June 24, 2007

Life messes with us. Life speaks volumes in both the simple and profound ways it plays with our every day. The stories I try to tell are part of that passion play…part of that most important mechanism of creativity….telling the stories of humanity…with the drama, transitions, transformations, daily nuances and ultimately pain, sadness and loss.

This is not the kind of blog entry I ever imagined making when I started this 10 months ago, but events of the past week have compelled me to share this personal story.

This week I returned from a grueling 6 week trip to India and Italy. Within two days of returning home to my family and studio, I also reentered the world of caregiving. My 84 year old father-in-law, Herbie, has dementia and has been living with us for over a year. This situation was the basis for the multimedia story that Julie Winokur, my wife, and I produced last year called the Sandwich Generation.

It now appears Herbie is rejecting his daytime caregiver. She is a lovely woman who has been with him for two years, feeding him, taking him to doctors appointments, dates with friends, washing him, shaving him, sitting idly by for hours while he napped, watched TV, etc. It’s very sad and disturbing to see this downturn in his cognition and the impact on us is profound. Herbie is a very sweet and easy man, so it’s surprising to see him turn against someone like this. I think he is taking his frustrations out on her because she represents his increasing neediness, mental decline and lack of freedom.

What prompted this journal entry was this…one day last week while Herbie was out on a walk down with his caregiver, he refused to return home with his her. She didn’t know what to do and called us at our studio. I volunteered to return home to deal with the situation. After all, Julie had been home for six weeks holding down the fort so it was my duty this time. Once I arrived on the scene, there he was wobbling on his shaky legs, standing in the midday sun, adament about not wanting her to touch him or be near him. After about thirty minutes, I finally coaxed him to walk home so we could get him a cold drink and cleaned up. It was disturbing and quite sad.

Simultaneously, I got into a rage with my 12 year old son for not helping us out because he was too involved in his video game. I hate these video games and the way they are capturing the minds of our youth, making even the most sensitive among them, zombies to their immediate worlds and the people around them. I figured his touch and smile would make Herbie calm down. All my son could conjure up was a 20 second visit before bounding back upstairs to his video game…where he killed who knows how many more people.

I ended the day beaten, tired and feeling very sorry for myself. But all that dissolved upon hearing the shocking and sad news about a colleague, Alexandra Boulat, who that day had suffered a brain aneurism while working in Ramallah, in the West Bank. She had been taken to an Israeli hospital, endured a five hour operation and the last I heard was stabilized in an induced coma. As you can imagine, my self pity and worries were rendered meaningless in light of this jarring news. Here was a great photographer in her 40’s, far too young to have her lifeforce and creativity sucked out from her. Here I was with my life full and ahead of me, albeit complicated.

How do we deal with this circumstances. How do we recover and carry on. I see so much misery and loss in my work. Yet my life endures with its daily preoccupations and obsessions about parenting, accomplishment, maintaining my marriage, my friendships, managing my studio….everything that makes my life full and meaningful. And then a day of hiccups with my son and father-in-law, as disturbing and sad as they may be, become pointless in light of Alex’s news. Or maybe more accurately, they are placed into proper perspective by the news of a respected colleague, who could also be me, possibly struck down in the middle of her vibrant life.

Anyone who reads this, please take a moment out of your day and extend your thoughts, prayers, positive energies, to Alexandra and her family.

Here are a couple of images taken by our au pair Debbie Robertson, who had the presence of mind to pick up a little digital camera lying around to capture my urgings to Herbie about getting inside out of the sun….so I could get back to work, to my life, to the process of avoiding the end.

Categories: Notes From Ed