Blogging and Disloyalty

Sometimes I feel disloyal blogging about all the problems I have with my family’s various infirmities, whether physical or mental, as if I am betraying them, my father and brother especially. And yet, these problems are the same ones other people are struggling with — aged parents and dysfunctional siblings or offspring. It’s in talking of these matters that we discover how un-unusual the problems are — we all have seem to have the care of someone thrust on us, disrupting our lives.

Some people have to deal with various other problems, of course, such as caring for a spouse’s infirmities, but I don’t have much to say about such matters since my coupled days are behind me.

While my life mate/soul mate was dying, I seldom talked privately and never publicly about his decline or the problems it caused me — that truly would have felt like a betrayal, as if I were exposing him or as if I were talking about matters that did not belong to me. To cope, I simply drew within and continued to live as best as I could. His death catapulted me out of that state, enatugofwarbling me to launch my angst-ridden cry into cyberspace. I’m not sure he would have approved of my being so open about my feelings, but by then, he no longer had a say in my life. Besides, my grief belonged to me alone.

I doubt I will ever feel that intense loyalty again, which is good. I no longer want or am able to live in the empty spaces in my soul.

Last night I blogged out my frustration with my father’s panic attack and the mindlessly mean way he acted. It enabled me to sleep peacefully (well, sort of) last night and wake up encouraged enough to go on.

The time is coming, perhaps soon, when my father can no longer be allowed to have his way about staying alone when I am out of the house, but despite the minor emergency last night, I’m inclined to let things remain as they are awhile longer. He is terrified of losing control, and he is someone who has always had to have steely control — of himself, his family, his surroundings. (You’d think I’d take delight in this gradual erosion of his control, considering how domineering he was in my youth, but I find no joy in watching his decline.)

Still, disloyal or not, I will need to continue blogging about my problems as life and death persist with their game of tug of war. It’s a matter of my survival.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Killing My Father

Some days are just more than I can handle. Well, not the whole day. I took dance classes today, and that was as wonderful as always. Everything was even fine when I got back to the house. My father was up, seemed content, so I told him I’d be gone all day next Thursday and Friday, and into the evening on Friday. He was okay with that, but when I asked if he would be okay if I went to the Sierra group walk for a while tonight, he got upset with me for leaving him alone. Then I noticed he was gasping for breath.

I went to check his oxygen concentrator machine, and it didn’t seem to be working — the regulator ball was at zero. My father came and pushed me away from the machine (he still has a lot of strength for a 97-year-old man). He was all in a panic, pushing buttons, turning the machine off and on, twisting the regulator knob, and he refused to go sit down so I could check out the machine. Finally, I steered him away from the machine, told him he was panicking from loss of oxygen, and rather sternly told him to just lie still while I got the problem taken care of.

wind“I don’t want to die,” he kept screaming, and at one point, “you’re killing me.” (Not sure why he said that. Maybe because I wasn’t moving fast enough to suit him. The truth is, he is fine without oxygen for several hours. He simply panicked.)

Meantime, I called hospice, who called the oxygen people. When I told my father the oxygen people were going to call me back, he got mad and said I was supposed to call “hostage.” I explained I did call hospice, and they were the ones who called the oxygen supplier. I finally got him calmed down enough so I could go get the temporary tank from another room and set it up for him. Now we’re waiting for a replacement tank (or maybe just new tubing — I didn’t see any kinks, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any).

Considering his panic, I asked if he was still willing to be left alone during those two days next week. I said I could ask my sister to come back, and he refused to let me ask her, just said to leave the emergency tank set up. It’s not possible to leave the tank set up — such a tank holds only four hours of oxygen, and if it was set up, it would be out of oxygen by the time he needed it. He said he was still able to remember fundamentals such as how to work a machine once it was explained to him, and I didn’t say anything. Under normal circumstances, it could be true, but when he is panicked, thinking he is going to die from lack of oxygen, I have my doubts.

But it’s still his choice . . . for now.

(An hour later: The machine is fine — it turned out the electric socket is dead. My father is fine too. It turned out I did not kill him.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Nonagenarians and Non-Aging

People in their nineties are called nonagenarians. My mind always processes the word to mean “non-aging,” and to a certain extent, that is true. After 93, people seem to stop aging. In fact, when people are in their late nineties, they are no more likely to die than someone in their early nineties. I just checked an actuarial table, and it seems as if everyone in their nineties has a life expectancy of about two years, and that expectancy of two years is a fairly constant number. On each birthday in your mid to late nineties, your life expectancy is approximately the same as it was the previous birthday, so you basically aren’t aging much at all. In fact, research seems to show that whatever health issues a person had at 93 remain, but new health issues generally aren’t accumulating. Nor are nonagenarians dying from dangerous pursuits such as sky diving or motorcycling. Since many people of that age seldom leave the house, their chances of getting in a car accident are slim, as is their chance of catching a serious illness old manfrom being in crowds.

Michael Rose, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California says: We still don’t have a full explanation of the underlying genetics of the cessation of aging. One possibility is that there are genes that are advantageous early on but damaging to health later in life — an effect called “antagonistic pleiotropy.” And these are the genes that cease to be. We now understand that aging is not a cumulative process of progressive chemical damage, like rust. It is a pattern of declining function produced by evolution. Aristotle was wrong (Aristotle thought of aging as a remorseless process of falling apart, until death finally puts us out of our misery), and so are all the present-day biologists who try to explain aging in terms of biochemistry or cell biology alone.

In other words (at least according to my understanding), nonagenarians outlive the process of aging.

There is a chance that my 97-year-old father will live two more years despite his being on hospice, and maybe even because of it. The problems he has have been with him since his early nineties — congestive heart failure, COPD, and prostate cancer with such a low PSA number that his only symptom is occasional bleeding. What usually precipitates a serious decline in his health is a visit to the hospital. (They always seem to admit him when he is feeling his strongest, so whatever it is that bothered the doctor wasn’t bothering him.) Because the doctors take the opportunity to give him a thorough check-up (heart function, breathing problems, removing water build-up in the pleural cavity), he always returns home weeks later much worse off than when he went in. Now, with his being on hospice, he is not at the mercy of doctors who are determined to keep him alive at all costs, so he could remain at the stage he is in for a long time. (Of course, he could just as easily die tomorrow or next month, but statistically, chances are he won’t.)

I truly did not think he would recuperate from this last hospitalization — he wouldn’t get out of bed when he was there, claiming he was asserting his patient’s rights to refuse any treatment, so he ended up with pneumonia and an extended convalescent stay. When he finally got home, he was bedridden, but that robust constitution of his that outlasted a majority of his generation kicked in, and now he is up and about again, fully capable of being left alone. Apparently, he has outlived everything that could have killed him, and now he is drifting in his nonagenarianism.

Despite this cessation of aging in the elderly, they do die, so I know my father won’t be here forever, but still, it’s interesting to see firsthand the principles Michael Rose postulated.

Rose’s idea doesn’t change my mind about my own longevity, though — I’ve never wanted to live into my nineties, and for sure I don’t want to do so knowing that I could linger there for many years in some sort of pre-death limbo. I know we don’t have a choice in such matters, but luckily I take after my mother, so I probably won’t have to deal with either nonagenarianism or non-aging.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

After This Death, There Will Be No Other

A friend and I talked last night about the themes of our lives, and he mentioned that a theme of my life seems to be taking care of the dying. First there was my mother (though I was not her principle caregiver, I did help when I could). Then there was my life mate/soul mate. And now there is my father. It seems as if I’ve been fighting with death for more years than I care to remember, but this final fight will be ending sometime in the not too distant future. And after his death, there will be no other — no other that I am responsible for, that is, except my own.

heavenMy father signed up for hospice yesterday. (He is strong enough and mentally alert enough that he was able to sign all the papers himself.) It seems like a big step, but the truth is he is no better or worse than he was the day before. Actually, that’s not true — he says he is doing worse, but to my eyes, he is doing better, thriving on the attention of nurses and home health care workers. I haven’t seen him so charming or jocular in years.

Hospice is not just for the actively dying, but also for those who will never get better, so just because he is now on hospice, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is close to death. I’ve talked to people whose parents were on hospice for five and even ten years. Although there is no way of knowing how long a person has, I don’t think my father is in any danger of dying soon. Getting older and tireder, yes. Dying? Not so much. He just doesn’t seem that much worse off than he was six months ago. He eats less than he did, but he drinks more Ensure. (I think he’s the one person in the world who actually likes the stuff.) So the calories add up to about the same.

This latest step is, strangely, more of an adjustment for me than it is for him. Even with my dysfunctional brother gone, we’ll never go back to the quiet days when I first got here to help him. There will be people coming and going, deliveries of drugs and other paraphernalia, reassessments and new schedules. And, of course, there will be visits from siblings who are suddenly frantic at what they think is the imminent death of our father.

I’ve gone through this so many times before, where I thought he was dying, and he proved me wrong, that I’ve learned not to make plans for when he’s gone. So, whatever the rest of the family thinks signing up for hospice means, I’m just taking things as they come.

Still, he is ninety-seven. One day his life will be finished, and so will this particular theme of mine. And then? I’ll just have to wait to find out what my next theme will be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Trauma and Conflict vs. Happiness And Harmony

Trauma and conflict are much more compelling than happiness and harmony, which is why fiction is filled with terrible events such as murder, wars, killer weather, and other horrors. It’s the same in every day life, or at least the life we write about. Grief, pain, illness, conflict make for great news stories and blog posts. But happiness and harmony? Not so much.

danceToday was a great day for me. I took two dance classes: ballet and jazz. The combination of steps we practiced in ballet was especially hard for me. I knew the steps, but there was a glitch somewhere between my brain and my feet that kept me from getting the proper sequence and rhythm. And we’ve been learning a new dance in jazz, which is always tough for me — it takes all my concentration to keep up with the rest of the class, most of whom have a background in dance. But still, despite those problems, there’s not much to write about. It’s the difficulties I encountered today that made them good classes — learning is what galvanizes me. (And oh! The joy when I finally get the steps right!)

When I got back from class, my sister (who is here helping take care of my father) and I went shopping. She wanted art supplies and I wanted paper raffia to make i’is (Tahitian hand tassels) for Tahitian class. We got neither, though I ended up with a multi-colored feather boa to decorate a hat. (A wild purchase for me!) Later we fixed a meal together. I’ve heard it said that two women can’t share a kitchen, but the few meals we’ve cooked together have been harmonious events. She does what she wants, I do what I want, and we end up with something special. In this case, tuna melts with sunflower bread and gouda cheese, and fabulous double-cocoa brownies studded with chunks of 70% Belgian chocolate for dessert.

In fact, after a rocky beginning (although we had talked frequently on the phone over the past year, we hadn’t seen each other for many years and didn’t know each other’s habits or the meaning of each other’s gestures, and we had the added problem that we disagreed on how to deal with my problematic brother), we’ve consistently been dealing harmoniously with each other. She’s leaving next week, unless, of course, I can talk her into staying. My father doesn’t really need care. He’s ambulatory, still fairly strong, stays up most of the day, but he refuses to get himself food — he doesn’t want to be bothered, though he has no objection to bothering us when he’s hungry — so it’s been nice having someone else help wait on him. (Such duties irritate me. I will gladly do anything he needs done, but I have no interest in simply indulging him, though he finds that surprising. He keeps saying he thought I liked doing for him. I wonder if he’s confusing me with my mother?)

So, no wild emotions today. No grief. No trauma. No conflict. Just happiness and harmony.

I hope you had a harmonious day too.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Shredding the Past

Four years and three months ago (a mere fifty-five days after his death), I cleaned out my life mate/soul mate’s “effects.” It was truly the worst day of my life.

You would think the worst day would have been the day Jeff died, but that was a sadly inevitable day, one I actually had looked forward to. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, I was glad he finally let go and drifted away. But the Thursday I spent cleaning out his stuff broke my heart. I cried the entire day, twenty-four sleepless hours. I have never felt such soul-wrenching agony. I didn’t want to block out the pain — didn’t want to risk becoming hardened and unable to feel — but I sure as hell don’t want to ever go through anything like that again. (The only good thing about living the worst day of your life is that every day afterward, no matter how bad, will be better than that day.)

I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of all of his things on that fateful day, so I’ve kept several cartons in storage. I knew I’d have to sort through those boxes someday, but I hoped it would come at a time when it wouldn’t hurt.

Well, today was one of those somedays. And it didn’t hurt.

A couple of weeks ago, when I had to make a copy of his death certificate so I could finally get his name removed from our joint account, it struck me that I shouldn’t even have the certificate. It belongs to him, and he no longer belongs to me. (Not that he ever did belong to me, but we were connected in a very profound way that neither of us ever understood.) All these years of grief and all the effort to regain a new interest in living and trying create a new life for myself has severed the feeling of connection.

It seems strange now to remember that I was once so connected to another human being that his death shattered me. It seems strange to think of how I screamed my agony to the uncaring winds, how I spent hours every day in the desert walking off my sorrow. How I wept so uncontrollably for hours, days, weeks.

Now, whoever he his, whatever he is, wherever he is, he is his own being. He lent himself to me for more than three decades, for whictrashh I am eternally grateful, but life and time have separated us. (Odd that I wrote that “life and time have separated us” rather than that “death and time have separated us.” Just another example of how much I’ve changed during the past four years and five months.)

Today I sorted through some of the stored boxes, and disposed of much of the contents. Files of our old bills (well, they weren’t old at the time I saved them, though they are old today). Our joint bank statements. Notes he’d made. Magazines he’d started to read. Lists of books he’d read or wanted to read.

Our life. His life.

The past. Ripped to shreds.

I threw away a lot of other things such as boxes of music he’d taped from the radio and our old rotary phone.

I have many more boxes to go through — his, mine, and ours — but I stopped when both the trash bin and the recycle bin were full. And not a teardrop in sight.

It’s still possible the sorrow will hit me a bit later, but if so, it will only be for a minute or two. My current life with my aged father and my recent dealings with my dysfunctional brother have been so traumatic that I can barely remember the life I shared with Jeff. (I keep his picture to prove to myself that I once loved, once was loved.)

None of us know where the future will take us, but in my case, I won’t be dragging the past along. Or at least not as much of it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Life’s Little Lessons

If one is aware of one’s surroundings, life lessons abound.

A long time ago, I used to be sort of a Kelly girl. (I was actually a Welley girl — the independent temp agency was run by the Welley’s, a husband and wife team.) In those days, the economy was such that I could work one or two weeks a month at a few cents above minimum wage, pay all my bills for my own apartment and car and have money left over for fun. (Or for saving.) Those days, of course, are long gone — you can’t have much of a life if you make only slightly above minimum wage — but the lessons I learned are still with me.

jugglingFor example, one time I started a temporary job the same time a newly hired employee began a permanent job. She was nice, attractive, competent, but people didn’t particular cotton to her because she tried to fit in. Makes sense — that was going to be her life, and she wanted to make friends, and they weren’t ready for changes to the status quo. On the other hand, I had no stake in the job. I put in my time, was pleasant to everyone, but didn’t try to be friends with anyone. After a month or so, she was not accepted (wouldn’t be accepted for another few weeks), but amoeba-like, the group had absorbed me, the non-threatening one. Ever since, when joining a new group, I don’t try to insinuate myself into the group, but simply be there, be pleasant, and enjoy whatever fellowship comes my way.

I’ve been taking dance classes occasionally with a more advanced group at the studio, one that has been together a long time. I expected a bit of resistance when I was first invited to practice the dances I knew with them, but it didn’t happen. I never tried to be more than I was — a neophyte delighted to be dancing with more advanced students — and they seemed to accept me as such without even a hint of unwelcome. I’m sure if I had tried to push my weight around, things would have been different, but since all I want to do is dance, we’re doing fine.

The same thing happened with group I go walking with. I walked with different people at different times, sometimes talked, sometimes asked questions, listened, and somehow I ended up making a lot of friends.

Other lessons are harder to learn. I’ve always been a bit of a worrier. This tendency might be a genetic pre-disposition since my parents were both worriers and fidgeters, it might be learned behavior, or it might simply be . . . whatever. I’m trying to overcome that tendency to worry, though I will always be aware of potential snags in order to avoid them if possible, but I no longer wish to waste time fretting.

People worry about me and my future, which I appreciate, but I’m not too concerned. I’ll find a way to make money, or maybe money will find a way to me. More importantly, I’m preparing the best I can by learning not to worry. I see how my 97-year-old father frets about the most trivial things, and I don’t want to be like that when I get old. Don’t want to be like that now!

For example, last night he rang his emergency bell, and both my sister and I went running to see what the problem was. The emergency? He had two bottles of Ensure by his bed, one for 1:00 am and one for 7:00 am, but he didn’t have the one he would need sixteen hours later at l:00 pm. Apparently, he’d been lying awake stewing about it, and so in his mind, it became an emergency.

The whole Ensure thing is ridiculous anyway. There is no reason for him to be drinking so much Ensure at night, though he refuses to listen to my sister and me when we tell him that those extra hundreds of sugar calories are what’s keeping him awake. Still, since he is insistent on following his self-imposed schedule, I solved the problem. I now store all his Ensure in his room instead of in the pantry. (He can walk to the pantry, just refuses to do so.) He can set as many bottles as he wants by the side of his bed, and if by chance a bottle is not by his bed when he wants it, he only needs to walk across the room to get it. But it will be by the side of his bed. He will “ensure” that.

When I find myself fretting, I stop and take a deep breath. My worries are for the future, not this minute. And this very minute, I have nothing to fret about.

Lesson learned, perhaps.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Joy of Dancing

While doing our routines in jazz class today, I could feel a huge smile stretching my face, and I thought, “I’m dancing!” Of course, since the realization that I was actually dancing made me lose my focus, I immediately missed a step. Still, it didn’t stop the enjoyment because after all, I’ve only been taking classes for a year, and that makes me very much a neophyte when it comes to dancing.

Dancing.

Even now, simply typing the word, I can feel glee welling up inside me.

Of all the strangenesses in my life during the past few years, falling in love with dance has to be the strangest, though in the nicest possible way.

The poster that hangs above the door of the dance studio

Dancing isn’t something I have ever had much interest in, especially classical dance, partly because I don’t have a good sense of rhythm and am not exactly graceful, so I never thought I could do any sort of choreographed dance. It seemed too complicated, not just learning the steps, but remembering the sequence of those steps and performing them with style. And yet, now I am dancing. Fortunately, a lot of dancing is about counting out the beat, generally counts of eight. . . . five, six, seven, eight. And I can count.

(I was one of those strange children who didn’t daydream, but who counted in her head whenever nothing else was going on up there. Don’t ask me why I counted. I’ve never figured it out, except perhaps there was something comforting about streams of numbers.)

But now I have many reasons to count. Ballet. Jazz. Egyptian Classical Belly Dance. Hawaiian. Tahitian. Tap. And soon, maybe even lyrical jazz. Such magical words!

During all the years of grief, when I had nothing to live for, nothing to bring me ripples of happiness no matter where I traveled or what I tried, I somehow knew only falling in love again could bring me back to life. For some bereft, falling in love with a person is the key. For others, falling in love with life is what brings them a sense of renewal.

I fell in love with dance.

I tell my teacher I owe her more than I can ever repay, and it’s true. She is teaching me not only the steps, but is imparting her own love of dancing, and dancing has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. (Even during the horrific months of dealing with my father’s decline and my brother’s mental problems, dance brought me a safe haven of happiness.)

Today I took a jazz class. Tomorrow, I have Hawaiian, Tahitian, and tap classes. Oh, lucky me!!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Challenges of Looking After an Aged Parent

Taking care of an aged parent is a challenge, with new tests — and testiness — arising every day. The biggest problem, of course, is that the parents want to be babied while giving up none of their parental authority. (They seem to forget that such authority had expired decades previously when we grew up, left home, and developed our own life with our own unique responsibilities.)

rainA friend cautioned me against coming to take care of my father — she knew first hand the challenges I would face. But for the most part, he and I have managed to deal together okay, mostly because I adopted a policy of doing whatever he needed but nothing that he could do for himself. (He wanted me to wait on him like some unpaid servant, or like my mother did for the sixty years they were married.) After his recent hospitalization and an ensuing bout with pneumonia (he refused to sit in a chair or take walks while hospitalized, saying he had patients’ rights, and he had the right to refuse any treatment, so the pneumonia came as no surprise), I’m having a hard time resetting those parameters. He simply won’t do anything for himself, even though he is still strong and reasonably healthy for his age. (He says it tires him. I want to say “get over it,” though I don’t.)

And then there is the problem of the household finances. When he lost his ability to think clearly and keep enough numbers in his head to reconcile his accounts, he turned the household finances over to me.

Sort of.

When he is unwell, everything goes smoothly. He says he trusts me, and that I have permission to arrange matters (and papers) most convenient for me. When he is well, he forgets that trust, rummages around in his desk, puts everything back the way he had it, disarranges my work and makes my to-do list disappear.

Yikes. What a balancing act — letting him think he is still in control while making sure the bills get paid and balky appliances get fixed.

I figure if he’s well enough to mess around with such matters, he’s well enough to get his own meager meals, but he doesn’t see it that way. I try to be patient, realizing it must be hard to be ninety-seven years old and dependent on a daughter, but I also can’t forget that I am that daughter, with a life of my own. I never took a vow of obedience to him. Never signed on to be a servant. I’m just the designated daughter, the unattached one who got stuck with the awkward situation.

I’m hoping in the next week or so things smooth out and I can stop being at his beck and call. Well, I will stop — that’s a given. I just don’t know how that will sit with him.

And so it continues, my paying the wages of daughterhood.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Invoking the Spirits

There is a restless spirit in my father’s house, where my sister and I are staying to care for him.

We think this spirit is my father’s. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in living, doesn’t particularly want to die. He is very agitated, doesn’t much want to do anything except sleep and drink Ensure, though he does get out of bed occasionally when a good golf game is on television.

This spirit could be our own spent spirits — taking care of someone who neither wants to live or die is exhausting, especially since he won’t do anything for himself, even though he is stronger than he thinks.

This spirit could even be my mother’s. My sister sometimes senses mother’s spirit here along with another ghost, though she doesn’t know who that other spirit is, perhaps someone from my father’s past. She wonders if the spirits are gathering in anticipation of my father’s end. Since I am not convinced anything conscious remains after we die, I don’t know what to think.

Still, tonight my sister and I did an invocation of the spirits — ours and our mother’s. Since she loved Bailey’s Irish Cream, we got a bottle in her honor, raised our glasses to her and asked her help in settling my father’s spirit.

(We only poured a little for her, but we told her if she drank it, we’d give her more.)

And if  this invocation doesn’t work, well, we have the rest of the bottle of Irish spirits to imbibe to bring peace of a sort to ourselves. I’m not much of a drinker, have had perhaps one drink in the past four or five years, but since this is a spiritual quest, I will do my part in finishing the bottle.

So, if you have any Bailey’s Irish Cream on hand (or if you need an excuse to buy a small bottle), please raise a glass in my parents’ honor.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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