Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Three Story Life: Backstory

We move about our lives in the history of our experience, like the classic suit in the closet we don't think about, no longer wear, but have not abandoned. Knowledge we can get if we're intellectually curious. We can knead awareness like physic dough, but the ingredients that made us are still there. Change can help us grow; the yeast of chaos delivered to our cupboard. Two conversations in an hour yesterday made me try to put that old classic suit on again. My father has 86 years of history and experience. I have no idea, and never will, what his life means to him, beyond what he shares in anecdotes, and what I can discern from reactions to events. He has no idea what my experience has made of me either. My brother may still be absorbing everyday events, but Alzheimer's disease has changed the interactions for the three of us. Dad wants it the way it was before. Scott wants the relationship to change. I need to adapt to the now with agility. Three individuals. One living with Alzheimer's, one living in the past, and me trying to make it all work harmoniously. Does how we came to this point matter? What defines who we are? The first conversation yesterday started early with Dad showing me the long sheet of details about the antidepressant Scott is on - the side effects that we're seeing in Scott. That's easy. We need a change in prescription. But Dad relayed stories about Scott's behavior that told me he's still trying to control his son. He picked up the sheet on the medication to read it because he wants a change to make Scott follow his orders. Scott, for the first time, is shaking off the control. Dad doesn't like it. What's my role? I told Dad for the thousandth time that we can only offer Scott safety and joy. He's done being trained. Get the medication changed, hope for a better outcome, and let the rest go. My backstory doesn't help me at all now. I hated my parents complete domination. I got out from under it, fought for dominion over my own experience, succeeded some, lost some. And here I am back in it. I can handle my own parental stuff, but Scott never did get away. Am I cheering his tiny steps for independence as a loving sister, or as a champion of freedom for myself? The second conversation yesterday was with a dear friend about affirmative action. Chaos delivered the newspaper headline to our talk, and my companion thinks it is time to abandon preferential legislation. I understand that constitutionally the argument is valid. My backstory is woman experience, starting with being the daughter of a sexually abused daughter; earning less for decades, counseling to get a grip, fighting to gain the ground I did, trying to help sisters up. I have strong feelings and history on this subject. It's my old classic suit. And I got angry yesterday, and suppressed it until later. The anger was a reasonable reaction, but now I'm questioning my feelings again. I'm mighty confused. Does it matter that my father wants to control his child, my brother? I don't know. Can I contribute anything healing and constructive? Why did a disagreement about affirmative action affect me so much? I don't know that either. I have the child story, sibling story, and adult senior woman story. Which serves me best? What helps my loved ones? And when the hell will I get rid of that old classic suit that used to fit but no longer does?

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