“What are you going to say when the police show up?” I have learned after 28 years of living with Tony that this is the question I will be required to answer whenever I am considering doing something even remotely risky, like when I considered letting 10 year old Kip stay home alone while the rest of us walked to the corner store, or when I suggested that maybe Ralphie could walk the half block to his friend’s house by himself in our quiet mountain neighborhood. When he’s really concerned, Tony will add, “What are you going to tell the reporters?
Consequently, this is why Kip is headed for the Middle East in March, and why Ralphie keeps taunting us with his fascination with Steve Job’s “tune in, turn on, drop out” phase. Ralphie recently texted “How many tabs do I have to do to see the future?” Then re-texted “Oops, sent that to the wrong person and I’m not doing acid.” My reply “Ha, ha. I heard acid makes you feel like you have bugs crawling under your skin (Ralphie hates bugs) and, BTW Steve Jobs audited classes at Stanford for fun, in other words (me explaining the word “audit” because “for fun” might not have done the trick), he didn’t even have to go to college, but he went anyway.” No one teaches you this stuff; it wasn’t in What to Expect When You Are Expecting. Thankfully, Kelly, ended up with the worrywart gene. She called last night and asked if we could take her running outdoors; she’s been training for the Turkey Trot on a treadmill because she is afraid to run alone outside (that’s my girl).
A lot of people would have a hard time being married to a worrywart, but I find it blissful. I love knowing that no one is ever going to force me to drive as close to a cliff as possible just for the thrill of it or park in a seedy area because it’s cheaper or drive in fog (I love that Tony hates driving in fog as much as I do, so we DON’T DO IT) or help some lady named Cherry get her boyfriend out of the Hermosillo jail in 1974 (a little piece of Mexican culture I could have done without) or sneak into anything (because what are you going to say when the police show up?)!
I grew up in a blended household; half worrywart/half risk-taker. My parents were divorced so I spent half my time with my mom who didn’t let me get my ears pierced because they “might get infected,” (BTW, Mom, don’t worry Ralphie is not doing acid; he’s just messing with us) and the other half with my dad, “Hey kids, let’s go to Mexico, we’ll deal with the paperwork when we get to the border (and maybe we’ll meet someone named Cherry).”
My dad was a cancer survivor and the only child of the world’s biggest worrywart (I’m not sure how Grandma managed to get her blood pressure checked on a daily basis in a world before Urgent Care and those little blood pressure booths at Safeway, but she did), so it makes perfect sense that he experimented with hobbies like hang gliding and flying lessons. Thanks to cancer and Grandma, I have actually been in a glider (the truck pulls the plane off of the side of a cliff!). My dad was the kind of guy who didn’t believe in tire chains, so naturally, I married a guy who keeps the studded tires on our 4-wheel drive vehicles well into June (just in case); a little risky because it’s against the law, but rest assured Tony has a plan for what he is going to say to the police.
As I have mentioned throughout this blog, my dad was killed walking across a street (BTW my grandmother died from an un-blood-pressure related spider bite at age 86).
July 5, 1992
My brothers said that dad was moving his head back and forth. I didn’t really think this movement was as pronounced as they said it was until I saw it for myself. His head turned to the left 90 degrees and then to the right 180 degrees and then back to the center. I don’t know what to do. The nurses are pressuring us for organ donation, but I have been torn between letting go to save someone else, or holding on to the hope that he isn’t brain dead.
About a month ago we hiked to Cascade Falls with him. It was a perfect June day. We played the bear hunt game with Kip and Kelly along the narrow trail winding up the side of a granite cliff. Eventually we came to the top of the waterfall that my dad wanted to show us. He was ahead of us jumping from rock to rock. He wore a golf shirt and a pair of over-sized denim shorts, old tennis shoes, and some dirty white socks. His skin was dark and leathery and his hair was mostly grey with a few streaks of black. Now he is laying in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of his face, remnants of dried blood in his hair, and his eyelids not quite closed.
He was waving at us to bring the children over to the ledge to see the falls. I said no, I was too scared. Tony was scared, too. My father pleaded with us. “Come on, come and look. Let me have Kip, I’ll hold on to him,” he promised. “No, dad, you look and take a picture of it for us.” And he did.
Last night in this private waiting room next to the ICU, the waiting area they put one in when one’s family member is going to die. I watched the fireworks on TV; Tony was at the hotel with the kids, it was his birthday. Not knowing what to do, I closed my eyes. In the distance I saw a collection of colors. Brilliant colors as bright as the sun, setting on a dark horizon. In the foreground there was a valley with the silhouette of a desert landscape against the light of the brilliant colors. Slowly, the foreground began moving from left to right. The movement was awkward and annoying. I sensed this was the place my father was; being pulled between moving on and staying with us. Gradually, the horizontal movement became a vertical movement and then I found myself flowing in a river over a cliff and down the Cascade Falls. Just as I was about to reach the bottom, my father said, “You have to stop here, but I can go on, I can do anything now.” Then added, “Let me go, be good to your children, and know no matter what, it will be okay.”
One would think an accident like this would exacerbate my fears, but it has had the opposite effect; I am now the ur-ger instead of the ur-gee. I now take calculated risks like parking in a red zone while Tony jumps out to buy us hot dogs at the cart in Golden Gate Park, “What if a meter maid comes?” “Don’t worry it will be okay.” Or leaving the dog at home while we go to the post office. “What if Cassidy barks while we are gone, what are you going to say to animal control?” “Don’t worry it will be okay.”Or running with headphones on. “What if . . . “ “It will be okay,” or crossing the street on a green light even if the little red hand is showing instead of the white walking man, “What if . . . “ “Don’t worry it will be okay!”
The two have us are working on getting braver; we are planning a rollercoaster date to Six Flags as soon as my dizziness goes away (I hate rollercoasters, but have agreed to go because I’m curious what waiting in line will be like without someone complaining about the wait or teasing their sister or whining for an overpriced plastic trinket that will end up on the closet floor within days and stay there for at least a decade until we pay some mover $300.00 an hour to wrap it in five layers of paper). I will undoubtedly hear at least once, “What if the harness breaks.” “Don’t worry, we can skip this ride.”