These Past 3 Weeks

blog pic march 8 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

2019 has proven to be one of the most harrowing years of my entire life. I have endured quite a bit over the years but I always seem to be outdone by even greater and more severe challenges. Just when I fear that I can no longer handle what is being handed to me, I finally, FINALLY, see the light at the end of that very, very long tunnel.

I thought new years was bad, but these past three weeks were simply the worst experience I have endured to date. First, I get the flu and bronchitis, then my father, mother, and brother all get it as well. My father, having advanced dementia, was strongly advised to get the flu and pneumonia vaccine this season. We took him to our local pharmacy and he received both vaccines in November. These vaccines gave us this false sense of security because regardless of these vaccines, my father received both the flu and pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Granted, we were told that there was no guarantee even with the vaccine but it was definitely absolutely ridiculous how he got both back to back and it was such a severe case he was in the hospital for almost a week. He even had to spend his 76th birthday in the hospital!

My family was absolutely inconsolable. Watching my father struggle with fever, cough, sneezing, being in and out of consciousness, was so heartbreaking to witness. Once he arrived at the hospital, they gave me him fluids and Tamiflu. After his week at the hospital was done, we noticed some drastic changes to his behavior.

Dementia is one of the most unpredictably cruel diseases I have ever had the misfortune of observing for the past six to seven years. My father was always a man on the go. He was always working. He was a full-time math teacher during the day, he taught night school and worked at a community college on the weekends. The man always had plans, always was out the door and we barely saw him. During the summer months, he would socialize with his creative art groups in the city where he worked and kept himself occupied. This was the father I knew as an adult. As a kid, we didn’t see him much either; however, because we were young, he would make it a point to do some trips with my siblings and I whether it was to the movies, apple picking, the beach, the park, etc. These events didn’t happen often, but he tried when he had the time.

When my father retired, he became a completely different person. His behavior was erratic, he became clumsy, he became aggressive, violent, and made many foolish decisions. As an adult, I didn’t really know my father well aside from the hi’s and byes and light dinner conversations. I didn’t really hang out with him much. I considered myself pretty much estranged from him. So when these things were going on in my dad’s life, I just assumed it was because he couldn’t adjust well to retirement. I figured he was so busy his entire life and the shock of retirement was just too much for him. But the chaos became greater, the insanity of the events involving my father became so grand scale that as a family we knew it was time to intervene. We did everything we could from allowing his driver’s license to lapse and having his car towed, to other measures to guarantee his safety.

During the beginning phases of his dementia, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer as well. My father was very fortunate to still be healthy enough mentally to be properly treated and has since been in remission. We took him to the neurologist and he’s had MRIs and they had told us he suffered from a series of mini-strokes. There was no way of knowing when they occurred or how often they occurred. As a result of these mini-strokes, his brain shrunk significantly causing the dementia. They said he had a mixture of vascular- type dementia and Alzheimer’s-type dementia. I remember one of the last things the neurologist told my brother at the end of the office visit after diagnosis was that we were in for years of heartache. He certainly was not kidding.

Over the years since dad’s diagnosis, we have had to become smarter and sneakier and wiser and always tried to keep one step ahead of my father. He would sneak out of the house and walk the streets of our town and be gone for hours and we would have to call for help. He would touch all the kitchen items and make himself “food” made out of napkins and milk. He would try to feed our cats saucers of dish soap. He would pace and wander all night in his bedroom not remembering he had to sleep. We went from doctor to doctor until we finally found one with the compassion and empathy to guide us and my father through each stage. She has been an absolute blessing and up until now, she has prepared us for what was next to come.

When dad came home from the hospital, my siblings and I were shell-shocked watching dad’s newest transition of this distressing illness. Dad lost his speech, he looked at us like we were public enemy number 1, and he refused to eat or drink anything. We all came to terms with the fact that this may very well be the end. He may need hospice care and it may be time for us to finally accept that it is time to let go. After the hospital visit, the hospital staff set up several health care professionals to visit the home and evaluate my father and to help with his care. We received two very caring women who have also helped us further understand our father’s condition and to kind of relinquish some control over what was going on.

As human beings, we are raised to believe you have to eat and drink to survive. The one nurse practitioner that visited us taught us that in my father’s condition that need to eat and that need for a three-meal structure no longer exists. He will eat when he’s hungry, he will drink when he’s thirsty and we can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Even though to the naked eye it appears our dad is long gone, there is still the shell of the man he used to be in there somewhere and that man craves attention and dignity. He won’t be told when to eat, he won’t be forced to live up to our standards. He will do what he wants to do when he is ready. After hearing that, I was finally able to ease the tension that had been burdening my shoulders these past few weeks. I’ve let go of that desperate need to want to save my father’s life and to keep him living for a thousand more years.

Once I let go, I realized that my father began eating and drinking again. I nearly collapsed with relief. Along with eating and drinking, my dad began saying a word here and there. If you say, “Hi, how are you?” he will say “Good.” He will also nod his head yes or no when you ask him questions like, “Are you hungry?” or “Are you cold?” This was also a great relief.

I have literally been by his side since he’s gotten back from the hospital and I have been putting myself last, as usual. I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been lax with my podcasting, and I have neglected my latest writing project. I know that is completely and totally unhealthy of me to do. I just have been so traumatized over this event. I just wanted to be there for my father because I realize how short life is and I don’t know how many more moments I will have with my father.

I think life works in mysterious ways though. I think that even though this was such a tragedy, I feel that this has brought us all closer together as a family. I feel like I finally have a relationship with my father. I will never have the kind of relationship I always lacked and always wanted growing up, but I am satisfied with the relationship I have with him now. My father has become a sweet, kind, and vulnerable man. My family and I are constantly advocating for better care for him from the healthcare system. We have reached somewhat of a current homeostasis at the moment. His care is under control. We have people who come periodically to monitor his well-being and as a family we all take care of him and provide him with the best round the clock care we can possibly provide him with given our lack of knowledge of healthcare. We do the very best that we are capable of doing. Given our lack of finances, he is being cared for at home. We’ve adjusted and he is finally at a comfortable level post-hospital. At this point, this is the best we can expect given his condition. We are grateful to have him eating and drinking and engaging with us here and there. At this stage in my life, after everything I’ve endured, and my family has endured, there really isn’t much more we can ask for.

On this day, International Women’s Day, I’m going to allow myself to step away for a while and join the living and get the things I need to get done that I’ve neglected nearly a month ago. I’m happy to be back in my office writing and producing. It’s where I feel the most alive and happiest. Thank you all for continuing to visit to read my blogs. Thanks for the well-wishers. I had the loveliest comment on one of my blogs last night that helped motivate me to get back on track. Thanks to that individual. I am happy that my words bring comfort to some. I wish you all a very lovely day and a restful and relaxing weekend!

My Comparison of Netflix’s “You” to Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

january 24th blog photo

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019.

When I was in college, Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where are you going, where have you been?” haunted me but not in the way you’d imagine. As an undergraduate freshman, I was not a very strong student. I always struggled in all of my classes and even though I enjoyed the art of writing, I was never good with analytical depictions of stories. I was a casual reader, never really delving much into meaning or imagery of a writer’s work. I was reading for entertainment at the time and found analyzing text to be one of the most dreadful experiences of college that I can remember to date.

I realize now as an adult nearing forty, that it was not necessarily that I lacked the skillset to be analytical. What I realized was that I lacked life experience. How can one step in the shoes of an author if that individual has not suffered or experienced anything close to what the author is writing about? I feel that in order for someone to forge an attachment to an author, there has to be a kinship, a shared connection. That’s why we have favorite authors. Sometimes you click with a writer’s work and sometimes you do not. I realize that now and I have since revisited Joyce Carol Oates’ work and have a completely different perspective. Not only can I directly relate to this piece, I saw such similarities to the new Netflix series, “You.”

How? Allow me to explain.

Upon watching “You,” I found the lead character, Joe, to be one of the most fascinating creatures I have ever witnessed since Showtimes’ Dexter. Joe’s complexity and the way he grapples with his consciousness and how he justifies each act of violence is captivating and immensely intriguing. Joe was the true anti-hero. Falsely claiming his acts were those of love and to protect someone from themselves, watching what Penn Badgley’s wonderfully acted character did next was simply enthralling and beyond suspenseful.

When we watch or read something for entertainment, we, the viewer, are trained to view certain individuals as villainous or unsavory. What made “You” so conflicting was that you weren’t exactly sure who to defend or empathize with in this story. Do I empathize with Joe? With Beck? Paco? Ron? Peach? Benji? Mr. Mooney? Dr. Nicky?

I feel that as human beings we will all get to experience what it is like to be slighted in some way. Whether we get fired from our jobs, endure a horrific heartbreak, or experience some other tragic hardship in our lives, internally we cope with these tragedies in our own way. We find healthy coping mechanisms to help us overcome these low points and we eventually move on rising above whatever adversities we are handling at any given point in our lives.

With “You;” however, the anti-hero forces us to think further than this. While watching, we come to terms with our inner darkness—that little piece of us hidden away so far within our psyches, we refuse to allow ourselves to believe it exists. With all of the hardships revealing themselves throughout our lives, we realize that internally, our subconscious minds want resolution. Once resolutions are sought, we wipe our hands clean of that darkness and commence being that holier than thou person we were before the hardship. We continue acting like we are better than everyone else—denying there was any darkness within us at all. We push back that part of ourselves and return it to where it belongs. That dark part is pushed so deep inside—we completely tuck it away neatly in some dusty, cobwebbed compartment in our minds—once resurfaced, and we realize what was done, it becomes too horrific to admit that we’re capable of such evil—but we are capable of it. Every single one of us.

Evil spreads—it’s there latent, waiting for us to call its name and unleash its unholy fury but you must have the stomach for it if you are to survive this darkness. Death is merely symbolic to the vengeance our minds sometimes seek to help justify the pain, the grief, the loss, the injustices our hearts endure in our everyday life.

We are trained to acknowledge that Joe is the true villain of this story. But what about Candace, Beck, Paco, Ron, Peach, Benji, “The Captain,” Mr. Mooney, Blythe, Dr. Nicky, or the rest of the individuals in the story? All of these people are sinners. They are all flawed, and all served as triggers to Joe’s neurotic perception to “clean house” and make the world inhabitable once more.

I found Paco to be the disciple to Joe’s anti-hero persona, a true believer to Joe’s cause. Paco was a blind participant and felt justified to the extremeness of Joe’s actions believing that such actions would quell the chaos, but we realize it is merely the beginning, an opening for all of Pandora’s troubles. Joe’s presence was Christ-like in that he took on the job of judge, jury, and executioner. Candace served as his conscience—appearing as visions to remind him of what he had done in the past. Joe had a destructive pattern and no matter how he justified his actions, there was no way to quell the beast. There was always going to be some event that arose in his life to somehow justify his actions. He would always bear the burden and possess that insatiable need to serve as the sacrifice, the savior that he believed the women in his life needed to make them their best possible selves.

Alternatively, with Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where are you going, where have you been?” you have a young girl, Connie, struggling with who she is and harboring secret resentment over her older sister and overbearing mother. Connie’s mother is always comparing her to her perfect sister and Connie finds it so stifling and suffocating that she often wishes for her own demise or her mother’s just to end the conflict and inner turmoil. She appears to be looking for salvation of some sort as well. The figure in the car telling her, “Gonna get you, baby,” conveys the impression that he may be just the savior she is looking for. Arnold Friend arrives at her doorstep, when her family went without her to a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon, taunting her and repeatedly coaxing her to get in the car with him.

That bitter realization that Arnold Friend was going to get what he wanted and the last fleeting thought she had in her mind before succumbing to his demands to go with him was that she was never going to see her mother again or sleep in her bed ever again. Despite every desperate thought to get rid of this menace, she knew she had no other choice but to go with this mysterious depraved figure. The moment where she finally concedes, the all-too eerie last words Arnold Friend delivers before Connie pushes past that screen door regarding a little girl with blue eyes, even though she had brown eyes, is all the more chilling. It would have been different had this been a traditional victorious story where the hero and heroine walked away into the sunset, but Connie walking into this chilling figure’s arms is unsettling and distressing. The entire scene gave new meaning to the saying, “Be careful what you wish for…” Connie appeared to have made a pact with the devil when she had wished to separate herself from her mother and sister and came face to face with Satan himself when encountering Arnold Friend.

Connie’s case was that of buyer’s remorse and I felt that so much in Beck’s character in Netflix’s “You.” Beck had issues with her father, whereas Connie had issues with her mother and sister. Beck’s lack of fulfillment as a writer stemmed from her lack of acceptance of her father’s abandonment and him starting a new life without her. That abandonment leeched into her social life and she was unable to forge healthy, enduring relationships with them because she was constantly choosing men who were no good for her. Beck was chastised for dating the pauper bookstore clerk. Beck, being an aspiring writer, wanted to believe that she was accepting of all types and forced herself to believe she had a connection with Joe. Beck followed him blindly and allowed herself to be vulnerable and denied the advice of her equally troubled friend, Peach. Upon realization of who Joe really was, Beck knew it was much too late and there was no amount of quick thinking to absolve her of her foolishness in order to save her life.

The same happened with Connie. She wished for separation, for an identity not to be compared to of that of her sister June or her disapproving mother. The alternative; however, was so damning, so salacious, and perverse for someone so young and so unprepared. As soon as she became aware of it, Connie knew of no further solution but to follow Arnold Friend to what would ultimately become her demise.

I have a deep appreciation for these two very distinct pieces of work. “You” captivated my attention from the very beginning and I found an instant connection to Oates’ work.

Has anyone else watched “You” yet on Netflix? I’d love to hear about your own thoughts and theories on the show.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I look forward to hearing from you all!