no talkin’ brie

19 08 2008

They aren’t exactly Irish twins but 18 months difference between kids sets the stage for some interesting dynamics- The firstborn was quiet, brooding, mysterious…someone once accused me of leaving him in the crib all day just because he was happy and didn’t need to be entertained. So if the kid was content – why move him? There are four years between me and my closest sibling so I understood the concept of individual play and necessary space. But that second one was always looking to live fully engaged in community – as if she’d been born onto the set of the music video for “Let’s Get This Party Started”.

Her first step onto the stage embraced every ounce of joie de vivre. It took him a while to adjust to the new force in his universe. It was like having a gypsy dancer twirling around him at all times. Colorful and graceful but sometimes just not what he was looking for. She wasn’t deliberately looking to annoy or pester – she was just being who she is designed to be. I don’t think he was more than four years old when his famous words came out with a force that surprised us all – when he’d had all he could take and needed more head space for figuring out a Lego construction designed for someone twice his age – he exclaimed with all the exasperation a mini could muster – “no talkin’ Brie!” So 20 years hence – it is now the code in our household for, “I need space – quiet the chatter – you are suffocating me!”

I’ve thought of that so many times as we are trying now to adjust to Billy’s present reality. One of the things that happens at the end days of life – one will hallucinate or have conversations with others that preceded them in death. Generally these are private conversations as the person is doing the work of preparation for the afterlife…the body is still here talking but the spirit and soul have a foot in the other world. Some people understand it all intuitively – others don’t. But there are those who feel that these conversations are an attempt on Billy’s part to communicate…so before you know it there is hovering and hollering. “What did he say?”

I couldn’t have any more vivid reminder of this than as I sit here typing. While my mom and I are in his darkened hospice room waiting for his bathing aides to arrive and bother the heck out of him, my brother just stepped out to stretch out on a couch in the family room and to watch a dvd. My mom is in a recliner closest to the bed working through her book for word scrambles. My dad has been sleeping since dealing with a number of visitors this morning. People have come in and he’s slept right through. And as I was sitting here working on this very theme…with my eyes on my computer screen, he yells out in a loud voice from deep within his gut- “WHAT?”. My mom levitated off the chair – half way to her feet – leaning in to see what is going on…and his eyes are closed and seemingly hasn’t moved a muscle. My heart is still racing with instant RedBull in my veins. Sweet Jesus – what was that all about? We’ll never know.

There are so many similarities between the beginning and end of life. Picture your first visit to see a newborn sleeping in it’s nursery…tiptoe in, hushed tones, barely moving a muscle. But sometimes in this space what we have is the total opposite…as if we were at a Cubs game hawking down the hot dog vendor! I keep having to restrain myself from whacking people upside the head. I’d be hard pressed to know of too many new mothers that would think it cool for you to walk into that nursery, get in that baby’s face and do the Broadway stage whisper till the baby opened its eyes. Is it just me or does this not make an ounce of sense? Let’s invite 10 people to stand into the baby’s room and chat it up about life while the baby tries to drift off to sleep…that’s not gonna happen.

So I am thinking of advocating for hospice bodyguards…people with a certain kind of energy (and yes I mean that in all the zen- yoga-chi-chakra reality) that set the stage for how to let someone die in PEACE. I want to take my magic wand hands and run them over each individual that comes to visit just like airport security and check them at the door. With my xray ability I will pull them aside and rid them of negativity, excessive drama, too much chipperness, raw sentimentality, crazy ass voices and anything else I deem unfit to be in the presence of my dying father. When your dad dies, you’ll get a chance to choose your own way and your own tone. It’ll be your stage to set.

I don’t blame people because it is normal for us to want to have some significant interaction with people that we love dearly who are soon to be gone. We want quippy last words, we want an endearing look, we want to know that we have been special in the life of that person or to tell them how about the impact they have had on our lives. But what I imagined end of life to be and what it is…or at least in this case seems to be taking it’s own unique course. Billy was never a betting man…but dimes to donuts – he’s waiting till everyone leaves him well enough alone before he checks out.

I’m gonna get lipstick and write across his forehead, “No MORE TALKIN’!”