June 03, 2009

Double doors

The princess had a golden ball in her hand, which was her favourite plaything; and she was always tossing it up into the air, and catching it again as it fell. After a time she threw it up so high that she missed catching it as it fell; and the ball bounded away, and rolled along upon the ground, till at last it fell down into the spring. The princess looked into the spring after her ball, but it was very deep, so deep that she could not see the bottom of it. Then she began to bewail her loss, and said, ‘Alas! if I could only get my ball again, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels, and everything that I have in the world.’

This is the way one version of the story “The Frog-Prince” by the Grimm Brothers begins.

Whilst she was speaking, a frog put its head out of the water, and said, ‘Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?’ ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘what can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.’ The frog said, ‘I want not your pearls, and jewels, and fine clothes; but if you will love me, and let me live with you and eat from off your golden plate, and sleep upon your bed, I will bring you your ball again.’ ‘What nonsense,’ thought the princess, ‘this silly frog is talking! He can never even get out of the spring to visit me, though he may be able to get my ball for me, and therefore I will tell him he shall have what he asks.’ So she said to the frog, ‘Well, if you will bring me my ball, I will do all you ask.’

The Daily MailOnline of Britain tells me that Barack “requested a romantic dinner with a view of Prague, where they can eat the best Czech food. ‘They have spent days trying to decide on the right restaurant,’ a source told The Times.

“It is thought the First Couple have chosen Hergetova Cihelna, or The Brick House, on the banks of the River Vlatava.

“The restaurant has views of Prague’s most famous landmark, the Charles Bridge, for their romantic dinner.”

The charmed couple.

While they ate, I faced double doors. D. had surgery on April 6 (I do not make this date up) at Sibley Hospital, where I met my father’s corpse on a gurney on linoleum floors behind a curtain in the emergency room in 1996. An emergency.

D. and I and our daughter Sarah had gone to D.’s company picnic on Johnson Island. My father died on June 6, 1996. Yes, I see it too: 6-6-96. And the multiples of three and the terrifying to me: 666. It has taken more than a decade for me to recover from the shame (was it shame or regret?) of having gone to the picnic the day after my niece Wendy’s wedding, the wedding he could not attend because he lived in the assisted-living he had so resisted. He was bent and frozen in the shape of a W after he’d fallen and broken his hip, after the Parkinson’s disease that did not allow him to hop while the hip repaired, after he’d answered the surgeon’s question as he lay on the gurney in another emergency room: “Mr. Tabor, tell me about your physical activity?” “I play tennis. Don’t want to meet my slice.” Does a daughter argue with her father when he lies broken on a gurney? She should have.

He was eighty-two. He’d not played tennis for a decade. He’d played when he was young, stopped when he married, began again at fifty when he won a Wilson racket in a raffle at a Metropolitan Life Insurance conference: he sold insurance door-to-door for thirty-eight years. He could beat both my husbands with that slice even when he could no longer run.

Watch them run.

But I do tell the surgeon when he asks, “Is there anything else we should know?” as we stand in the pre-op room before the surgery that my father has an aneurysm at the base of his neck. For this reason the orthopedist says they will not use a local anesthetic. General anesthetic—out cold—must be used for fear of bursting the aneurysm with a spinal injection. General anesthesia and Sinemet, the drug my father is taking for the Parkinson’s disease, and the disease itself do not mix. And my father comes out of the anesthesia with a form of schizophrenia that is treated without talking with me or his neurologist with a drug called Zyprexa that leaves my father more confused, placid, broken, bent.

Yes, I answered one question asked of me.

Did you know that orthopedists do not ask the question about, let us call it tennis—for after all the ball has fallen into the river and only the frog can retrieve it—of elderly women who have fallen? They fix their hips with cement and the women get up and walk the next day, maybe the same day. But a man who plays tennis: He gets repaired with a plate and a screw and must hop for six months until the hip heals. My father could not hop: the tremor in his legs.

More than a decade later I recall that day and the day I went to the picnic after I visited him at Springhouse on River Road, after I’d seen that he had a cold and I knew he might die: sedentary and confused. A cold becomes Pneumonia.

Double doors do not mean the ball that the princess will attend with her prince. My sister or my mother or my father on a gurney went through double doors, pushed by attendants wearing colored caps and returned more broken than before.

On April 6, I kiss D. on the lips, watch him go through the double doors with the doctor, with the anesthesiologist, with the nurse in colored cap, all in turquoise pajamas. I watch the doors close.

[T]he princess ran to the door and opened it, and there she saw the frog, whom she had quite forgotten. At this sight she was sadly frightened, and shutting the door as fast as she could came back to her seat. The king, her father, seeing that something had frightened her, asked her what was the matter. ‘There is a nasty frog,’ said she, ‘at the door, that lifted my ball for me out of the spring this morning: I told him that he should live with me here, thinking that he could never get out of the spring; but there he is at the door, and he wants to come in.’

D. recovers. He is well and strong. So am I. I have survived them all: my sister, my mother, my father: What do I deserve?

Did you know that in the Grimm fairy tale, the princess does not kiss the frog?