The Summer Show 7/22/20

Depression by Richard Bleil

For those who are keeping track, a quick update about my father. While no information was provided to me by my family, there are only a few hospice facilities near my father, so tonight I decided to give it a try. I called what I assume is the largest service and spoke with his nurse.

I thanked her profusely for her service. I know that nursing is not easy. It’s a thankless job, and they certainly don’t get the respect they deserve. It must take a special heart to want to do that, and I imagine that hospice is just that much worse.

Knowing my father as I do, I really doubt that he wants to speak with me, especially in his current condition. He had several years to reach out to me, and on top of that, he’s a very private person. But, according to his nurse, they are managing his pain, he is alert, but doesn’t say much. So, I know she has the right patient. So, he’s comfortable, but of course, she couldn’t say much. I left my name (she didn’t even know he had a son) and phone number, and told her that if he wants to call, or if he doesn’t, it’s up to him and fine either way. The ball is in his court, and he can do whatever he wants.

It’s the best I can do.

The summer months are always tough on me, though. I have been thinking about my ex-wife a lot lately, then it occurred to me that we were married on July 20. We were separated in June, and the divorce was finalized in August. I lost two jobs in the summer, and my mother died in August, now it looks like my father’s death will fit neatly into this summer cluster that I have been building.

My summer, for a very long time, has been filled with memories and demons. A few days ago I mentioned the band Calamine, which I enjoy very much because I love the lead singers voice, I love the flow of their song rhythms and their lyrics strike me. In their song “Flicker”, they sing “you sit around and contemplate the things that you might say if she calls, she’s never gonna call.”

I don’t understand why it is that my mind goes over and over things that have happened, what I should have said or done differently, what went wrong. I analyze my actions and criticize myself far more harshly than pretty much anybody else would.

Do you remember that old saying from your parents, “you may have gotten away with it, but I’m sure that your own conscience…” Yeah…that’s me.

I’m guessing I’m not alone with this affliction. I have no advice for those who, like me, struggle with this. It seems as if these voices (or “demons” as I like to call them) are loudest at night. Sometimes to quiet them I’ll watch movies way too late into the night. This helps a bit, but not enough.

Usually it starts with just remembering some event that was very hurtful for me, like when, as dean, my faculty asked to meet with me, but when I showed up, the provost and another dean were present. What I was hoping would be an open conversation felt like an ambush and an inquisition. The provost and other dean didn’t participate, actually not saying a word and my faculty hurled angry questions at me regarding decisions, such as the loss of faculty positions, that were made above my pay grade (actually made by the provost who was only present to take notes to use against me). These memories evolve from the pain of the event, and to my responses and actions, mainly what I did wrong. I think about, for example, when my father would use racist terms, even after I asked him to stop. In fact, he would pick up the racist commentary and terminology just because he then knew that it bothered me. That then evolves into thinking about things that I should have said or done differently, like when my sister would accuse me of not visiting enough during my visits and yelling at me when in fact, she never visited me. In my mind, these conversations would turn to that old game of “what I should have said is…”

The upshot of this is that I would replay these painful events from my professional, family and personal life over and over again. The scars hurt more and are refreshed throughout the process. And I end up feeling worse than ever.

I call them “episodes”, because my mind hooks onto a single event as it reviews every detail, every insult, every injustice. I think about why I was the target, and if I should have done something differently. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going through what feels like all of them. I wish there was a woman with me, somebody I could cuddle up with and help me replace these painful memories with happy ones. But I don’t. That’s just, well, it’s the way it is. I guess it’s how it has to be.

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