think he’s still doing that. And, so, it is with a heavy heart *and* a big smile in his honor, that I announce his death:

Virgilio Vergel died on Monday, August 8, 2016, in Fair Lawn, N.J. He was 73.

Born in Ocaña, Colombia, Virgilio, or “Gillo (pronounced: Hee-yo)” as he was called, was the sixth of nine children in the Vergel family. They would move to Colombia’s port city of Barranquilla when he was three. He considered “la arenosa (the sandy city),” as it is known, his home.

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That’s Virgilio on the left. It’s uncanny how his grandson, RJ, has the same smile.

As a boy, Virgilio was an energetic child with a wide smile today can be seen in his grandson, RJ, who bears a striking resemblance. He loved to play soccer with his brothers. As a teen he was known for cracking jokes, playing soccer, and his love of dancing to typical Colombian music. As a young adult, he worked as a bank teller, but still enjoyed going dancing, sneaking into outdoor movie theaters, and riding a 10-speed bicycle.

In 1969, he met the love of his life, Maria Socorro Diaz, when she walked onto a packed city bus and he offered her his seat. They would marry a year later and move to Paterson, N.J., where they would have three children — Richard, Gina, and David.

Virgilio instilled his love of hard work, Latin and contemporary American music (he would encourage David to become a DJ), futbol/soccer, cycling, dressing sharp, and socializing with a sense of humor to all of his children. He also impressed upon them the importance of continuing onto a higher education, something he could not complete as he and his wife worked several blue collar jobs to give them a better life.

No matter how tired he was from a long day’s work, Virgilio would do everything possible for them to have an “American” upbringing, complete with bicycling trips to local parks, pickup softball games, or day trips to New Jersey beaches, baseball stadiums, or amusement parks. Sometimes the weekend fun would consist of projects around the house with cookouts in the backyard, or a trip to the music store, where he would hum the latest popular music to salesmen so that he could buy a 45-inch for the children to play on the record player. No matter what, it was always fun.

Virgilio worked a variety of jobs, as a machinist, maintenance person, and lastly, a custodian in schools and the Teaneck Police Department, where he retired early due to his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease in the late 1990s.

Parkinson’s is a tough neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Most people’s symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease. Virgilio lived for nearly 20 years with Parkinson’s, and he was predeceased by his brother, Raul, who died due to complications related to the same disease in 2011.

If we could do one thing over, we would have had him start some type of an exercise regimen earlier, as opposed to telling him to rest more (something people tend to say to those who are ill) when the disease was “new” to us. Exercise has been shown to be very beneficial to those with the disease.

Virgilio was hopeful in medical advancements in the Parkinson’s world, as he underwent deep brain stimulation in the early 2000s, and while it took away the tremors, the one side-effect he had was the worsening of his speech. An ardent communicator (much like his daughter, Gina!), this often frustrated him.

Things he missed doing the most? Riding his bicycle and traveling to visit his family in Florida, Colombia, and others scattered throughout the world. He talked about them very often. He lives fondly in their memories.

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With grandson, RJ.
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With granddaugther, Bella.

There are many things he continued to enjoy up until he broke his hip in January 2015: watching the Colombian soccer teams, riding a recumbent bicycle, listening to music (while playing the maracas), and watching movies. Most of all, he was able to live many happy years in the home with the love of his life, Maria, and frequent visits from his grandson, RJ, and more recently, his granddaughter, Bella.

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Virgilio, in the top row, with the cool, gray hair and mustache!

We ask that you remember Virgilio’s fondness for life and celebration every time you hear Colombian music or funny stories. We ask that you consider making a donation to either the Micheal J. Fox Foundation for Research, which is working to find a cure, or the National Parkinson Foundation, which strives to improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease.

Virgilio is survived by his wife, Maria, his sons Richard and David, daughter Gina, as well as brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, and other extended family, in Florida, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain.

A small service will take place at East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, N.J., at noon sharp on Saturday, August 13.

On the holidays… and change

christmasChristmas will never be like it was when I was a little girl. This is a post about how it used to be, and how things have changed. Lots go through it, and now it’s our turn.

When I was little, we didn’t have much — I will never forget one Navidad in particular in which my dad gave my brothers and I $3.00 each in a white letter-sized envelope. I wasn’t sad about the lack of toys for gifts, but felt awfully embarrassed for my father and told him it was OK. But it was awkward. I recall vividly that he handed us those envelopes on our way out to visit with family. We stuffed our stash in our rooms and piled into the car. The holidays were here and we were going to have a good time as we knew how!

Christmas time was filled with a jolly (yeah, that word describes things perfectly) times with our small, yet close, family.

My tio Raul (my father’s older brother and without question the uncle I was closest to) and tia Yolanda were always a part of it, as were my (distant? Not really, try super close!) cousins, Maria and Susy, whose mother, Mari, was my tio Raul’s sister-in-law. My aunts on my mother’s side (Mirta, Nina, Chiqui), their children/my cousins, and my maternal grandmother (abuela Esmeria) would get visits from us, as well. Gifts weren’t aplenty, but food was cooked with love, Colombian music—courtesy of my dad’s record player—filled the living room, and good times were had.

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The only way we can see my abuela now is by flying to Miami.

As we grew older, most of the family moved away to warmer climates. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late 1990s and things haven’t been quite the same every since. My maternal grandmother, now in Miami, would go on to develop Alzheimer’s, and later, my tio Raul, also in Florida, would find out he, too, had Parkinson’s.

Somewhere in there, I was married, then dealing with the spouse’s alcoholism. Then I was separated, and divorced. Throughout it all, there were no tears on my part, only would’ve, could’ve, should’ves. It’s like I lost my ability to feel.

Cousins got married, some moved away, and, as happens, life gets in the way. There are work and parenting commitments, as the next generation of children have to be raised, and so, not surprisingly, intimate family gatherings hardly take place.

Today, Dec. 23, marks four years since my tio Raul passed away due to Parkinson’s disease related complications. I got to see him at a nursing home a few months before he passed, and, honestly, I know he’s in a better place today. I miss him terribly, but Parkinson’s can be an awful disease. I say can be, because I acknowledge there are other illnesses that are much, much worse.

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My Tio Raul (left in L photo, center in R photo)

But Parkinson’s eventually imprisons one in their own body. It starts with nerves and muscles, but eventually takes your voice. I remember when I visited him, I could hardly hear him. I kept a happy face and joked around, as I always do, but it is awful to see. I didn’t want him to feel that way.

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The last time I saw my uncle in 2011. With my cousin Maria (L) and my tia Yolanda (R.)

Meanwhile, back home, my father was still as stable as the Deep Brain Stimulation surgery he had in 2006 could keep him. He hadn’t had the Parkinson’s tremors in a long while, but his voice and ability to speak were eroding, and rigidity was taking away his independence via walker. He became wheelchair-bound, but he was home for every holiday.

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Dad at two different Christmases.

However, this will be the first Christmas without him in the home while we have Christmas dinner, for instance. Here are some tips on how to cope with grief and loss throughout the holidays, courtesy of Fordham professor Lisa Cataldo.

“People think they’re supposed to be happy during the holidays. This is supposed to be a time of sharing with your family, of positive relationships, of celebration and joy,” Cataldo said. “Many people feel alienated, because they’re not in that space, and that idealized image of the holidays only makes them feel the lack of those things more acutely.”

 

Two thousand fifteen has been a tough one for our little clan. My father fell and broke his hip on Jan. 21, 2015, and was in and out of hospitals, knocking on death’s door at least three times through March. Since then, he’s been in a nursing home, and it’s not easy. Sure, it’s a facility that can serve his needs 24/7, but this comes with much advocacy from us. You have to be there to make sure he’s not neglected. Any sign of a temperature or low blood pressure can spell trouble. A very bad bed sore he developed in February is only now showing signs of progress. (This after I had a very honest discussion with one of his nurses, who said he’s probably go to the grave with that wound. It wasn’t harsh; just real.)

In late August, I had to put my best friend, my 14-year-old black lab mix, Skunky, down. A cancerous tumor forced me to put him down and I still can’t believe I live without a dog!

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Me and Skunky in Washington Heights.

Thanksgiving was sad, but no one talked about it. In addition to the fact that my older brother, wife, and nephew moved down to Orlando, the house was quiet. My mom and I visited my dad in the late afternoon/early evening. My younger brother stopped by as late as visiting hours would allow. Out by 8 p.m.

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Christmas 2014, my dad’s last one in his house!                                              With my nephew, RJ, and my mom, Maria. 

My younger brother’s girlfriend’s mom and brothers came over, which was nice, but it was very low-key. When the patriarch of the family isn’t around, and can’t even eat due to Parkinson’s related swallowing problems, it’s just sad.

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Happier times, despite the Parkinson’s.

To make things worse, we have not quite dealt with our feelings. In one of the bad hospital stays, where a very bad pneumonia caused ICU doctors to have to intubate him, and even insert an I.V. of antibiotics through his carotid artery, my mom and I cried a little, but something about our family of five prevents us from outwardly displaying our fears and general grief. Again, it’s like we’ve lost our ability to not be numb.

There are frequent spats between us, about who doesn’t visit, or visit enough, and the person who is doing the most, of course, is my mother. She is trying to live her life, joining a YMCA and attending classes, and doing better at not spending all day at the nursing home, which is draining.

It’s draining because my father tries to speak to us and we can’t understand him. It’s draining because there are so many residents who don’t get visitors and look to you for any little conversation. It’s draining because there’s a certain smell, a certain way the staff there is overworked and stressed, and, most of all, because we know he’ll be there for the rest of his life.

It’s also disheartening to recently read about nursing home employees sharing pictures of themselves mocking or abusing patients on social media. It just adds to my guilt that I need to be there more. Working in New York, living across the river in Jersey City, and having to drive further north to the home in which my dad now lives.

There’s a lot of wondering what life would be like had he not gotten sick, or remembering what he was like before he was diagnosed. It’s pointless, but it comes up in conversation a lot when we get visitors.

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With my brothers. I miss my sister-in-law (third from left), now in Florida.

I think a lot about possibly getting Parkinson’s myself. I dream vividly; I always have, but telling my mother about how it can signal Parkinson’s really upset her. But I’m just being realistic about the fact that it can very much be genetic. I spend a lot of the time at the gym because of this, since exercise has been shown to slow the progression of the disease, something we did not know when my dad was first diagnosed.

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My nephew, RJ, lives in Florida now, and I miss him so!

I was never really big on winter holidays. I always liked the Fourth of July and summer in general. I dislike the cold, the dark coming early, and having to stress out about gifts. But we’ll do it. Christmas will be fine, but figuring out how to be with my dad when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1 is another hurdle. (We’re not sure if visiting hours will be strictly enforced or whether we’ll disturb his three roommates.)

If I could have one wish for 2016, it’s that we deal with this better. It doesn’t seem like my younger brother and I have time for support groups or therapy with the full-time jobs and side gigs, and having to drive to visit mom and dad. But I’ll suggest it. We’ll see.

I am EMPHATICALLY grateful that my father is still with us. He doesn’t seem to be in pain many times, but as his nurses aide sometimes says when I’m in his room with her wonderful Haitian accent, “He seems miserable.” (I think it’s more aches that come with being bed-ridden most of the time.)

I pray 2016 brings us some better days.