erik lundegaard


Sunday June 16, 2024

Father's Day

This is my first Father's Day without a brother and the first with my father in a hospital with serious health issues.

I'd actually bought him Father's Day gifts last month, before the current shit storm, as the ideas came to me: a biography of Washington Senators shortstop Cecil Travis, who led the AL in hits in 1941, the year Ted Williams hit .406 and Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, but then lost four years to WWII, and maybe some sense of touch in his extremeties to frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge. He seemed on a Hall of Fame trajectory but came back and wasn't the same; he was gone from the game by '47. A class act, he never blamed the war or the frostbite. He said you lose a fraction of your talents and you're done. Ted Williams, for one, thinks he belongs in the Hall. Cecil was Dad's favorite player growing up.

The other is a T-shirt of a baseball diamond with players' names from Abbott & Costello's “Who's on First?” routine at each position.

I gave him the gifts early, a week and a half ago, in the ICU at M. Hospital: the Travis bio as maybe something to do, the Abbott & Costello T-shirt because the occupational therapist needed a shirt to work with and no other was available. I don't know if he remembers the T-shirt. I'll give it to him again today. Meanwhile, I've read him the foreword of the Travis bio a few times. Would be great if he could feel strong enough to read it on his own but we're not there yet. 

He's no longer at M. Hospital. They moved him to a long-care type facility: R. Hospital. Its title includes “Minneapolis” even though it's in Golden Valley. He feels stuck in a system whose goal is to move him forward as he progresses even if he doesn't progress much. Yes, like kids who can't read. At M., he even seemed to regress. R., meanwhile, feels lesser. It feels a little low-rent. It's a place with the various therapists (occ., phys., speech), and he gets all of those weekdays but none of them weekends. The physcial therapist can move him from bed to chair but no one else can; the attendants have to use some lift contraption—to avoid slip-and-falls and litigation, one assumes—but it feels unhelpful and dehumanizing. He needs to use his stuff (mouth, arms, legs) to improve, to move on, but the lift contraption, which can barely fit into his hospital room, just lifts and deposits him. He is without agency. An apt metaphor. 

Yesterday I was there about five hours, 11 to 4, and it was nice that he had many visitors, including several old newspaper colleagues, who are fun and funny and no bullshit, and around whom he perks up significantly. I got him to sing yesterday, too, which feels like it'll exercise mouth muscles, and while I served up the first few lines of his favorite Beatles song (“Across the Universe”), he went with Gilbert & Sullivan: “Tit Willow” from “The Mikado.” He'd played that part, KoKo, several decades ago, and was cracking himself up during this rendition. When he was done, he said he was laughing because he was remembering Groucho sing the song on the old Carson Show.

We'll try more singing today.

Posted at 08:04 AM on Sunday June 16, 2024 in category Personal Pieces