There has been criticism in some media and social media quarters over the avalanche of U.S. media reporting on the November 13 Paris massacres. Pointed to especially has been the comparatively far lesser coverage of the November 12 Beirut suicide blasts, in which over 40 were killed. The disparity between the two has prompted accusations that Americans simply don’t care nearly as much about mayhem in Beirut as they do about mayhem in Paris:
I’m not going to try to defend a difference in newspaper column inches and cable TV air time between the two horrors. Rather I will attempt briefly to address what is probably the basis for it. A personal experience came to my mind.
Late on Thursday, I had driven my father and sister back to his Pennsylvania house (a 2 and 1/2 hour trip). Yesterday I came back here to the Catskills. I have been so stressed out in the last month over the death of my uncle and especially my mother, I wanted to be alone here in my own house for a few days…. and listen to music, watch the occasional deer, and stare at the scenery:
But that didn’t mean I’d cut myself off completely. Last night, I was chatting with a cousin on the phone. We were discussing my mother and my uncle, and their deaths, and remembering family, such as our grandparents.
Suddenly my wife messaged me – from ENGLAND – asking had I seen what was happening in Paris?
This morning I’m driving my now widower father, and my 44 year old sister (she lived with my parents, and so now lives with my father: let’s please not go there right now), up to our (my wife and mine’s – and I know that’s ungrammatical, but I don’t care right now) place in the Catskills for a few days.
We probably don’t have to do this, but I desperately want to. Dad agreed. He needs a different view and I think he knows that.
And I have to get the hell away for a while from this (my now late mother’s) October 26 place of death. Increasingly, I can’t bear this f-cking house. I never wanted them to move here to Pennsylvania (it’s not about PA itself; but let’s not go there either right now), and my late mother is “everywhere” here still, of course.
I was messaging with my “chocolate cake delivering” cousin last evening. She’s feeling exceptionally down about her Dad and my mother. Obviously, I’m shattered about my mother and saddened about her father, too. Going back and forth helps a little bit, I suppose.
I’ve had to leave my phone on “airplane mode” overnights in recent weeks, because it was buzzing with messages and well-wishes in the middle of the U.S. night. All were well-intentioned, of course, and REALLY appreciated by me…. but just not necessarily at 3 o’clock in the morning! (European friends and relations, yes, I’m looking at you! :-) )
We’ve settled into a daily routine of helping look after my cancer-stricken mother. Unless something goes amiss, the days are now pretty predictable. But when something does go awry, it can create minor panic.
Yesterday, when Mom’s oxygen was inexplicably not flowing, my father started to “lose it.” I had to step in and reassure him, “Easy. Let’s check it carefully….” All the lights were on indicating correct functionality.
It turned out the line had been loose at the connection on the machine.
* * *
In other tech news, naturally the four year old (that’s right, four) G.E. dishwasher gave up about three weeks ago – before we got here and before her cancer diagnosis. $450 to fix, minimum, the repair guy said; better to buy a new one. “We call G.E. short for ‘generally expensive,'” he added.
Visiting my parents is at times like stepping back into a slower, simpler time. They prefer to use cash. They still write checks. They still do bills by mail.
While they do occasionally buy from Amazon and other online retailers, when it comes to MAJOR APPLIANCES they still go pretty traditional. At least my father does. I’d tried to help him buy a new dishwasher online, but he insisted on going to “old reliable” in person for a replacement.
Little new to report on my mother’s cancer. The hospice people come in and out of my parents’ house, checking on her, and offering what help and support they can. I don’t think I need to say that it is emotionally devastating to be able to do nothing but sit by and watch your mother – in a hospital bed positioned in her former dining room – so sick and slowly fading away before your eyes.
The best way I can describe how it feels to care for someone you know inevitably will die? It is a sense of being completely trapped. You know that no matter what you do, ultimately it will be futile.
Yes, sometimes there are smiles, but all you see ahead of you is darkness. Your days are spent knowing you will be clearing up urine again. Or you will try to get her to roll over on her side to avoid bedsores. Or you will slip the nebulizer mask over her nose to try to help her breathe a little easier. Or you hope she’ll eat something.
You look for a way to divert your thoughts when you can manage it. I happened to notice that my mother keeps some of my late grandfather’s books shelved in a lounge cabinet. He was an avid reader and had a wide collection I’d always admired. I have a few of his books already, but what I don’t have is the series of “great literature” that was beautifully hardback published in – wait for it – 1936:
Among the 20 volumes is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays. I had never read Emerson extensively, but find I spend the evenings with it. Reading works like those causes you as a writer to sit back and lament, “What could I possibly hope to write about anything that would even fractionally add to, or build upon, the likes of this?”
Hello! Made it! Woke up in the dark here in the Catskills – still feeling on U.K. time.
Just had a coffee in my favorite mug, which sat in the cupboard waiting all these months….
“I cannot live without books.” That is an actual Thomas Jefferson quote. Yes, a real one.
We flew into Newark airport yesterday afternoon.
Boarding at Heathrow, in our row sat – of all things – a 60ish Australian lawyer who’d been to the Australia dismantlement of England at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday night. He was heading to New York, he’d said, because Australia wasn’t playing again for a while. He had decided to “hop over” to the U.S. for a week before flying back to England for the next match.
Ah, trying to keep a secret when there’s Facebook…. and novelist uncles who forget and post things to your wall that you had made absolutely clear to him you didn’t want all of your family and close friends to know.