Portrait of the Artist as a Disabled Man
Strangeways, Here We Come

On Tuesday, I sat with Vernon during dialysis and he was as chipper as he was the night before. At one point, the word Facebook came up.

“I heard some nurses discussing Facebook, ” he said. “And I wondered if it was still a thing?”

I assured him that it was indeed still a thing, then he asked if he could look at his page. I promised him I’d bring the iPad that a friend recently donated to him and he could Facebook himself.

Thankfully, I was able to retrieve his password so I opened it up for him today, first changing his profile picture to an old one that struck his interest. It seemed fitting.

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I love the between-worlds-ness of it and that he is moving.

His old friend in Norway liked the picture.  I asked Vernon if he wanted to send him a message. He said he would if I could type. So he left him this: How is it going? I’m having a bit of a holiday at the moment, letting my wife look after me whilst I play some ping pong. Goodbye. See you soon.

I was moved that he wanted to reach out. I asked if he’d like to leave a message for his sister. He said: Hi Vanessa. How’s it going? We are on a holiday at the beach for the time being, and it feels weird being away, but it’s kind of fun too. Goodbye. Hope to see you soon. All my love, Vernon

He went on to comment on a couple of other pictures that his old friends had posted.  Then we looked at his old photos.  He wanted to see pictures of himself. Funny thing, he always HATED having his picture taken, so there weren’t that many. But when he did see himself, he exclaimed: “I’m quite good looking there” and  “I like my face there.” He went on: “I like who I am!” In that moment, I felt such a peace about him, so different from what we’ve experienced lately. What a blissful place to be: “I like who I am.”

We found old pictures of him and Justine. “Keep these for her,” he said. “They will be very important to her when she is older.” I promised I would.

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When we came across pictures of Maki, he said: “We need to bring him in more. He hasn’t been coming around.” (Little did he know that I have been discussing this with Maki at home. I know he’s been avoiding contact with his dad, and though I want to honor this difficult space in him, I’ve been trying to coax discussions about his reasons. He’s been dealing with it, but that isn’t what I want to express here now.)

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He went on: “Maki’s at an important age. He should be telling me about the details of his life. I want to know about it. We need to bring him in more.”

I promised I would. In fact, as soon as I picked up Maki from his guitar lesson (Justine was at my mom’s) I told him I wanted to go back up to see his dad. He could go tonight or we could take the day off school and he could go with me then. He opted for tonight. I had already talked about the potential of death with him over the weekend, so I think he felt like I did: this is an opportunity, take it while you have the chance. Vernon isn’t necessarily going to be clear like this for awhile. This is a gift. This is nice.

Maki was brave and wonderful when we arrived at Mesa Verde. His dad was awake, moving around on his mattress, and most importantly, his eyes were clear. Vernon asked Maki about school and what he was doing. They just talked about basic things and interests, but Vernon, as squirmy as he was, clearly wanted to connect in conversation. As he rolled around, getting off the bed and onto the mat on the floor, Maki tried to help him. “No, I can do it. I’ll get there eventually,” he said. And he did. At one point Maki was able to help move him further onto the bed. “You are really good at that,” Vernon told his son.

He flipped and got angry and impatient a few times but was able to relax before we left. He hugged us each and told Maki: “We really should spend more time together.”

On the way home, I asked Maki: “Do you understand why I talk to you about such hard stuff? I know its not fair, but I’d rather you have the choice of being involved than have me hide these things from you. You can always tell me when it’s too much. I don’t want you to have regrets later. Anyway…are you glad you came?”

“Yeah.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Portrait of the Artist as a Disabled Man
Strangeways, Here We Come