Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Of Mice and Tigers: Conversations with my father

Deadmau5: The man in the mouse-head mask

So my uncle died this morning.

No condolences are necessary, at least not for me. I barely knew the man. He seemed nice, but  I only met him on a handful of occasions -- weddings, family reunions, etc. I don't really think of him as an uncle. I think of him as my father's brother. In fact, this man's death affects me only insofar as it affects my father.

A topic of conversation.
Since moving out of his house in 2001, I have remained in very frequent contact with my father. In fact, I telephone him every single day, usually the moment I get home from work, and we chat for 10-20 minutes, depending on his mood. This is not always easy. After all these decades, my father remains inscrutable. He's a tough guy to read. I never really know what he's thinking or feeling. I try to engage him about topics of interest to him -- politics, movies, sports, etc. I only know or care about sports to get through telephone conversations with my father. That's the extent of my interest. This fall, of course, the Detroit Tigers were a frequent topic of conversation. My father closely monitored the team's progress through the playoffs, and I did my best to keep up with him. I was genuinely disappointed when the team lost the World Series in four straight games, largely because their success had been something my dad and I could enjoy together. But our daily conversations have continued, of course. He generally leads these talks, often describing the events of his day in thorough, semi-excruciating detail. My job is to listen patiently. I do the best I can, but sometimes my patience wears thin.

It's difficult to gauge how my uncle's death is affecting my dad. He comes from a large family and is the second-to-youngest sibling, so he's been through this before. Shamefully, I do not know how many aunts and uncles on my father's side of the family remain alive. I do not care much for my father's extended family, to be honest, and I try to avoid them as much as possible. They are a gossipy, feuding bunch, and I am happy to live far away from them. This particular uncle,  however, seemed to be one of the nicer ones. Again, I didn't know him. I'm not sure how to talk to my father in the meantime. I'm not exactly a natural grief counselor, and this really isn't an ideal time for me to help anyone else through a crisis. Today, I spoke with my father for about 40 minutes, which is longer than usual. We talked about the specifics of my uncle's funeral (I cannot attend and am not expected to), but I also chatted with him about the current Petraeus scandal and about Oliver Stone's new miniseries which presents an alternative American history. My father taught history for 30 years, so I figured that he could discuss these matters intelligently. And he could. But I felt badly about avoiding the real issue.

So why the picture of Deadmau5 at the top of this article? I guess I've been thinking about this performer's odd career lately. He's a DJ who performs while wearing a giant mouse-shaped mask which covers his entire head. I'm not terribly interested in his music, but the mask concept fascinates me. How does this man feel when he puts on that mask? He's famous, but when his "face" appears on magazine covers (such as Rolling Stone), it's not really his face. It's that grinning mouse mask with the giant smile and the whited-out or x-shaped pupils. Is this limiting or emboldening? Will there come a point at which he says, "This is stupid. I'm not doing this anymore?" Maybe I'm so interested in Deadmau5 because I wish I had one of those mouse masks to hide my own face.

Or maybe I'm already wearing one, and it's just invisible.

HEALTH NEWS & NOTES: The side effects from Celexa have disappeared now that I've switched to Wellbutrin, and my libido and appetite are both restored. They don't rule my thoughts as much as they once did, which I guess is healthy. It's like the volume has been turned down on them. I only had one "storm" of depression within the last week, and that occurred on Saturday when my auto repair bill was more than I had anticipated. I had a mini-meltdown on Facebook over it, but the feeling of hopelessness didn't last. Other than that, I'm feeling pretty good. I have another session with my therapist tomorrow. I had a whole slate of issues I wanted to discuss, but my uncle's death will likely take top priority now. Work remains stressful, but I'm managing the stress. An office environment, sadly, can bring out the worst in people sometimes. That's just part of my life for the time being. Keep rooting for me.


  1. Thank you, Emily. Sometimes I feel like you're the only person (besides me) actually reading this blog. If that's true, I couldn't have asked for a better one-person audience.