Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The Tin Man
I'm feeling just like I did a little over a year ago when Michael died. I don't know what to say, or what to do, or even what to think. I have basically spent the whole day sitting here in a fog. I have tried to entertain myself with this computer, and busy myself with laundry, gardening and making dinner, but these things didn't change my frame of mind. I found that each of these activities busied my body, and allowed some needed things to get done, but I did them almost mechanically.
I sometimes look at myself when I am in this state, and think of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I have to be careful to not develop a hard exterior, and I can get rusty and stuck at times. Every movement on days such as this feel so deliberate. It reminds me of how Michael's mobility had changed in his last month of life. Each day his brain was disconnecting the hard wiring necessary for his movable parts to work. A simple step forward required extreme concentration, and often needed personal coaching as well. Because he could only walk if I was there to stabilize him, and to tell him what his brain no longer could.
Lift up your left leg, yes, this one. Move it forward, and put your foot back down on the floor. Now shift your weight and lift your right leg, yes this one, and put that foot down on the floor.
His movements had taken on the characteristics of a robot, or mechanical Tin Man. His biggest fear was also coming true, as his mind was slowly fading away. At times when he looked straight ahead his eyes would have a hollow quality to them. I would then engage him, verbally telling him what I thought he would want to hear, and would want to say.
You are doing fine Michael. You don't need to worry, because I am here. I won't let you fall, and I won't let you lose your pride. You look handsome, and I can see that you love me. I love you so much, and I want you to know that you continue to give me so much love. I am a very lucky man. I am going to be here every minute, and I won't let anything hurt you. You are safe, and you are loved.
About then his right hand would reach out for me. It would tug slightly at me. I would help it guide me toward his face.
Yes, Michael. What do you want me to know?
He would be saying something, but the sounds didn't always form words.
I have to guess what you are saying Michael. Your words are sounding different than my words right now. If you are saying that you love me, then I am saying thank you.
I would then reach down and firmly kiss him. His right arm would try to reach around me, so I would guide it once again. I would let his hand feel my face, then lay it on my lap, or move it across my back. His stare would become more intense, and I would once again remind him of my love.
At the time he was being pulled away from me, and I was giving him permission to go if he needed to. My focus was solely on him, and making sure his attempts at communication were met with some kind of acknowledgement by me. Inside I was breaking apart, but on the outside I was holding firm. Together we made up a whole man. There was no separation at that point. There was no him without me. And, there was no me without him.
When Michael died he took part of me with him, just as I kept part of him with me. His last breath is still within me, and I can sometimes hear it whistling, whirring, or moaning just like the sound of air moving through a large deep metal container. It reminds me that I am still a bit hollow, and that my broken heart is capturing some of the vibrations of Michael's breath. At times I feel empty, and at other times the sound resonating within me can sound like the music of a wind instrument.
I know that I need to spend this time in tears, and that I need to also carry an oil can so that I don't get so rusty that I am no longer able to move. Each day, and each movement within it, will take considerable effort and purposeful steps forward. Eventually the sun will again begin to shine, and I will be less at risk of becoming completely overcome by a rusty exterior.
"When a man's an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I'm torn apart.
Just because I'm presumin' that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart."