Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

I had driven all day and was tired. I had delivered a sold painting to a beautiful home near the Stanislaus River earlier but the day had gotten very long after a grueling, albeit successful week. After the drop I visited a friend and colleague in Oakdale who is unfortunately now forced to raise his grandchildren due to some unfortunate familial disfunction. Bought a few nice things from him, too.

I pulled up to the Veterans Administration building in Fresno around two o'clock. A lone and frail figure sat in a shaded area out in front of the complex.

My eyes focussed and I quickly realized that the diminutive figure was my own father. I slowly walked towards him and felt waves of recognition, a good thing. I ran up to him and embraced the once stout but now very thin man. He may not have known who I was exactly but I felt recognition and joy.

There is no question that Alzheimers is an insidious disease. My dad is in a very innocent state right now that has its own strange beauty. If it is even permissible to use such an optimistic term when talking about a malady that is so cruel to the host and difficult and terrible for the surviving family members. I will say that he doesn't seem to have deteriorated much since my last visit, he asked about my brother in Canada and even called me by my name once. Stopped with the continual mnemonic chanting activity from last time. Actually seemed better and more cogent. Maybe the medication is helping?

We had a meeting with dad's psychiatrist. It is mandatory protocol when there is a medication change. My pop has been acting out lately, shoved somebody, apparently doesn't like being changed. I listened to the litany of transgressions and decided to spill to the doctor. "Hey, he sort of sounds okay to me. Just like his dad and just like me, the Sommers male line has a short fuse. Sounds like he is just being himself." My grandfather had pulled  somebody out of a car and kicked his ass well into his seventies. Once saw my dad take on a whole bus load of young punks by himself. The tall doctor, who didn't want to shake my hand, claiming some virus, laughed. Neat guy, UCSD, trained in Encinitas. Now he is stuck in Fresno, 90 degrees yesterday.

He told us about the physiologic differences in the over one hundred known types of dementia and Alzheimer's. Some of a frontal lobe origin, some hypothalamus, the Parkinson's type, described the many other forms of it. Unfortunately they can not be determined by any invasive or noninvasive tests at present, it is only able to be categorized during autopsy. So they have to sort of guess regarding proper treatment, throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

My father was a brilliant mathematician, wrote amateur treatises on economic theory and was a very successful businessman. Was a bit of a shit at times but hey, who isn't?

My pop is in the unenviable position of getting close to outliving his long term health policy. Then I don't know what we will do. This level of care is very expensive. But in some ways the guy is a horse and might have the lost laugh and outlive us all. Shit. I worry about his wife. She misses him but the doctor doesn't want that to happen anymore, says that the transition is too disorienting for him. I said goodbye to the doctor and my step mother again but pulled back my hand at the last second and told him that I had forgotten about his phobia. Just kidding and a bit nasty but it was fun to goof on the good natured doctor.

It was good to see my dad. He told me that I needed to lose thirty pounds. Nice.

I left the hospital and was very hungry. Kind of a rough neighborhood a block away I found a barbecue that looked real funky and dangerous. I stopped. Ruben's Rib Shack on Clinton.

I hadn't eaten all day and I was famished and thirsty. Left Marin at 7 that morning.

A decrepit bmw pulled up to the curb in front of me. Junkie white girl, black dude driving. I followed her into the restaurant.

"They don't own the place now. We bought it three months ago."

The girl slurred something under her addled breath and left.

I ordered a rib sandwich and gave the place the once over. Miles Davis poster. Nice and funky. Cambodian jeweler next door a couple inner city churches.

I looked at the menu again and saw that they had smoked salmon. Really smoked, sounded interesting, had to get some for the trip. The nice kid behind the counter led me to their spic and span bathroom and when I got back started telling me about the operation. No flame touches anything, proprietary house rub. UNlike the previous owner, no msg. The rib sandwich was extraordinary, bit through a few soft bones and chewed them right up. Very spicy, perfectly fatty.The pasta salad was fantastic as well, with olives and hearts of palm. I really was digging the place. Ate the salmon on the way home, not quite as good as the other but plenty good. Couple pieces of white bread, hadn't eaten any in ages. tasted good and fresh.


I see neat patterns that life throws at me all the time. Vivid and overactive imagination. This graphic image was shot from the driver's seat doing seventy when I got behind a pipe truck. The pipe distances helped create a lot of tonal gradations.

Got home at a decent hour, dead tired, without much difficulty.

Spent the night before with friend Ron, who lives in San Rafael near a relatively new deli, Millers. Sounds pretty goishe to me.Anyway we go out to dinner and split a cornbeef and each have a cup of matzoh ball soup. Waitress says to me, what kind of bread? I look at my friend, are you serious? I says to the waitress, ma-am did you ever hear what Milton Berle once said; every time a gentile orders cornbeef on white bread, somewhere in the world a jew dies? She laughed nervously and I looked around the table. Uh, you do have brown mustard don't you? Lucky for her she did. Sandwich and soup were good.


Leslie was driving down our road and saw a condor in the tree. Right by the hawk nest. Red head, white patch, enormous. My San Diego bird field book says that Gymnogyps californianus (Shaw) or the California Condor is now extirpated in San Diego county. This one evidently never got the word. Scott (1936) heard from an Indian living near Palomar Mountain that in the 1870's you could find fifteen, twenty, fifty in the sky at the same time. Nest near Warner Ranch reported in 1859. Sightings in Poway, Escondido, San Luis Rey, Santa Ysabel, nothing after 1903.

I remember reading a 19th century ethno field guide on the Pala indians that describes the medicine man dressing in a full condor feather suit. Also cutting his tongue out and mysteriously reattaching it. But that is a story for another day.

I told Bruce about Leslie's find. He says that he saw it twice in the last year and as recently as two weeks ago.


I saw a bunch of kids on top of the overpass in Berkeley with eat the rich banners and finally figured out it was Mayday weekend. Saw a sign in the Central Valley advertising beyond earth day that I wondered about. Beyond in what way?

This guy was walking downtown in Fallbrook today and I had to grab my camera and take a shot. Mike and his dog Goldie. Why is the earth sold and who bought it? Got a rap about the nasty corporations and how rotten humans are and like who was I to disagree? Great to see a little free expression in our quaint little town.


Jon Harwood posted this great shot on Fallbrook Shutters today. He calls it How our clothing gets color. Jon has mastered a lot of esoteric photo techniques like gum bichromate and he likes to play with hand coloring. Very nice. A hand tinted silver print.

© Jon Harwood


Sanoguy said...

My sister and brother and I are dealing with a similar situation with our 96 year old dad. He broke his hip a year ago last march and has been in the hospital, a skilled nursing center and an old folks home since. He has very bad dementia: no short term memory and fading long term.

He is running out of money so we moved him home on the 1st in an effort to help him get a reverse mortgage. Not an easy task, I might add.

He came back to the house he has lived in for 50 years and does not remember it. He is pleasant, not angry and often has a smile. At the old folks home, a very nice place actually, he was in the "memory care unit". It was filled with crazies. Drove my Dad sort of nuts. In the dining hall, he sat in a corner with his back to the crowd so that he did not have to see the craziness in the room.

The questions we have now are: are we going to be able to get the reverse mortgage without having to spend up towards $10K to establish a conservatorship and just how long will he live? He has repeatedly said that he wants to live to 100, he wants to "check the box". His blood pressure is better than mine. he just might make it.

Anonymous said...

R - Was great reading about your dad (a lot of feeling), I remember his Aston Martin. Devastating what can happen to our elders. Loved the story of the rib joint. We used to go into funky ones in Oakland after Winterland shows, good memories


Anonymous said...

Hey, glad to hear it was a good trip in the end. Just want to remind you to thank the big 'whoever' for what you've had with your Dad. Mine apparently decided that fucking with my life while he was still around wasn't quite enough so wrote in a special clause in his will specifying to all involved that I not get a penny! Did he really think after 55 years I was still waiting on anything from him? Tried to go out and get drunk the night I heard he died, only to find I couldn't be bothered, so went back home after two beers!


grumpy said...

the photo of the pipes is great.

MC. said...

Why can't you just text while driving, like everyone else, rather than shooting pictures from behind the wheel?