Friday, May 05, 2006
When the Sopranos Hits Too Close to Home
I've been watching the Sopranos now that it's back for, maybe, it's last season. I find myself torn between just going with the ridiculous flow and being offended by the stereotypes. Mostly, I go with the flow. I mean, what is more ridiculous than thieves and murderers being all upset because of a gay gangster? How many times does someone refer to sin when discussing Vito? Why, because they are all choir boys? So, it's a sin to be gay, but mugging ancient Lauren Bacall for her award show goodie basket is a-okay. Insert glass house/stone throwing cliche here.
One of the episodes from a few weeks ago is still resonating with me. It's the episode where Tony goes to the family reunion in his coma dream. He pulls up to the building and is greeted by his dead cousin, Steve Buscemi telling him that everyone is waiting for him. As he starts walking toward the warmly lit building, he stops and refuses to go in when he hears his daughter yelling to him, "Don't go, Daddy. I love you."
It doesn't help that this episode aired a week before the second anniversary of my father's death. I was there when my dad died, but I didn't scream. I'm pretty quiet and when my father was sick I mostly sat quietly by him. I wanted him to have every chance at getting better. I didn't want to split his focus or his energy. Not to mention that we did not disturb Daddy when he was sleeping.
The absolutely worst job to be given when I was a kid was calling Daddy to dinner. My mom would say, "Go tell your father that dinner is ready." If he was napping, you were screwed. You couldn't yell or make loud sudden noises. You couldn't shake, nudge or touch him. Sure, these things would wake him up, but he'd come up yelling and snarling. Inevitably by the time we both got to the table, he'd be extremely grouchy and I'd be in tears. I'd feel guilty that it was my fault that everyone had to eat dinner with grouchy Charlie. He'd feel a little bad that he'd upset me, but I'd still get an earful of why I wasn't supposed to startle him awake. If he was easy to wake, it wouldn't be an issue, but you could stand over him for what seemed like forever, sort of whispering to wake him up without it working. These are the lessons that stay learned for a lifetime.
The nurses in the ICU would come in and be chatting away at his unconscious form in his bed. Not us, though. We weren't disturbing him. He was in the exact same spot seven years before, the same bad condition, the same bed, and knocking him out and putting him on the ventilator gave his body enough of a break then that all his energy could go to getting better, and it worked. So, we really believed in it. If there was any chance that he was going to recover we were not going to stand in the way of it.
As I watched Tony Soprano come out of his TV coma after heading toward the light, the old doubts started creeping back in. What if, instead of begging him to not go silently, I had yelled for him not to go out loud? Would it have made a difference? Did he think it didn't matter because I was only screaming in my head? The morning he died, actually, just after he died, we were told that his bloodwork was back and that all of the infection was gone. Maybe he could have made it if we just screamed out loud for him to stay with us. Maybe if he heard us saying how much we loved him, he wouldn't have gone. We certainly weren't quiet because we wanted him to go. We were scared and shocked by all those machines and people filling him with drugs and shocking his heart back to work. We felt abandoned when we discovered that these horrible, drastic measures were only keeping him technically alive for an hour at a time. We tried to stay out of the way so the professionals could do all they could to save him. But, did we miss the biggest part of saving him? Did we not verbalize how much we didn't want him to go, and so he never had a reason to hang on?
I know this is sort of naive. It certainly doesn't take into account how horrible recovery would have been if he had stayed with us that morning. He would have had to survive another surgery to complete amputations he didn't even know he had. He would have had to regain all his strength, survive additional surgery, hope that there was enough tissue left to save his legs just below the knees, heal enough to be fitted for prostheses, learn to walk in them, learn to drive with hand controls in the car, if he could drive again. Just the not being able to drive would be the end of him emotionally. He was car guy. He loved his cars. He shined them until they gleamed. He changed his own oil and did as many repairs as he could on his own.
I just wish I didn't have to lose him. I only have to really think about having him or not. The what might have been if he survived is really moot. I can say that we would have been able to keep his spirits up and help encourage him to fight to be able to deal with the hardships he would have faced, to come back stronger, but the reality of it would have been much bleaker and I know that, but I don't have to consider it because it never happened. I just hope that I didn't fail to do something that could have effected our outcome.
It's the "what if's" that really get to you. I've never been good with unanswered questions, even though I have a habit of asking many unanswerable questions. It's hard to accept the idea that maybe, just maybe, if I had yelled out loud what I was begging for in my mind, he would have known how I felt and fought harder to stay with us.