Down Time


We take down time where we can get it. Whether it is typing up these thoughts next to Dad as he sleeps, trying to get some air/activity around lunch time, or coming home at the end of the night, it is difficult to find solace or equilibrium. The drive back from dropping Carly and Alexis off at the San Jose airport was like a drug. One and a half hours in which nothing was expected or needed of me. In which it was gloriously, physically impossible for me to be at the hospital. I stopped at a shitty strip mall Starbucks in Morgan Hill and basked in the anonymity. I didn’t know anyone; they didn’t know me. They had no clue that my father was sleeping (or raving) in a hospital bed miles away, tubes stuck up his nose and into his veins. I thought, “I could make a life here. Just live at this Starbucks til the end of my days, forget that any of this happened.”

Music has been hugely important to me during this period (and of course all periods of my life). I’ve fixated on a handful of albums in particular: “Carrie and Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens, “Currents” by Tame Impala, and “Ivywild” by Night Beds. “Carrie and Lowell” is very directly about grief and pain but a more subtle streak of terror/confusion runs through the Tame Impala album. Both albums remind me that there is something positive, possibly transcendent, that can come out of trauma. At night, exiting the hospital past the Koi pond and the cafe and out into the roiling Central California fog, I would exhale deeply, relax my shoulders, look at the sky, hop into the family’s Honda Civic, turn on the heat, roll down the windows, press play, crank the volume knob to the right until it broke off, and drive — one arm out the window, shaking hands with the wind and the unfeeling dark.

During lunch breaks, I lace up my running shoes and go down to the path along Scenic that skirts the beach. The ocean is opalescent and still and gloriously indifferent to my life and its current mania. I start out slow, rusty, creaky. My knees do not appreciate the 15 pounds I’ve put on this year. Oblivious tourists pass me on the dirt path. Thoughts race and then slow. I begin to hit a rhythm. Stretch the limbs. The joints pop and buckle. The flesh sings. My ribs expand. Hearts flutter beat fail. My face in Alexis’s hair; my hand on her belly. The sun on my face. The sky ecstatic with light. My father’s big brain fried and served up on a plate. My mother broken but unbowed. The earth spinning. Andrew, the son, Andrew, the brother, the father, spinning.


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