The new sleep medication has a startling effect on Dad: he tries to get out of bed. At first, he insisted he had appointments and errands but relented when we said we had taken care of things. Now he seems to be dreaming with his eyes open a great deal. Often, he is angry. Our strategy has been to smile, tell him everything’s fine and that he can rest now but it doesn’t always work.
Sometimes, we can tell that he’s still in there and aware. Yesterday, I sat with him for a few hours while Darla napped. Maybe half a dozen times he sat up and put his feet on the floor. The first few times he did it, I was terrified he might fall and really hurt himself, but I got the hang of thwarting his schemes.
Tata: What are you doing?
Dad: I’m sitting up.
Tata: Why are you sitting up?
Dad: Can’t I just want to fucking sit up?
Tata: You betcha.
Dad: Go away!
Tata: Can’t do that.
Dad: You! Go for a walk! Get out!
Tata: I’ll go sit over there.
Dad: Go sit over there!
I sat where he couldn’t see me, ready to leap if he shifted his weight. He sat for a moment, then lay down and went back to sleep. Later, he sat up again and insisted he wanted to go do something.
Tata: Just a minute, Daddy! We’ll help you up.
I bounded up the stairs and around a corner. Daria came running, so I turned around and sprinted down the steps. When we turned the corner, Dad was fiddling with the bed position controller. With great effort, he sat up and put his feet on the floor.
Dad: Go away!
Daria: Where ya going?
Dad: Over there.
Daria: Nope. You’re too weak.
Dad: I’m not that weak.
Daria: Why don’t you lie down, Daddy?
Dad: What’s with the frigging questions?
Daria: We love you. Get back in bed.
Meanwhile, Daria stood like a roadblock with her arms folded, inches from his knees. He lay back down and fell asleep.
A couple of hours later, the extended family in New Jersey suffered an unnerving setback. Daria assigned me to the daily grocery shopping trip, so Dara and I went to the high end grocery store in Staunton. Dara drove because I’m a licensed driver who has no idea where she is and at least the student driver can swerve judiciously in Daddy’s ridiculously and stupidly shaped big van Darla calls “the dustbuster.” As we bounced along the harrowing valley roads I realized the last time she and I went to the store it might have been snowing. I hadn’t left the house in over a week. In that time, bare trees sprouted buds and some had already flowered. Some of the fields were more green than brown. I said nothing to Dara as I observed life going on in some ways without me and certainly without Dad. In the grocery store, we walked in circles and had difficulty with our list. By the time we left the store, a pounding rain was falling. Neither of us had much to say and only said it limply, and with effort. I felt like I was failing her.
When Dara and I get home from a reasonably terrifying rainy day drive in an oversize vehicle, Dad’s ex-girlfriend of many years from many years ago is sitting in the kitchen with Daria and Darla. Daria’s made dinner and we eat together before Darla clears her plate and goes back to working in the living room. After a little while, Darla tells us she needs a nap and we note that Darla needs to wake up by 9:30 to medicate Dad. We set up the table so Daria can press t-shirts and transfers. Those of us at the kitchen table are talking and laughing about the Shut Up songs when –
DING! DING! DING! DING!
Daria and I hiss at Dara at the same time.
Us: YOU GET IT!
Dara runs off. I whisper to Linda confidentially.
Tata: He doesn’t hate her yet.
Linda laughs into her hand. Daria applies pressure to an iron and a shirt. Dara steps out of the living room and closes the sliding door.
Daria: What happened?
Dara: Daddy said to shut up!
Tata: What exactly did he say?
Dara: He said, “I need quiet! Shut up!” I said, “Sorry, Daddy!”
We almost have to lie down to laugh hard enough.
Daria: “Tell those kids to shut up!”
Linda: I can’t believe it!
Daria: There you go, Linda. You come over to say goodbye and he tells you to shut up one last time!
Tata: He never told Linda to shut up, never.
Linda: Not in those words, no.
Daria: See these pants? They’re my favorite pants and I haven’t been wearing them because they make noise. Like, “Tell those kids to shut up! And those pants – tell them to shut up, too!”
Tata: “Tell those kids and their loud pants to shut up!”
Dara: He knew it was me, I could tell he would have said “Shut the fuck up” if it’d been you.
Daria: Shut Up Time tonight is 8:30, but it has been 10:00. Here’s your shirt.
Linda: I didn’t think you were making it up but I didn’t believe it either. I have to leave. My sides hurt.
Daria: You thought you were coming over to wreck your mascara but you’re leaving with a door prize.
Dara: I’m going upstairs to put on my pajamas, so goodnight, and don’t forget to shut up!
Linda: Good night and shut up!
We’re slaphappy. So sue us.