Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's Not What I Would Have Predicted




As I drove to the nursing home this afternoon, I noticed lots of cars and balloons lining the streets in my childhood neighborhood. It is June, and therefore that time again: High School graduation parties.

The most vivid memories I have from my high school graduation are of being surprised at the number of friends who came to my party (we had really good sheet cake), and then the shock and horror of realizing that I, an honor student, had spelled "Congratulations" wrong on each and every one of my thank you cards.

Thank you for the lovely gift. 
Congradulations on your graduation.

Love, Susan

Shit. It took me at least two weeks to live that one down. Worse yet, I believe it was my brother who pointed out the humiliating mistake.

I graduated from high school a decade plus one year ago. At that time, I was just coming out of what would later be identified as a Bipolar Depression, one that began in the fall when I came down with terrible cystic acne, and one that did not completely resolve itself until I took up binge drinking and had the time of my life my Freshman year at college.

In June of 1999, I knew that I would be attending my parent's alma mater, Macalester College. I knew that I would be working as a waitress at my favorite restaurant. I knew that I would be losing my virginity to my boyfriend Dan after smoking pot at the Beta Band concert at The Quest. A girl has gotta plan certain things.

When I went to college, I knew I would major in Studio Art. When else in my life would I get rewarded for painting? I knew I would study abroad in Italy and England, and I knew that I would go into design management for a major corporation.

But that's pretty much where the predicting stopped. When I was 22, I somehow lost the script for the upcoming events in my life. I did not predict becoming severely mentally ill, I did not predict losing my job and running away to Canada, I did not predict gaining 30 pounds after becoming a Bipolar pharmaceutical experiment, I did not predict having to crawl my way back to success over a period of five years, I did not predict having major abdominal surgery, and most importantly, I did not predict coping with cancer and a quadriplegic father before the age of 30.

One of the things I have learned from this year-long experience is that there are some things in life that you never, ever adjust to. In my morbid pondering, I have often wondered if the parents of my brother's friend ever got over his suicide, or if the coworker who lost her baby in the end of the second trimester was ever able to conceive of conceiving again.

You hear people say, "I never got over his death" or "I will never forget the pain and agony of miscarriage," but you don't understand the concept of never forgetting until something you wish you could forget happens to you.

Usually it is when I am away when the thoughts creep in. I will be driving or playing my guitar, getting off a flight, or just eating a piece of chocolate. It dawns on me that my dad is altered forever and the first thing that strikes me is that I did not plan for this. And then there is the slow firing of reluctant neurons, synapses in the brain that, try as they might, cannot rewire to picture daddy as a fully mute and handicapped man.

My mind and my heart just won't accept it.

I have no lesson. No conclusion. No witty quip to end this post. As I sit here listening to Dad's breathing machine on the Eve of Father's Day, I tell you that there are some things in life that you cannot predict, no matter how sickly deep your imagination can dig.

These are the curses that life can bring, and the metallic taste never fully leaves your mouth.

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