Sunday, October 28, 2012

If Only I'd Never Read That Poem

After years of escaping filial duties, I moved back to the Midwest and reconciled with my dysfunctional family. They are old and ill, they don't grasp why I'm here, and they don't find me particularly entertainingWhat they don't understand is that I got my values from Virgil's Aeneid, and I visit strictly from pietas: duty to the gods, country, and family. 

If only I'd never read that poem.

We went to visit a relative.  We found him in a chilly bar with his sweatshirt zipped and hood up, coughing dismally. Once we brought him home, I tried to get him to sit on the couch, because he was just out of the hospital.  A nice Saturday afternoon in front of the TV, and the guys could talk about football, basketball, whatever they talk about while I cleaned. I got him a glass of juice, because he won't drink water, and he needs to drink a lot of liquids, because he has walking pneumonia among other diseases.

We lined up the meds for him.

Then he gave us the he-doesn't-want-to-be-kept-alive-on-meds talk. He's not THAT sick, we tell him.  Then there's the he-doesn't-want-to go-into-a-nursing home talk.  We assured him he does not need to go into a nursing home. 

He got on his treadmill.  

"That's enough!" I said.

I am not experienced with this commanding stuff because I am not a mother.

"I hoped they would keep me in the hospital a couple of days," he said distantly.  

So I'm trying to decide if I have to stay and look after him for a few days when the insults begin.

There is the talk about how I am not getting any of his money.  "You don't want my money, and I don't want to leave it to so-and-so, either, so I'm going to spend it all."  I assure him that's fine, I am just concerned about his health, and anyway he already told me years ago he had "blown my inheritance."  We get to have this charming talk every time I see him. 

Then he told me querulously that his roommate in the hospital had visitors because they think they are going to inherit $20 million in land.  We pointed out that we had planned to visit him in the hospital, but they discharged him before we got there. 

He didn't want to watch TV or eat takeout. He insisted that we go to a restaurant.  

"Are you sure?  You should rest."

"I want to be where people are."

We thought we were people, but as I say, we can't keep him home.  We were boring him.

Creusa,  a Detail from Barocci's Aeneas' Flight form Troy, 1598
At the restaurant he didn't know anybody and he was unhappy.  So he told me how terrible I looked, and I started to feel very annoyed, because frankly, like most women, I looked good when I was young, and now I don't.  I had put on my buttoned-up sweater with ruffles, and I wouldn't have bothered if I'd known I would have to sit through a lecture on my looks.  Like most women of my age, I have been through a lot, and I can't erase it.  PROUD OF MY LINED, WEATHERED FACE.  Oh, yeah.

So we took him home, we told him about his pills again, and poured him more juice.  He has something to read by Zane Grey or  Robert Parker, and I realize it is large-print, so he has probably been refusing all books we've tried to give him because he can't read regular-sized print anymore.

So I feel sorry for him, but I can't possibly stay and look after him unless I take a triple dose of Prozac, or Ativan, both probably unobtainable.  Since my body chemistry has never responded well to drugs, I decide to go home.

I have some St. John's Wort somewhere. I think I'll sleep for maybe 20 hours.

And I must say that I understand completely why Creusa got lost in Troy.  Friggin' Aeneas.


Alex said...

I have no relatives. Some days I feel fine about that because I have wonderful friends and some days I feel pretty isolated. I'm sorry the ones you have aren't able to appreciate you properly. Keep smiling and keep off the Classical literature; it's not doing your blood pressure any good.

Frisbee said...

Thank you! Yes, trying to apply epic values doesn't always work.