on tuesday afternoon i described my looming depression to the poetess as an invitation to lie in a coffin buried underground for an indeterminate amount of time, vampire style without risk of dying. on tuesday evening i received a text message from my brother that our father’s precarious week and a half stay in the intensive care unit at the hospital continues to decline. most likely i’ll have to choose my father’s literal coffin before i step into my metaphorical one.
depression has been fogging the edges of my world for several months. without resisting this depression (because resistance will only provoke the depression to sink me deeper, longer, and darker), i’ve politely requested the depression to please wait until i move into my new home in philadelphia before it unhinges its jaws to swallow me whole. i’ve promised to honor its slow slinking inertia and its insomnia or oversleeping, whichever it offers. i’ll allow depression to drop me deep inside myself, deep underground, deep down-down-down until this depression releases me to float back into the light.
by welcoming this depression with rules of engagement, i’m trying something i’ve never done before. i’m applying new methods to all areas of my life. in the past i’ve experienced two types of depression: the classic low-energy muted-emotion passive version and an active self-destructive danger-seeking self-inflicted violence. of the two versions, the classic gray version of depression appeals to my older, wiser, willing self.
yesterday was the second time i’ve seen dad in the past 17 years. i look like him. i never forget that i look like him, but until i was looking at his face yesterday, i didn’t realize that he and i have been looking at the same face in the mirror all these years we haven’t looked at each other. in that moment i understood that the reason i don’t like looking in the mirror is that his face looks back at me. his face is my face. as a kid i was terrified of him. as an adult i’ve been afraid of my thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that resulted from coping with the abuse he blasted into me. i’ve been too afraid of everything related to my father to love my face, his face, in the mirror. i spent an hour looking at his face yesterday while standing next to his bed holding his cold pale bloated hand in restraints. because my father’s violence and aggression accompanied him into the intensive care unit, the doctor ordered his sedation and restraints to protect the staff. i wish someone had restrained him when i was a kid.
i felt safe going to see him because i knew he was sedated and restrained. i went to see him because he’s dying, because i won’t have another chance to stand bravely before him. before yesterday, the last time i saw him i cowardly ran from him. i wanted to change my last time with him by making a new last time. i went to see him so that i could tell him that i love him, i forgive him, he can safely let go. no one else is going to tell him that it’s okay to let go. i’m the only one.
there was a moment when i misspoke and told him that he did okay. i immediately corrected myself by admitting that he royally bungled everything, but it doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s over, and he’s safe to go. i tried leaving three times before i was able to walk away from him. i kept turning back, reaching for his restrained hand, looking at his face that looks just like mine, breathing with the machine that breathes for him, and letting him go. it’s okay. it’s over. it’s time to let go.