The Arbor Vitae 2013

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RED TAPE

September 4, 2013

Tags: Rosh Hashana, red tape, ipod

My mother in 1956
Every year as I prepare the traditional Sephardic Rosh Hashana foods, ritual and celebration float on an undertow of sadness, for my father died on the second eve of Rosh Hashana at the age of 63. This year the undertow I try so hard to ignore spills out into everything. My mother at 99 is in the last stages of vascular dementia, and in the midst of overwhelming emotional distress, my holiday preparations are constantly interrupted and infiltrated by the minutiae and Kafkaesque contortions of attempting to disentangle the mess of red tape that surrounds her care. This is not a tale of two cities, but the schizophrenia of living in two worlds.
My vibrant beautiful mother endures the remnant of life that remains to her, lost deep into herself, eyes closed, hunched in her wheelchair, her right hand feverishly tapping a rhythm only she understands, music from my old ipod leading her feet in a barely remembered beat, a subconscious memory of dancing and joy and the music of hope.
My brother, my sister, and I circle the wagons, faster and faster, anxious, desperately pursuing the status quo of her care, hacking daily at the tangled yards of red tape that emprison her in an uncertainty to which she is oblivious.
We are old, ourselves. At 99, people have old children. Every day we try to be the spouses, parents and grandparents we are, and to forget for rare moments that we are still children, her children, needed and loved, loving and lost. We search anxiously for laughter and sleep, moments of sanity. Red tape consumes us. We hold her comfort as carefully in our hands as she held us when we were babies, and we journey stubbornly with her to the elusive end to her life through wildernesses of frustration and emotional debris, paying the price of love.

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