Ah…………….my main man is back!

Ah…………….my main man is back! ­čÖé Truth is, there just haven’t ever been that many guys in my life. I’ve never been a separatist in any political sense (I certainly understand why some women are, and think we need those places/spaces for women to retreat from the still overwhelming patriarchal forms of everyday life), but, there just haven’t been that many men for whom I’ve felt affinity. There are increasingly more men that I personally care about and want to connect with, most from the Com Dept, but also within the Deaf community and around town. Anyway, long way of getting around to talking about Uncle Sam.
Sam had a hell of a winter. His body is just plain giving out on him but his mind is so sharp, and his spirit continues to be so generous and live-giving. I hadn’t visited him in five weeks (perhaps the longest spell since he moved to the nursing home, two years ago now), but he was much more perky and engaged than he had been during my last few visits. He asked about the on-going family dramas (H&P; me&B) – when he’s down he doesn’t ask, my guess is because he doesn’t want to know any more “bad” news. So that was cool. Then I read him a couple of chapters from The Alienist, which is fun. Because I had enough time to really hang out, we started talking about “the important stuff,” which is always what I have loved so much about him. Sam never flinches from acknowledging the emotional subtext of things. (He may not always say something about them, but you know he knows.)
He asked me if I’d read Tuesdays with Morrie, which of course several of us read right after he moved into the nursing home, at his request. (That he had forgotten is one of the minor evidences that occasionally show up regarding his mental state.) I always understood that it was his way of reaching out, asking for people to stay in contact with him, not leave him alone through the dying process. He’s not literally dying yet, but its on his mind almost all the time: I’m pretty sure that the only times he isn’t thinking about it is when he has company. Anyway, I told him about the idea I had to use this blog for some kind of “study” of subjectivity – my own, but obviously if I’m writing about my reactions and thoughts to him then I’ll be revealing a lot of info about him too. I suggested that we could maybe use it as a way of reaching out to the people who know him – they can keep a bit more up-to-date on him (even if the picture is refracted through my lens), and even – if inclined – post their own comments and engage in more of a dialogue with him. I’ll print stuff for him, and can even take dictation from him if he wants.
“What do you get out of coming here?” he asked me. Besides just liking Sam, I told him its one of the few places where I feel I can be completely uncensored: be mad if I’m mad, complain, whine, whatever. Exercise the sharper edges of my sense of humor – I just don’t have to worry about his reaction, “because I don’t give a shit what you think.” He laughed, “If I even react at all!” He mentioned that all his family is in Colorado and California, and asked me what it was like for me having my family far away. “I worry sometimes that I might feel guilty later for not having pursued relationships with my family more vigorously, but I think the nurturing that inspires a close relationship just didn’t happen when I was young, so there isn’t much of an emotional basis for connecting.” I do miss my brother, but I told Sam that as much as I love him, I just don’t know how to connect with him while he’s so messed up.
Sam said he hadn’t nurtured relationships with his brothers very much. But he’s the youngest and I think the burden is always on those who are older to reach out and make the connection meaningful. This Christmas is the first time, he said, that he hadn’t called his brothers’ widows. (Sam was the youngest of a dozen, there’s only himself and two sisters left, and then nieces, nephews, godchildren, etc.) There’s a way in which Sam is “alone,” that I can relate with; we are without family in somewhat similar ways. I know that some of my emotional functioning – what I feel, fear, and sometimes act upon – is that there is no “group” of belonging for me. Even with B&H I’m a bit on the outside. It fluxes, with the DoMH a bit more fluidly than with the FP. The DoMH and I do cycles of closeness and distance; sometimes it seems to me that the times of distancing are increasing, but then we’ll re-connect…the FP and I have done distance for so long that whatever cycle there might be is operating on the basis of years, not weeks or months as it is with the DoMH. It seems to be shifting recently, which is nice, but (as I told Sam) I’m not getting excited about it. We’ll see what happens.
I also told Sam that one of the things I appreciate about visiting him is that it always makes me think of these important things – death/dying, what really matters, after all? What’s a life worth living? His first winter at Eden Park I read a book about dying to him; we spent hours talking about the process and the connections between his own body’s decline and the experience of the author, Ram Dass. It was reading that book when we discovered that his speech problem isn’t mechanical, it’s cognitive – a very mild (at least for now) kind of aphasia: the brain is looking for a certain term, and substitutes the wrong thing but thinks it is correct. It’s a misfire between thinking and speaking; the words come out and Sam thinks he said what he meant, but one of the words is the opposite of his intention. So, sometimes he’s slow. It’s a good experience for me to alter my always on-the-go pace to his much more measured (and calm!) mode.
Anyway, in case you’re wondering, Sam did approve my writing about him here. “It’s a good idea.”
Note: edited from names to codes on October 2, 2005.

One thought on “Ah…………….my main man is back!”

  1. Sam & I were housemates for a year during my graduate school days. I’ve had e-mail contact with him recently but not much in the way of a response from him. In the last message he said he “couldn’t hear or see”.
    What put Sam in the nursing home and what is his prognosis?
    Thanks
    WL

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