1) Every fall, it hits me: What I really want is a 25-hour day.
Take yesterday, the only 25-hour day of the year. I slept half an hour later, but got up half an hour earlier. I felt refreshed and cheerful. I practically felt like a morning person — one of those grinning, chipper sorts I usually hate.
I exercised, I went to some talks at the Texas Book Festival, I came home and my husband and I went to the grocery store. I ploughed through the Sunday edition of The New York Times. I read magazines and part of a new novel.
Who cared if it got dark early? I was still way ahead of myself. With a 25-hour day, I’d practically define myself as a real go-getter.
After the new president takes over, I’d love to see him turn to the issue at hand: What this country needs is an extra hour a day. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. After handling the economy and the deficit, an extra hour here and there should be nothing.
2) Saturday night, my husband and I watched the University of Texas-Texas Tech football game. In case you’re not familiar with this important topic, you should be apprised that UT was ranked #1 in the nation going into the game. So it was a big deal.
My husband screamed at the TV for a while. “What’s wrong with them? Can’t they stop anybody? What happened to their defense?”
“It’s only a game,” I told him. That isn’t my usual point of view, which usually centers on destroying the other team. But Saturday was different. It was only three days before the election. Different priorities reigned, in my mind. “Just a game. Not the future of our country and the whole world.”
My husband ignored me and continued to yell. Finally, during one of those brief, quiet periods, I explained my thinking. “If we lose this game,” I said, “that means we’ll win the election. I’d rather lose this game than lose the election.”
He looked at me like I was certifiably non compos mentis. “Boy, that’s a strange way to look at the world,” he said. “I don’t think like that at all.”
Well, maybe you should, I thought. UT went on to lose the game, even if it was a squeaker. I felt marginally disappointed. But, what the hell. If we win the election on Tuesday, I’ll know why. The universe owes us one. My husband may not understand this deep logic, but I do.
3) “The doctor says you need to take your father back to the urologist,” said the woman who manages the facility where my father lives.
“I don’t want to take him to the urologist,” I said. “There’s nothing they can do for him. I just want him to be comfortable. I don’t want an extraordinary measures taken.”
She was nice and polite, but I could feel her puzzled concern over the phone. What kind of daughter doesn’t want her father to have the best health care, extraordinary or ordinary? Even if her father was in the mid- to late stages of Alzheimer’s, shouldn’t she be eager to do everything she could?
I hung up the phone with the feeling I always get when we talk about my father. It’s as if a massive weight is transferred onto me and I stagger from it, hardly able to breathe. I “know” it’s the right thing not to get any health care beyond palliative treatment for my father; I know it’s what he would want, what my sister and I want. Why does it feel so wrong, though, when I express it? Why do I feel like a criminal?
I go to lunch with two friends. Linda tells me the story of dealing with her grandfather during his last days. She took him home from the hospital, but stopped briefly at the drug store to buy his prescriptions. As she entered the store, she chanced to look back and saw him urinating in the middle of the parking lot.
She pulled him back into the car and headed to the restroom at a filling station. After she cleaned up her grandfather, she tried to open the restroom door. The door was locked and they couldn’t get out.
It was a funny story, but funnier in retrospect. When you’re still locked in that small room with someone, struggling to get out, it’s strange how your sense of humor fails you. It doesn’t seem funny. It seems tragic and heartrending.
“How did you get out?” I ask her.
“Oh, I just screamed till somebody heard me,” she says.
A good idea. But what if you scream and nobody hears you? What happens then?
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)