Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west-central Florida on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. It is a warm autumn day here in the Sunshine State; the temperature is 78˚F (25˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing at 3 MPH (5 KM/H) from the east-northeast and humidity at 48%, the feels-like temperature is 76˚F (25˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 87˚F (31˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 69˚F (20˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 56 or Lightly Polluted.
I’m tired and more than a little irritable today. I had another (!) bout of insomnia last night. I tried to relax and lie still in darkness, not use any screens (TV or computer monitor), and not think too much, but it was no use. I ended up watching a World War II documentary on Netflix until I finally felt drowsy after 2 AM. Thankfully, I slept for an uninterrupted five hours before waking up around 7:30 AM. Five hours (and “spare change”) is better than having a sleepless night, but still…I am getting too old for this shit.
I always suffer from melancholia as October – the month in which both of my parents were born – draws near. We never celebrated my dad’s birthday on the fourth because he died a few weeks before my second birthday, but October 17 – Mom’s birthday – was a day in which my tiny family (Mom, my older half-sister Vicky, and Yours Truly) would get together and try to celebrate with a modicum of amity and cheer. When my mom was still in good health, we had more success at that. It was only in her last decade (2005 to 2014) that our October 17 get-togethers matched Khan Noonian Singh’s quote from the Star Trek episode Space Seed: “It has been said that social occasions are only warfare concealed. Many prefer it more honest – more open.”
Frankly, I don’t miss those stressful, obligatory, and full-of-artifice family get-togethers at what was once our house. By the time our mother became gravely ill in 2010 shortly before my 47th birthday, the coming estrangement between Vicky and me was already casting a giant shadow over everything. She had a tough time pretending that she liked me, and I was tired of trying to be the better person and not playing the game on her terms. Dealing with sociopaths/narcissists is a soul-crushing and mentally exhausting experience, especially when it’s a relative who you can’t X out of your life easily.
I do miss my mom, though. I have dreams about her every so often, you know. Sometimes the dreams are bad – nightmarish flashbacks of the last week of her life. Especially vivid are the sights, sounds, and even smells of her last day on Earth – July 18/19, 2015. Her delirious predawn cries for her brother Octavio echo in my brain still, and I still feel pangs of guilt about wishing for those cries to stop so I could get just a few hours of sleep….
Caregiving for a dying parent leaves scars, you see. In my case, the scars are not physical; Mom only tried to strike at me once during one of her dreaded “Sundown Syndrome” episodes, but I was able to defend myself without either of us being physically hurt. No, my friend, my scars are invisible because they are emotional ones. Mostly a sense of deep loss since Mom was the Sun which I orbited for 52 of my 58 years of existence. But there are also scars that are labeled “Regret,” “Self-Reproach,” “Anger,” and “Resentment.”
I wish my dreams about my mother were of happier, more carefree times. You know, like when Mom and I went to see the Disney animated film The Lion King by ourselves; we knew that Vicky wanted to see it, too, but we hated going to the movies with my older half-sister because she loves to yawp constantly in the theater, not caring that she disturbs the other patrons who are trying to watch a movie. As I recall, Vicky invited us to see The Lion King, but Mom and I feigned disinterest and said we didn’t want to go. Then, on a day when she worked the 7 AM-7 PM shift at Pan American Hospital, we went to the nearest theater where it was running and saw it without Ms. Motormouth.
Another dream I’d love to have: a flashback to my homecoming from Spain in December of 1988. I had spent 88 days in Seville as a participant in the Semester in Spain study abroad program, and although I had had a blissful experience there, I had not been away from home for such a long time before.
Mom and I had exchanged letters and talked on the phone once a week during my 12-week stint in Spain, but she missed me, and I missed her. So, when I got to my house in my friend David Dines’ car (a group of my friends picked me up at Miami International Airport on December 18, 1988), it was like we were celebrating my mother’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas simultaneously.
Who knows when I’ll have dreams like that again?