Monday, March 15, 2010

While I'm on the Subject of My Dad...

Last night I blubbered and babbled, today I've accepted that it feels good to finally miss My Dad.
He truly was one of my best friends. We went to sporting events, played golf and loved to find dive bars to drink beer. He confided in me, even way back in 8th grade when he thought My Mom was having an affair. She so wasn't, but our bond grew ever stronger over Arby's beef and cheese sandwiches that night. For the last 20 years we lived in different states, but still talked almost daily. We even watched a World War II documentary by phone together. He'd show me his ship and recall side stories as we watched. It was always safe to call past midnight, especially if it was to watch a replay of a great move during a good game or to chuckle over a guest on a late night talk show. I drew the line at boxing. He watched it nightly. I watch it never.
It might sound a little weird that we were that close, but honestly, he was that fun. For a respectful grown man that was active in the church and a number of civic organizations, when he let loose with his daughters, he became a silly, wise cracking, make-you-cry-from-laughing, practical joking big brother.
In fact, My Mom used to always say she had three kids. Myself, my sister and My Dad. I'll be honest with you -- she did. He instigated far more in terms of trouble making than we ever did.

So imagine the mystery of My Mother suddenly becoming the fun loving, singing, dancing, actress, jokester person that's come to live with me. There are days I feel like I have to check my sanity. Moments I'm convinced My Dad is somehow reincarnated in her. If I think about it too much, it's down right freaky.
People always ask if My Mom was always so good natured and outgoing and honestly, the answer is no. During the recession of the 70's she went back to work at Chrysler and became the bread winning, meal making, clean the house, overworked lady that would eventually watch tv on the couch with us when she could finally unwind at the end of her very long day. I don't want to make it sound like My Dad didn't help out -- he did more than his share too, he just liked to play in between. While he goofed around and wrestled on the floor with us when we were little, My Mother always played the part of steadfastly sophisticated. She more or less remained that way until just a few years ago.

This weekend I saw a news story that likely explains the behavior shift. After a brain aneurysm, an average man became a talented artist, literally overnight. Brain damage affected his frontal lobe, the area of the brain that causes inhibition -- or in his case, the lack there of.
The definition of inhibition in his case meant expressing himself freely without a care over what people thought of his work. The results aren't always as positive. For the general population, losing inhibition can manifest itself from something as simple as setting a table twice because you don't understand it's already set -- to displaying shocking x-rated inappropriate sexual behavior. When I heard that, I thought, hey, that's the same types of behaviors exhibited in many Alzheimer's patients. Tonight I did a little on line research and confirmed that indeed, many dementia patients suffer from damage to the frontal lobe area. My Mom surely must. She's almost as lucky as the artist. The damage in her brain apparently allows her to live freely and have fun. (Actually, I'm the lucky one -- super thankful she doesn't participate in some of the wildly inappropriate behavior I've heard about!) So far, it's all G-rated. I think she's always wanted to be more expressive, but with the stress of a late in life family, a staunch upbringing and living in the shadow of My Dad, she just never found a way to let her more outgoing personality break through. Until now.
These days you can't stop her. In front of anyone she'll sing, dance, act, tease and laugh. She loves to laugh.

You can't help but wonder if she's reverting back to behavior from her childhood or truly breaking out of her shell for the first time at 88. The reality is it doesn't matter because I'll never know. Luckily having fun is a big part of my genetic makeup, so I'm on board with the childlike behavior and, if it's okay to admit, My Mom's new found silly antics sure soften the blow of missing My Dad.

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