Friday, May 05, 2006

Total Naked Friday: Completely exposed

So, when I first started the TNF I said that I wouldn't always do pictures of me naked. There would be pictures of me unnaked, meaning me. As a person. Not me as flesh.
For me to be naked in the flesh is easy.
For me to be naked as in me, as in, to let people in, not easy. Not at all.
Well, I've decided to take this even deeper.
I am sharing one of my essays.
This is a big step for me.
I realized about a year ago that I needed to stop being guarded.
I've never been afraid of being hurt or of what people will think of me. Frankly, I don't care. However, trust and taking down bricks from my wall, still a process.
So, I hope you all understand how big this is for me. And in the upcoming weeks when you don't see a nipple, or a thigh, or an ass shot, but that you see more of me, that you appreciate what I am doing. Doing for myself.

This is the essay that I won first runner-up for.
Coping it onto my blog changed the format however, I don't think this will really alter the story's meaning.
Obviously, I'm not going to share the title of the essay.
Obviously, I am hoping that none of you are clever enough to link the essay to me when it is published.
Obviously, if any of you are clever enough to link it to me I would like you to tell me, but then keep it to yourself.

This is, for now, my most personal essay.
This is also the hardest one for me to share.

...and exhale.....

My dad was an ass. A big, angry, verbally abusive ass of a man. That was why when I heard the message my youngest brother, J, was leaving on my answering machine I didn’t give a damn. I was lying in bed trying to fall back to sleep when, at 8:30, I finally realized I was fighting a losing battle. I stumbled out of bed, and weaved my way into my living room, where I begrudgingly turned my head towards my patio doors to find it raining and overcast outside.
“Thank God,” I thought. It was the morning after St. Patrick’s Day and I was facing the bright harsh reality of being out on the town drinking for 12 of the previous 24 hours. I wasn’t silently making deals with God, but I certainly wasn’t going to be exerting myself in any way, shape, or form for the rest of the day. My couch was going to be my best friend.
Through my mascara encrusted eyes I found my way into the shower. I stood under the waterfall of hot water and steam, where I held my face and hands up to the soothing holy water, letting it fall down my body and coat my long hair. The shower felt like a baptism, washing all of the previous day’s sins down the drain along with the smoke and the ale.
After I was cleansed of all my sins I made my way back into my living room where I listened to the message my brother left to see if maybe I didn’t hear it correctly from my bed. “Hey PG, it’s me J. Dad is in the hospital. One side of his body is cold, one side of his body is hot. They don’t know what’s wrong with him.”
Um, okay. What the hell?
I listened to the message one more time thinking that after a second time around it would suddenly all become clear.
Nope. Still didn’t make any sense.
I called my mom and asked her about the situation, but frankly I still found it hard to understand and even harder to give a damn. She told me basically the same thing, J had said on my answering machine. Alrighty. I wasn’t getting anywhere so I decided to just sit and watch T.V. in the vain hope that energy would start to come my way.
Around 10:30 I got another phone call, this time from my step-dad. He explains that my dad has had a triple A, which in medical terms is an abdominal aortic aneurysm requiring immediate surgery.
Still, I chose to ignore this information.
I didn’t give a damn because while I was growing up nothing was ever done right, good enough, fast enough, or in any way that my dad saw fit, and he was very happy to point out the error of my ways. He moved as slow as an elephant, but his temper was quick, and his rage was as unpredictable as an approaching thunderstorm in the middle of August after a long, hot, sweltering day. With the blast of a bullet he could put you down, slap you with a back handed compliment and with the nonchalance of a bull raising its tail, make me, and everyone else feel like shit.
My dad and I saw each other maybe once a year and we talked to each other about twice a year, on our birthdays. Though he and my step-mom live less than 30 minutes away, this is the kind of relationship we have chosen to have with each other, which is to have no relationship at all.
Finally around 11:30 my mom called me again and told me exactly what was happening. She starts to tell me that if something should happen to my dad during surgery she didn’t want me to have any regrets about not being up at the hospital. I told her I didn’t need the guilt.
After I hung up the phone I sat and looked out my patio doors. It was raining. It wasn’t a heavy thunderstorm, it was just… raining. It was the kind of day where you want to call into work and lay on your couch under a blanket and happen to fall upon your favorite old movie while flipping through the channels. I was sitting sideways in my favorite heavily used and worn tan recliner with my legs drooped over the arm of the chair watching the rain crawl down my smudged patio doors, watching the rain wash away the dirty cold harshness of winter. It was all being washed away, the leftovers from winter were falling through the cracks of my second story patio to the muddy ground below. I finally got it. Somehow at 12:00 my brain finally kicked into gear and I realized I needed to be up at the hospital. I got myself together, in all my hung-over glory, forgoing make-up, brushed hair, and contacts, I drove to the hospital.
On the way to the hospital I was going well over 80 MPH on the interstate and praying to God that he can’t let my dad die. He can’t let it end this way. He can’t take my dad away from me like this. We have to patch things up. I have to forgive him. Please God, please don’t let my dad die. I am repeating this mantra the entire time I am weaving in and out of traffic on my way to the hospital.
I make it to the surgery waiting room, and am greeted by the rest of my family. They all look at me in stunned disbelief as if I am a stranger treading on their territory. I think they are both relieved to see me and pissed to see me all at the same time. They look at me in a way that says, “It’s about fucking time you got here. He’s been in the OR since 8:30.” Yet the look also says, “Why are you here?” I pulled up an uncomfortable chair at the already crowded table and felt both guilty and awkward to be among my own family. This is my fault. I did this. I alienated myself from this side of my family. My step-mom, Pam, told me what had been going on. I was determined to be the stubborn, strong-willed woman that I am and I refuse to let them see me cry. I lost this battle. Pam came over and pulled up a chair next to me and held my hand. Dad tore his aorta on Monday, which was his 55th birthday and the day he and Pam went and signed the closing papers on their new house. He thought he had a backache from trying to lift up a computer, which was heavier than it appeared. Then Friday morning they realized something was wrong and called 911. Dad had fallen in the bathroom, which prompted the call. My dad had been hemorrhaging for five days. He had been slowly bleeding to death for five days. She goes on to say that the surgeons didn’t think he would make it through surgery. There is only a 10% survival rate with triple A’s. Basically, everyone was expecting him to die.

My aunt, whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in over three years, asked me how I’ve been. I can’t believe how old and tired she looks. The toll of a lifetime of smoking and a bad diet are showing their effect on her face. She has huge rings under her eyes. They don’t resemble bags so much as they do crop circles. I wonder what has happened in the three years since I last saw her. Nobody knows anything about me. The guilt of not seeing or talking to anyone along with the hangover were taking their toll on my emotions. This is how the rest of my day will go, anytime anybody says anything to me I cry. How is school? Sob. His blood pressure is normal. Sob. Where do you work now? Sob.

About 45 minutes after I arrived at the hospital, we hear that he made it through surgery. When they moved him into ICU, I learned everyone on dad’s side of the family has died from a triple A. I knew heart disease ran in the family, but I thought everyone died of a heart attack. Dad had a heart attack ten years ago, now this. Everyone in his family has had a bad heart. My dad has a bad heart. It’s not his fault. It’s hereditary. I wonder if I have a bad heart.

He is lying in a bed in the ICU. The bed is too small. They had to remove the footboard so he would have enough room for his feet, yet it is still too small for his frame. The room is too small. There is barely room for his bed let alone for visitors and all the contraptions needed to keep him alive. He is hooked up to every kind of tube and vessel and IV a person can be hooked to. All of which are taped to his hairy arms. I wonder if the tape will hurt him when it’s pulled off. He has nothing on him but a sheet. The raised skin from where they cut him open is clearly visible through the sheet. The scar goes from his chest to below his belly button. His chest has been shaved quickly and hastily of its salt and pepper hair. I wonder how many staples it took to close him up. He is a maze of plastic tubing going in and out of every orifice possible. He is also hooked up to life support. The tube shoved down his throat is keeping him alive. Here is my dad. This 6 foot tall, 350-pound man with salt and pepper in his beard, his mostly white buzz cut receding from his forehead, the stretch marks on his arms and stomach are clearly visible, his skin looks jaundice from the trauma of surgery. This man, who I’ve been afraid of my whole life, has been reduced to tubes, IV’s, and life support. He has suddenly become fragile. All I can do is stare up at the blood pressure monitor. Bleep. Up to 98. Bleep. Up to 99. Bleep. Down to 97. Bleep.
When the nurse asks for contact emergency numbers to write on the whiteboard in his room, I am the last person listed. I am the sixth person listed. I am below my youngest and most irresponsible brother. If something should happen to him I will be the last to know. I leave the hospital feeling useless.

Later that night I sat on my couch with a blanket wrapped around me staring off into space thinking about the past. Thinking about all the past events that I had kept buried deep in my brain and had long ago willed myself to forget. I sat there thinking about the relationship dad and I had while I was growing up and before my parents divorced. Remembering all of the fights and arguments over something and nothing. The fights were always over something small and trivial. Remembering how he and I literally could not be in a room with each other more than 10 seconds without an argument erupting over something I had done wrong. And it was always over something I had done wrong. I walked into a room too hard. I read the paper before him on Sunday morning. I spent too much time in my bedroom with the door closed. His solution to that problem was to rip the door off its hinges. On Sunday mornings when I would make breakfast I always, without fail, cooked his eggs wrong. Now the only kind of eggs I’ll cook as an adult are scrambled. Pretty hard to mess up scrambled eggs. He saw me as too strong-willed, too stubborn, too honest things that he should have seen as attributes he saw as detriments and he was determined to break me. I was determined to fight back.
When I was around 13 he drove me to a school dance. He didn’t say a word to me the entire 20 minutes it took to drive there. Then, as I was getting out of the car he told me I looked like a whore. With his next breath he told me to have a good time at the dance. I spent the entire night in the girl’s restroom crying.
When my parents finally divorced I was 15. It was the greatest fucking thing that ever happened to me.

The next day it was still raining when I arrived at the hospital. Dad was heavily sedated on morphine and was still on life support and still had just as many tubes going in and out of him as the day before. His room smelled of rubbing alcohol, someone who hasn’t had a shower in a couple of days, and a little bit like old urine, which was from his catheter. I hear all of the nurses at their station complaining about something while simultaneously gossiping. Dad kept drifting in and out of consciousness. I was on the right side of his bed holding his hand listening to all of the machines beeping and clicking. As I looked at his hand I noticed that it looked like the hand of someone who hasn’t taken care of himself. His short stubby fingers are callused and yellow from 40 years of smoking. He has sparsely placed long faded black hairs on his knuckles and the top of his hand. He has the hands of someone who worked in a warehouse most of his life and where his job sucked most of the life from him. He kept bringing his hand to his lips trying to take a drag from his morphine clicker that was in his right hand. He was semiconscious yet the powerful pull of nicotine withdrawal was in full effect. In one of dad’s conscious moments he looked at me, his brown eyes were all glazed over from the morphine and the life support tube was down his throat. There were two pieces of tape across his mouth from the life support tube. The tape had slipped down from his upper lip and were over his mouth in the shape of an ‘O’. He kept pushing his tongue through the two pieces of tape. I wanted to remove the tape, but I’m told by Pam that the nurses said they would come in and fix it. My question is when will they come in to fix it? I want the nurses to help him. I want to help him. I want to take care of him. I needed him to know I am here. I needed him to know I care. He kept trying to speak, but all he could do was mouth the words. He looked at me and mouthed, “I love you.” I told him I loved him too. Then he said what I had been waiting 30 years to hear. He mouthed, “I’m sorry.” In that split second it takes him to say what I’ve been waiting and wanting to hear from him for 30 years everything is okay between us. All is forgiven. It doesn’t matter to me if these are the words he actually said or not. It’s not relevant. It’s that I think that’s what he said. It’s what I wanted him to say. It’s what I needed to hear. That’s what is relevant. It also doesn’t matter to me what our relationship was like before these words. What happened between us is in the past. It is no longer relevant to my future.

As I was leaving the hospital I was in my own little world. I was walking. I was taking my paces through the lobby, through the emergency room waiting area, out the revolving doors. I was not aware of my surroundings. I was not aware that I was leaving the hospital. I had an inner calm about me. I can’t articulate what I was feeling. I was just…calm. As I raised my right hand to open my umbrella, I didn’t notice that the rain had stopped and the sun was slowly peaking through a few clouds.

He and I agree that we need to work on rebuilding our relationship. It’s not as if he and I became best buds over night. However, he and I have seen and spoken to each other more since March than we have in the past several years. After he was home from the hospital for a couple of weeks and he had some of his strength back I drove out to see his new house. I hadn’t seen him in his own surroundings in several years. He lived less than 30 minutes from me, but I could never find the time to make the drive. Now he lives about 45 minutes from me and I made the time to visit him.

Dad went back into the hospital in April and then again in May. In April, he went in for a blood clot behind his lung, and in May, it was to have an infection removed from his lung. Before he went into surgery all of us had a few minutes with him. When it was my turn I sat on his bed and he asked for a hug. While I was hugging him I whispered in his ear, “We’re okay.” Here was a 6-foot tall, 350-pound, 55-year-old man weeping in his daughter’s arms. After our hug I stayed on his bed, I looked directly into his eyes and I simply said, “We’re okay.” I think those were the two little words he had been waiting 30 years to hear from me. We’re okay.


Jay said...

I wonder if I have a bad heart.


You have a good heart.

You have the best heart.

Thank you for "baring all", beautiful.

ptg said...

your bravery is astounding.

bad heart? more like a broken, patched heart that is willing to try again.

pg, you're a brave one.

Leesa said...

pg, this was a very touching story. It reveals your soul.

Tom Serafini, Actor to the Stars! said...

Jesus Christ on ice skates, that was fucking powerful. Really.

THE DUKE said...

I'm speachless... for once.

seneca said...

This is a very touching essay that you've written. Your Dad reminds me of mine. When I was a kid I could never ever do anything right.

I hope it remains peaceful and loving where you are now.

redbloodedboy said...

You have no idea how close to home this hit for me.

And at the same time, how much I was reminded that it ultimately is the parent's responsibility to do everything you did.

Not to say you did the wrong thing, just unfortunate you had to do it.

But if you learned anything from it, you learned it in time

Party Girl said...


Thank you all. Thank you all so very, very much for making what made me the gaurded person that I am easy to share with you all.
Thank you.

When I sat and thought about not posting last week's TNF and I was shaking and scared to post it. Because, what would you all think? What would you say?
Then, then I thought about what the TNF is. What it is I'm trying to do. Do for myself. Then I realized there was no way I couldn't not post it.
When I realized that clicking on the 'post' button was easy. You all backed me up on that. So for that, thank you. Thank you for your beautiful words.

Mark said...

OK... you made me cry, dammit.