Saturday, January 24, 2004

By the end of the day I will have traveled about 3000 miles to San Francisco. I'll be visiting mom and dad and giving my sister a welcome break by taking over driving them to the doctors, the house of pancakes etc. One bit of irony to this is that in 1967 when I decided that I'd had enough of the pain living with my parents and alarmed at the upcoming whirlwind my sister was about to create, I hitched to SF, to Haight Ashubury and checked out the Summer of Love. I stayed with a friend of mine in San Rafael and later hitched to Samuel P. Taylor state park, where I lived in a redwood stump for awhile. The stump was about six feet in diameter and maybe two foot high. We were all pretty high, the four kids who camped in that stump. Every day I would hitch to San Rafael and panhandle enough to pay for another night in the park. I always thought someday I would get a house near there, maybe San Anselmo, maybe Fairfax, ya never know.... Now my parents live in Fairfax, and I live about as far away as you can get without swimming, and my sister lives in San Rafael.

People often mention that there is an irony to having to care for your parents when they grow older. How dependent they become as they lose their sight, their hearing, their memory. I don't see the irony, but then I'm pagan, and we tend to see things as big circles. It isn't ironic, it's appropriate to take care of your parents. There is a strange irony to the fact that my son, who was lost and found, now gets around in a wheelchair. My father, who now lives a few steps from where I ran away so long ago to escape his wrath, gets around in a wheelchair. If I don't stop crushing vertebrae, I'm gonna end up in a wheelchair. Actually there ain't much doubt but that I will end up in a wheelchair. Dad used to hit me because he thought I was into drugs. I got into drugs, finally, because he kept hitting me, and I was getting suicidal. So I smoked pot and it saved my life. Now dad is addicted to drugs and I drink too much beer because I hurt a lot. Mom has lost her short term memory. Mom used to tell me stories about her father, who died from pneumonia after swimming thru the Great Flood to rescue people trapped in their homes. Those stories are about all she remembers, and they are right on the tip of her tongue. Now my son has to take all kinds of drugs because he tends to get pneumonia from not moving very much.

The Republicans want to eliminate Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security, which would make both my parents and my son homeless. Jon would have to live with us and I would have to wake up every two hours to turn him and suction his lungs out every four hours or so. Shove a plastic tube down into his lungs, make him choke and double up and grab at the trache in his throat. But that's just a reflex says Dr. Shroud, just a reflex, not a reaction. He doesn't feel pain, because he is PVS. That's what Dr. Shroud says. Dr. Shroud also likes to call him "William" instead of Jon and sometimes refers to him as my father. It's hard to have great faith in a doctor who doesn't know the name of the patient, the age of the patient, the relationship of myself to the patient. And great faith is what you need with people in a coma. So my faith in the Goddess comes into play.

People who are stricken with this kind of sudden slow death, this strange ripping away of humanity from someone they love, tend to live a lot more in memories. Jon was my golden boy, with golden hair and cloudy grey-blue-green eyes. Handing out little flowers, he charmed and amused the girls. He grew up sad and angry because mom and dad were living in two different states. I was still sane, she was not. Jon hit the road, like his dad, but in an old van. I used to catch rides in old vans but never got to own one. After Teddy died in a car wreck I always wore my seat belt. Jon heard the tales of people burning, trapped in thei cars by their seat belts, so he never wore one. Now he is trapped in a wheelchair. Big wheel keeps on turning, proud Mary keeps on burning. The wheel is the Wheel of Life, the Great Mandela. Proud Mary refers to Mary of the Cross, buring in her silent rage that those boys her son traveled with got him into this trouble. She brings him down from the Cross, snarling at those boys, those fishermen who got her baby boy in such trouble. She and that other Mary, the Priestess, bring him to the cave and wash him and rub herbal infusions into his skin, now so cold. He murmurs to his Mother, "I ain't dead yet, ma, we got a plan, me and the boys...." The Ceremony of Osiris is performed by the Virgins from the Temple of the Goddess. Like Osiris, Joshua stays underground for three days and then emerges. Mary the Priestess brings him to the temple where the other pagan healers try to get the fluids out of his lungs and heal his wounds with comfrey and St. Johns Wort. Mary the Priestess tells Mary the mother that it may be that he will get the pneumonia and die yet, he needs to rest. She advises him to travel to Crete, to see the High Priestess, who may yet heal him. In the meantime he should lay low, but he won't. He promises his mom that he will behave, but he doesn't. They take him to Greece, Mary the Priestess and some of his friends, where he dies and is buried according to the Plan.

Jon has no Mary to take him down, not for three days, or three years, but that is how long it has been since he died in that van. Three years. A year is a day in the life of the Gods. So Jon has been down for three years, but there is no Priestess to rouse him, to bring him out. Without Isis, Osiris would have been a pillar of the community for a very long time.

If they shut down the facility, Jon will not come home, not unless there is no place left. With my own injuries I cannot be expected to live on two hour naps, plunging needles into his arms and sucking out the pneumonia from his chest. Shamans are always weak, crippled outcasts. Like me. Too weak to hunt, to plow.... too strange to visit unless the stars are right or the dreams have troubled you. Dreams of caves and black dogs and shooting in the distance. Dreams of bombs and volcanoes and women named Mary in veils, wailing at the wall. Dreams of dancing blindfolded at the edge of a great cliff with a black dog dancing beside you. Dreams of sitting on a hillside with Granddad, talking about the coming storm, seen as a great wall, a cliff of grey clouds, still far away. "What's it feel like, being dead, granddad?" "Well, Billy, you see that cloudbank over there?" "Yes" "Well, it's like being in that cloudbank, full of mists and light." "So how did you get on this hillside?" "I like to watch." He says. So we watch the light and the clouds and the in between. There's a computer program I have that takes pictures of grey scale values and assigns an altitude to each value. Then it creates a 3D image and you set trees and sources of water on it. You render it with clouds and sky and perspective. I can create an animation, flying thru and up and over those trees, those hillsides. When you are sailing high overhead the camera tips down and you see that the landscape is a Great Mother, a female form, spread out below. Her legs are wide and receiving, her breasts flow with sweet waters. Her eyes are watching you. I love this program and do things the designers probably never thought of. I create myths and sacred landscapes. I fly dragons overhead. This is a land I would like my son to wander some day.

So today, when I fly over this sacred landscape I will think about Jon and dad and Grand dad, and Joshua and Mary. Flying from breakfast to dinner with a bag of peanuts between. Flying from a son in a wheelchair to a father in a wheelchair. There is a curse, a blessing that goes, "Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies." The order of things. Dad has died a few times, Jon has died a few times, but the order is getting all mixed up and the son becomes the father to take care of the grandfather. Like some kind of play with the pages all mixed up. I remember riding on the back of my father in the swimming pool in Yuma. He makes like a whale, diving, and squirts waters at me when he emerges. When he gets tired I go to the wading pool and play, practicing holding my breath under water. The next day I have a fever, my ears are infected. The pressure and pain grows until my eardrum bursts and green ooze and blood flow from my ear, but the pain subsides. Eventually I can go back to school, to the bullies and the frowning teachers. I remember sitting at the side of the bed, watching my son, holding his hand. He stirs and rolls his head to look at me. Reflex, says Dr. Shroud. Suddenly green ooze and blood flows from his ear. I run to the nurse for help. Another ear infection. "Another? When did he get an ear infection?" "Last week, he spiked a fever, but didn't have a seizure so we didn't call you." I watch them clean his ear with peroxide and bandage it. If he doesn't get a fever, he won't have a seizure. But he seizes while I watch. He stiffens, then twitches, then shakes. They inject a drug and watch him until it passes and he sleeps. I take myself away and drive home, stopping off 9W to weep until I feel like my eyes are bleeding. My poor baby boy, my golden child, my son. I can't do a thing for him, I can only watch and tell him I love him. I tell the nurses to take good care of him. I tell Dr. Shroud that I want them to donate his organs if he dies. He tells me that the drugs and the injuries make that impossible. No organs to donate, no good out of bad. We'll burn him when he dies and scatter the ashes somewhere, maybe on the Mogollon Rim where the hawks fly. It's time to check the bags and fly to San Francisco. No flowers in my hair, but grey streaks the dirty brown strands. My eyes in the mirror are my father's eyes, but his have gone blind. The storm clouds are the color of my son's eyes but they no longer see me. I see no hope in my eyes, but faith in the Great Circle. I'll brush my mother's hair tonight.

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