Monday, December 10, 2018

Engaging, entertaining and a bit uncomfortable

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, will hold your interest. That's noteworthy considering the subject matter: a misanthropic, underemployed writer resorts to plagiarism to pay the bills. No romance, no car chases. It does have a very cool soundtrack and a rather daring central performance by Melissa McCarthy as real-life author Lee Israel.

And bad housekeeping and cats.

I'm not a lesbian and I don't drink as much as Lee, and I don't recall anyone ever complaining that my home has smelled, but ... I got home to my cluttered and dusty apartment, saw my suitcase in the living room where it's been since November 1, and clucked at myself. Then I took a nap.

Really. Next week, I'm going to do some housework. Honest to God!

First Henry, then Reg

Henry is recovering. He is. But it's not an easy journey. On the positive side of the ledger: his dear, empathetic side is re-emerging. For a while after his accident, he was maddeningly self involved. He didn't care about how his accident affected those who love him most -- not even the confused dogs he doted on. This past week, he called me to ask me how my Big Presentation went. That thoughtful gesture was so Henry, and it's a huge indicator of improvement. He's also more reality based. He shared some lurid delusions while in the hospital. Those are over.

On the negative side: he's obsessed with the moment of impact (which he doesn't remember) and keeps insisting he never had a head injury. He's like a dog with a dirty sock. "The witnesses are lying," "the driver was drunk or distracted," "I was 'clear as a bell,'" "if I had this brain injury like they say, why don't I have any bruises or scars on my face or scalp?"

It's wearying to sit on the phone and listen to this. Over and over. I have told him I refuse to treat him like a child, and that if I challenge him, it's because he's an intelligent man and my equal. So, Henry --

•  WHY would the witnesses lie? What's in it for them?
•  If the driver was drunk or distracted, why not hire a lawyer? (Said with complete confidence that no lawyer would take this case)
•  Your blood alcohol is part of your hospital record
•  You were in a coma for two weeks, and during that time the superficial scratches on your head healed

Over and over, every time we talk. And he calls me all the time. I'm ashamed to admit that if he calls before 9:00 AM or after 10:00 PM, I don't pick up.

I always reassure him that I love him. That I am on his side. That I cannot imagine how terrifying it is to lose two weeks to a coma, based on a cataclysmic event he can't even remember. I tell him that I know how hard his life has been over the last two years -- he lost two close friends and his writing partner, he survived Irma and worried about his family suffering through Maria, and now this. I've been with him through those traumas, so I know. My heart is with him.

After I hang up, Reg reliably calls. He wants to "set the record straight," which really isn't necessary. I know Henry had a traumatic brain injury. I know he was at fault in this accident. But Reg wants to talk.

Today he advised me not to talk to Henry about the accident or the hospital anymore. I almost laughed out loud. I did say, "You know, I'm not the one calling him to discuss it. It's the other way around." If I never again have one of these flights of fancy conversations with Henry about those events, I'll be fucking delighted!

But Reg is Henry's husband. He is in charge of Henry's care. And so from now on, I will try to deftly change the subject when Henry brings up the collision and the hospital.

Still, after the two calls today, three hours had gone by. I was exhausted.

I must focus on the positive. In less than two weeks, I'll be down in Key West for Christmas. I have told both Henry and Reg and that I plan on spending a few hours each afternoon or evening in their home. Reading with Henry, having lunch or dinner, watching movies ... Everything low key. I don't want to commit to spending all day or all evening in case Henry gets tired, and I don't want him to feel like my host. But I insist we will celebrate Henry's birthday and Christmas. I am bringing that normalcy with me.

Henry is going to get well. I've seen evidence of it. And I want him to remember this time in his life as not all bad.

Look at me! I'm Santa's Helper!

I've been so preoccupied with Henry's recovery* that I have let some holiday traditions slide by the wayside. Like giving. So Sunday I got on it.

Lawrence. I live next door to a children's home, where kids live while awaiting placement in foster care. It also offers childcare for a sliding scale to working parents who can't afford any other option. To help these kids enjoy a little tangible Christmas cheer, the home decorates the tree at Whole Foods. Each paper ornament has the name/age of a child and what they'd like to receive at their Christmas party. For some of these kids, it will be the only present they receive.

Perusing the ornaments, I saw that gift cards are big this year. Walmart, Amazon and McDonald's, specifically. I get it. I bet when you're little it feels very grown up to go into a store (or to a site) and be able to choose whatever you want and pay for it yourself. But I don't want to do that. I don't want Santa to hand "my kid" an envelope. I want the big guy to hand over a gift.

So I was drawn to Lawrence. Age 6. Because he asked for clothes. And not specific athletic shoes, like some of the boys did. Just "shirts and jeans." Unless he's a burgeoning fashionista, he must really need those clothes. So I went to Old Navy and got him a heavy shawl-collared sweater and a pair of jeans. Then there's Cha-Cha-Chihuahua. It's a game I picked up last summer when a local  toy seller went out of business. I think Lawrence needs it.

One of my agency's clients is a certain fast food giant that gives away toys with their kids meals. Last summer, when we were packing up for our move, I rescued a bag of these toys from the dumpster. So Lawrence is getting a little Minions holiday train, too. Isn't a Christmas party better than a landfill?

Toys for Tots. I love this organization, because it breaks my heart to think of a kid disappointed by Santa. So this year I'm donating a "Mighty Muggs" Star Wars action figure, a bathtime baby doll, a sticker craft set, an oversized Christmas picture book and a special edition Sponge Bob Uno game. I've been picking these things up all year, whenever I see toys on sale, so it didn't tax my budget in the least. If you'd like to donate to Toys for Tots, click here.

My baggy project. I want to take what I learned from my relationship with Napoleon, Caleb and Randi and put it to good use. So I'm filling little sandwich bags with stuff intended to make the day of a homeless person a bit more merry and bright. So far each has a packet of tissues, a travel-sized hand lotion and an apple/cinnamon breakfast bar (the red wrapper is Christmasy) and a dollar bill. I always knew that the homeless needed money, but Randi taught me that it's important to remember that they aren't "just" homeless people, but people, too. Everyone enjoys little surprises at Christmastime.

It's beginning to feel a bit more like Christmas.

*More on that above.