Incapacitated in America—A Disabled Fantasia On Household Themes

It’s 3:37am, Monday morning. I have to get up to help with the kids at 6:30. If I stop typing and go instantly to sleep I’ll get a solid almost three hours. I’m usually rock solid with ten hours of sleep these days, and get increasingly useless with each hour less than that I get. At this rate I should have the constitution of overcooked spaghetti by about 10am.

See, I did something you’re apparently not allowed to do after age five. I took a nap. It wasn’t a bored, don’t feel like reading anymore siesta, it was a desperate, if I don’t lay down I’m afraid I might fall asleep while walking collapse. It was well-earned by any measure. My son Mychal celebrated his ninth birthday Saturday by having a sleep-over party. It was only three kids and they were actually rather well-behaved so I don’t want to dump all over them for my insane lack of energy…but…the exhaust system did fall off the Toyota as we pulled up with last minute supplies and I did a dry-ice presentation for the kids and Mary El and I cleaned the house and served pizza and snacks and drinks and cupcakes and ice-cream cones and we made up the sectional for the three little guys and fought with Conor to keep his room unlocked, and set them up with games and movies and other entertainments, and by the time I finally succumbed to exhaustion at 2am, four of the five kids were still awake.

When they woke up in the morning I made pancakes and we made sure they got dressed and packed and had all the movies and games they came with and Mary El went to rehearsal so I got to see the parents as they came to pick up their kids and I had to make Mychal stop playing video games so he could say goodbye and thank you and finally by 11:30 or so the house was clear. I used to have the energy to do this kind of stuff. Now I have the staying power of a fat smoker riding a bike uphill.

When I was eighteen I used to work the morning shift at a deli, which meant 5am six days a week during the summer and whenever I could get back from school. It was sometimes 7am before I actually had control of all my faculties, but I was up at 4:30 nearly every day, and on my day off I played softball for four hours. When I worked in Manhattan I had to make a train at 6:20am daily, and didn’t get back home until nearly 8 at night. During the winter I would leave in darkness and come home in darkness. I hated the commute, but I made that train every weekday. And sometimes I rehearsed a play as well.

Now, just the idea of such exertion is enough to make me sore. Folding laundry makes my arms ache. Playing ball with the kids is akin to running a marathon barefoot. Backwards. Over gravel. If I’ve been sitting on the floor for any amount of time while playing a board game with the boys, I resemble an elderly crab when I try to get up and I make more groaning noises than Beth Israel ICU ward. Is that a mixed metaphor? I’m too tired to change it.

Roy Cohn’s character in “Angels In America”, who was dying of AIDS, famously said “America is no place for the infirm.” Allow me to second that, and third it. It is now 10:26am. We were late getting the kids showered and dressed for school and Mary El had a dentist appointment so she had to make sure to leave with the kids before the tow truck came to bring the car to Meineke, and there I was standing in the pouring rain while the guy hooked it up because I felt guilty sitting inside while he’s out there with MY car and I never know what to do after I put the car in neutral anyway and I was such a dweeb that I couldn’t manage to give the guy directions to Meineke besides “it’s on the same road as the mall.” I got about four hours sleep and my methadone hasn’t kicked in yet, so I’m basically sitting here trying not to move. It’s been a long week already.

To paraphrase Tony Kushner, “Parenthood is no place for the infirm.”

    • Kae
    • April 12th, 2011

    Parenthood is indeed the hardest job there is! Despite your infirmities, Brian, you’re a great dad.

    I have fibromyalgia and other, assorted problems, and I empathize with you re: need for sleep. And my child is grown and takes care of herself! (Although the grandbaby exhausts me. I wouldn’t give up being a grandma for the world, though.)

    • I don’t know, I try. And tell Laura to get going with the baby care, she’s had a few weeks to recuperate and you’ve already done this!

      I’m kidding. Sarcasm doesn’t go over well on the internet.

    • Kae
    • April 12th, 2011

    I did know you were kidding, Brian, but your point about sarcasm and the internet is generally true. There’s no substitute for voice, face, and gestures in communication. It’s especially an obstacle in writing humor, as I’m sure you’ve found, and I certainly discovered when I first starting posting here and there. Satire (my choice of genre) is a fragile little creature.

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