Journal Entry, April 16, 2019 – Dancing with Paul


April 16, 2019, 10:30 p.m.

We went to see Paul (Kathy’s brother) this morning. Never leaves my thoughts that he was once the medical director of the facility in which we now visit him. When we arrived a care taker directed us to the lounge area where a visiting pianist was playing an array of tunes to the group of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. As we walked into the room of seated residents – several in wheelchairs and all in various stages of advanced cognitive deterioration – Paul cast a briefest of smiles as though he recognized our faces, all the while continuing, as were several other of the residents, to tap his foot to the tempo of the Beatle’s song “Blackbird.”

“…take these broken wings and fly away…”

Several songs later I asked Paul, who’s lost in some kind of internal geography if he would like to dance; he’s unsteady on his feet, but does okay standing if held by the arm. He let me help him out of the chair and was able to stand in front of me and kind of sway from side to side. He smiled some as I held his hands and we danced to “I Wish They All Could Be California Girls.” I can remember Paul and I singing a Beach Boy’s song together in a bar in Kansas during a medical conference whose theme was ‘The Impact of Grief On Family Systems.’ What a long time ago that was. I think we were in our mid-forties.

When we left I was really sad and the traffic was horrible and drive home seemed to take forever. I couldn’t stop thinking about the past and all of the things that can never ‘be’ anymore. I also thought about how hard this whole thing is – how hard it is to let myself to feel really sorry for myself – and I remembered reading an article a few months back, an article about how hard it is for any of us to be as compassionate towards ourselves as we are for others. It’s a lot easier to be sensitive to the tough times that others are going through than it is to be kind to ourselves.

Home and writing and looking at a screen saver of family photos (one of Paul as a young boy) I’m thinking how hard this loss of Paul is not only on Kathy and Linnda (Paul’s wife) and his kids but how hard – Paul having been one of my closet friend for so many years – it is for me. Kind of teary when I think of it this way – how bad I always feel after seeing Paul, but maybe, like having asked Paul to the dance in front of a room full of strangers this morning, feeling sad and sentimental and kind of teary is what I need to do tonight.