Talking Shop

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but I’ve noticed, that I haven’t been posting.

Lord knows I’ve wanted to.

Blogging serves many purposes for me, as I’m sure it does for you: catharsis, self-expression, connection, community, dialogue, intellectual challenge, exercise and sharpening of one’s writers’ craft teeth, etc.

But: things around here have been less than peachy.

Dad had another stroke a week ago, was in a coma for a couple of days.  Then he began his struggle back into This World.  He’s not quite as “with it” as he was before–and he wasn’t too “with it” then either–but sometimes he knows where he is.  Thankfully he still knows who I am.

While we thought he was dying or about to die, there was a certain amount of drama (really?!) on the part of my mother, who actually hugged me and wept on my shoulder for an uncomfortable while.  I do feel sorry for her, but not that sorry.  But it’s not as if I would push my mother away while she’s having a dramatic sad moment, or a sadly dramatic moment, being about to lose her husband of sixty-six years.

Life is now a patchwork of caregivers and nurses coming in and out of the house.  That’s good, because I cannot help with physical needs other than the food-related ones.  I can prepare food, and help him eat it; and if he’s too “out of it” to get his food into his mouth, I can feed him.  Some days he’s able to feed himself, and some days he’s just too exhausted.  He’s hungry, but he just can’t manage the eating part.  I never realized how complex the act of eating is, until this experience of watching Dad’s stepwise loss of the mechanical ability to manipulate food, even with his hands, let alone utensils.

Once it’s in his mouth he can usually chew it up and swallow, but sometimes he needs his food “blenderized” and sometimes he just can’t eat at all.  I know that’s part of dying.  And sometimes he absolutely refuses to eat, and that’s part of dying too.

We try to keep him hydrated, at least.  He’s on a medicine that decreases the fluid in his blood, taking some stress off his heart, which does make him feel better but causes increased urination, so getting the fluids into him is important.  I know, it seems paradoxical: on one hand, taking the fluids out, on the other, shoving them in.

The other day we were sitting alone together, watching the afternoon coming in through the brilliant greens of the forest canopy, and he said:  “You and I need to go up into the woods and talk shop.”

I know what he meant.

We have always been best buddies, even when times weren’t so good, even though he served as my own private “Flying Monkey” who tried to explain away my mother’s evil ways.  I always came back, for my dad.  Here I am!

Just about every night, starting from…when?  Maybe after I got back off the road, when I was seventeen–every night when I was visiting and would be staying over, my dad and I would sit up late drinking whiskey and “talking shop.”  We would solve the world’s problems, solve problems for worlds that were entirely theoretical at the time but in fact exist now, and dig deep into authors, poetry, philosophical genres, the nature of human existence, art (of course), artists (same), relationships of all sorts….and now and then my mother would stick her head down the stairway to ask us to please “keep it down.”

I do salute her for allowing us those times together and not throwing a monkey-wrench into things, which she is quite capable of doing.  She knew that those late-night rap sessions were sacred.

The only time my dad and I ever got into a shouting match was oh, around 3 am when we were both three sheets to the wind, and somehow or other we fell into the topic: “Does God have a sense of humor?”

He staunchly and solidly maintained that God does NOT have a sense of humor.  The Holocaust.

I equally stubbornly held that God DOES have a sense of humor, because WE exist and that is the ridiculous proof!

Neither of us would budge, and having put a good dent in a fifth of Bourbon whiskey, the volume worked its way up until we were actually shouting at each other in earnest.  Luckily my mother yelled down the stairs for us to “knock it off down there.”  We sheepishly toasted “to Life” and stumbled off to our respective beds.  We never did resolve that point.

So, we need to go up into the woods and talk shop.  Some more.  Soon.

Leave a comment


  1. Yes, I noticed you haven’t been around, Laura, and I’m sorry to hear about your Dad’s stroke. What a wonderful, special relationship the two of you have………yes, go talk shop soon, and savor every moment. Thinking of you.

  2. I’m so happy you’re enjoying every minute he has left. I look back at the last years of my grandparents lives and think the great memories we made especially those in last years. Many times it was sit on the couch, not talk much at all. My granny had Dementia, when it was really bad all we had to keep us together was a photo book I made for her. I had my hand under her head as she died. I would not want it any other way. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

    • Oh, how wonderful that you had such a close relationship with your grandparents! Those sweet memories will be with you all your life. You are a very special person. Thanks so much for sharing that with me!

  3. oh laura, i’m so sorry your dad has taken another turn for the worse. but i am so glad he still knows you, and he wants to ‘talk shop’. whether you ‘talk shop’ at the kitchen table or by his bedside, i hope you get to ‘talk shop’ at least one more time. i think both of you need to say a lot (maybe without many words) in this time, and really hope you get that.

    i feel for you so much; i lost my dad 31/2 years ago, and i hadn’t seen him for almost 6 years. we spoke on the phone every saturday morning, tho, for hours sometimes, also solving and debating the problems of the world. there isn’t a saturday that goes by that I don’t think of him at least for a moment. sometimes, happy, sometimes bittersweet, and sometimes sad. he was my best friend, my coach, my mentor and of course, my dad.

    sending you all my love and warm (((hugs))) for you to hold to.

    • Kat, thank you so much for your hugs and wonderful story about your dad. There is nothing like a Dad, is there? I think of people who don’t have one, for one reason or another, or worse, were abused by theirs, and I feel so sad for them, to be deprived of Dad-ness! I will miss mine terribly when he goes, but I will be happy that I had him as much as I have.

      Be well and take good care of yourself!

  4. I’ll be thinking of you and your dad…strokes are so unpredictable. I’m sorry you’re under allot of pressure. Blessings xx

    • Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and words! He has come around some, but has not regained his previous (not very good) level of functioning….you’re right, strokes are unpredictable. We never know what the next day will bring.

      • And sometimes wee have several wee ones that go UN noticed. My dad had several before his last one. Yet my step dad had one major one…Being informed , which Thu are us key but also your Dad . Big hugs to you and your family.

        • Yup, we have had many small strokes….when his memory first started to be obviously impaired, he had a CT scan that showed many small infarcts….so he had already had numerous small strokes, and he has continued having them, each one worse than the last. His mother followed the same pattern, until a big one took her away, which is what I expect will happen with him also. He used to know what was going on, but now he’s in a dream world most of the time, and not all of it happy either.

  5. I think God has a sense of humor, too. Bit twisted one.

    Glad to see your post. Thinking of you.

    L’shalom, Ruth

    • Hi Ruth, yes, if we are created in God’s image, then his sense of humor must indeed be twisted! I’ll be glad to get the Three Weeks overwith. Too much judgment for this girl. Not that I keep any of the traditions–after several years of crashing depressions brought on by the whole Tisha B’Av thing, my doctor forbade me to do any of it. But I still feel the energy, and see the din that goes with it. Sigh.

  6. savemefrombpd

     /  August 3, 2014

    I had noticed too that you hadn’t posted for a while… But as you are Laura, so ever kind to reply to my posts and continue to offer me your advice and help me and that is your nature.. So I thank you and respect you a lot for that.

    All the best to your father – I hope that he is suffering as least as possible and that you continue to be able to chin wag with him and enjoy your time spent with him.

    • Thank you, dear. You know I care about you, and I do appreciate your letting me know it means something….and I know that you are far from your own Dad, and I can’t help feeling sad for you about that….I feel very fortunate to have my Dad here, or to be here with him, more correctly, since I came here for that purpose even though this is not my home and I feel like a total alien here….but it’s all worth it. Today he is seeing bugs everywhere, ugh, and my mother refuses to give him even a tiny bit of Haldol to stop the hallucinations. Nothing I can do about it, other than to try to distract him….

      • savemefrombpd

         /  August 4, 2014

        It all comes from the heart L 😉
        You are such a special person, you really are… I hope you realise that. A very special person. You adjust to anything, to any situation, in order to help people. You are so grateful which is something I feel like I have lost. And your father is having hallucinations and your mother is refusing to give him some medications to help stop the hallucinations.. And you say that you can’t do anything (which is true according to it being in your mum’s control!) and you just say that you will help distract him and keep on helping him. I am sure you feel bitterness towards your mother for even restricting this med that can help stop the hallucinations, but you step in and try and help him in other ways.. You’re a true tzadikah. Kol ha’kavod.

        • Thank you, metukah, for your sweet works. Beinoni, yes, tzaddikah….I’m working on it 😉

          • savemefrombpd

             /  August 11, 2014

            Haha, me tzaddikah, mamash lo! You are more of one than me, but you are very modest in saying that you are a beinoni! You are a very strong and courageous woman. 🙂

  7. I discovered your blog while searching for wisdom about the illness, and continue to follow it as one writer admiring the work of another. I look forward to the emails announcing each new post, and I’m glad you’re back. I’ve learned a lot from you about this mystifying illness, which affects someone close to me (and therefore me). And I am also learning from Laura the writer. I know that’s not your purpose, but often our creations have a power of their own, beyond our expectations.

    • Hi Sadie, thanks so much for your kind words, and I am blushing like mad about your compliments on my writing. I have been writing ever since I learned to write, so it’s just a natural medium of expression for me….and yes, the illness affects everyone who is close. I hope you find lots of good information, and I hope you are able to navigate the sometimes baffling labyrinth of moods, treatments, drugs, and most of all, the “not knowing what you’ll come home to” part, which has acutely affected my past partners, and finally motivated me to live a solitary life. I salute you for being an involved and motivated part of your loved one’s life! Looking forward to seeing more of you 🙂

  8. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  August 3, 2014

    I’m sorry I’ve got no comforting words for you. However, I send my best wishes for you and your father.

    • Thanks, my dear. I feel your best wishes, and think of you often when I am walking in the woods among the lovely plants. I have a new back yard which I intend to fervently wildcraft!

  9. Hard times to go through. Thank you for sharing your memories of your relationship with your dad. It made me think of my dad. While I miss him, my memories are quite vivid. Best wishes to you.

    • Thank you so much, April. I really appreciate your support! Glad to give you an opportunity to think of your dad. It sounds like you had a good and meaningful relationship with him. When everything goes right, dads and daughters are the best thing ever!

  10. Oh Laura its so ironical. I mean what should i type here that could make you feel better. Are your parents holocast survivors? May be you can write something about their life. May be you can write something about him and his life.

    • Wow, Ashu, that’s a great idea. No, they are not Survivors, but their parents were refugees with amazing stories that only came to light after I had a genealogist hunt their history up. Dad has always been somewhat secretive about his life. He fought in WWII and I believe he has some trauma from that. I really should take your advice.

  11. This brought tears to my eyes….I am glad that I’m talking shop to my Dad these days (he’s 79) it’s easier than doing so with my mum….but that’s a whole other story…..

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