Hal - Taking Care Of One's OwnSaturday, March 16, 2013
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena Hayward, Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena|
and a Wedgwood tea cup, (Asia). 1967
Soon after I married my Rosemary Healey in Mexico City in 1968 we went to see a film in the theatre whose back faced our tiny apartment window on Calle Estrasburgo. It was the cavernously beautiful Cine Latino on Paseo de La Reforma. We saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was blown away by the theatre’s exceptional stereophonic (early surround?) sound. But there is one moment in the film that brought childhood memories. It took me back to my parental bed when I was 8 in Buenos Aires. My father may have either been very drunk or partially. We were in bed together and we were singing. The songs that we sang were always the same three, Onward Christian Soldiers, Daisy Bell and My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean.
When Doctor David Bowman (played by Keir Dullea) is disconnecting Hal’s processor modules and Hal’s mind begins to wander and deteriorate as he sings Daisy Bell, I was instantly taken back to singing with my father. I felt nostalgia and I am sure I hid from my bride my tears.
I have been giving that scene in A Space Odyssey some thought these days and past months in which my surrogate father Raúl Guerrero Montemayor died in January with his mind intact while my other surrogate father, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC might be in an irreversible stage similar to Hal’s.
I have a friend with Parkinson’s and calling him up on the phone and talking to this friend has been a painful and difficult experience for me as I mentally imagine Bowman pulling out those processors, one by one.
I have another friend whose adult sons are still at home without any prospect of leaving a parental home that nurtures them. I would have thought that the idea that one takes care of one’s own was a Latin thing and not an Anglo one as it is for my friend and his two sons. But it is not.
My wife often tells me how in her home in New Dublin, Ontario, her grandmother on her mother’s side lived with them. Rosemary’s mother was a registered nurse so she did all the nursing. On another side of the house, in a separate wing lived Rosemary’s paternal grandparents. When her parental grandmother did not recognize her husband and was afraid of him, he moved out to a sister’s house while Rosemary’s parents hired a live-in nurse.
My grandmother was always a super alert, lively, colourful woman who was my special friend and partner in all kinds of crime involving consuming immense quantities of sweets or spending long hours at the movies watching westerns. One day not too many months from her picture here she looked at me and she was not home.
I had never felt that experience of facing a human who acted more like a cat. Can she think? Does she know who I am? Can she discern my expressions, my laughs my scowls?
As my 15 year-old granddaughter misbehaves in what seems a downward spiral, it is very difficult for my wife and me to be neutral bystanders. It is difficult to strike a balance between being the concerned grandparents and the in-laws-from-hell.