June 9, 2010

David Newsom

About my dad: There was no one moment of crisis, no known cause for the collapse, no single disease to single out as our common enemy. My father had a complete physical and mental breakdown while living with his common-law wife Jean of 15 years down in Vero Beach, Florida. Jean, we would soon realize, had stage 5 Alzheimers. I find it really difficult to write about the last year without utilizing journal entries and other things I forwarded to friends during the initial crisis and over the ensuing year...

MAY 23, 2009

Where to begin?

3 nights ago, we were awakened by people stirring at 1:30 am. Dad and Jean on separate trajectories, with vastly different missions. Dad was an anxious wreck, trying to find the “missing files”- all his business and estate records- which my sister and I had been organizing for 2 weeks. He was digging in the garbage, looking under the couch, under his sheets, anywhere. Ginny tried to calm him, but it wasn’t happening. Jean, on the other hand, was in her summer best, bags packed and headed for the airport. She was in a rush, because “the Taliban or someone’s coming to kill us.”

If only.

We shepherded them back to bed. Jean climbed in fully clothed, petulant, eager to fly north, warily circling the man she had come to call, “the Other Buck”. My dad feigned lying down, and then sprang to his desk in his underwear and resumed poring over files that weren’t there. It was 2:30 am by then, and it had been a really long day. Ginny and I stood defeated in their doorway.

“We’re outgunned” I said.

Desperate, we left a call for the psychiatrist. Dr. Director, that’s his name, called back in the AM. The same Dr. Director who dragged me into his office to watch a YouTube video of his daughter when he found I had produced a short film or two. “Get him to the emergency room. We’ll admit him into psychiatric and he can get some help and respite there.”

By 11 am, dad was in a gown, lying on a gurney in the emergency room at Indian River Memorial Hospital here in Vero Beach.The nurse took his blood pressure, her brow wrinkling.

“He’s at 60.”

“Is that bad?”

“Anything under 90 is not good. We gotta bring that back up.”

They got IV’s going, did their thing. Dad was shakey, but calm. He looked at me and let out a blast of air. “Man”, he said, and just shook his head. He looked straight into my eyes for a while, and then proceeded to tell me how proud he was of me, of all his kids. How well we’d handled the difficulties of the last few weeks, how amazing Ginny had been at getting their affairs in order. In short, dad was simply amazed by the profound outpouring of love, from us toward him, and from him toward us at that point. Then, he said, “I guess this is it for me.”

“How so, dad?”

“Well, I’ve had a good life, but I’m not going to make it past today. This is the end. I’m finished”

I’m finished, that’s what he said. Like a cartoon character. Like Daffy Duck, “Finished.”

“A lot of my friends, they died right next to me in Europe. They died when they were only 19, 20 years old. But I got to live to be 86. I’ve had a good life.”

Then, I started to cry. Couldn’t help it. On that cue, the young intern walked in, looked at me, didn’t blink. “Well, Lloyd, your blood pressure’s back up. Your blood work is good. You’re in good shape.”

“You hear that dad? You’re fine. Your head’s a mess, but your body’s fine.”

“Well, it would be nice if I could live another day, but I just don’t think that’s possible.”

“Unless you plan on killing yourself, it’s absolutely likely.”

“I’m ok?”

“Well, technically, yes.”

“I guess we’ll see.” he said, whistfully.

It was going to be a few hours before they’d admit him into the psychiatric center, so I went home to take a break, get him some clothes, etc.

“I’m proud of you, son.” were his parting words. This time I just rolled my eyes.

By the time I got home, the nurse had called me and told me he had just ordered a turkey dinner. A good sign.

David Newsom is a fine-art photographer based in Los Angeles. A graduate of the Ithaca College Cinema Studies program, David worked in New York City in both film and still photography before moving to Los Angeles in 1990 to work in film and television. As an accomplished actor and producer, David has used his love of storytelling to develop his unique eye as a photographer. In 2005, David's photography work was discovered by Viggo Mortensen at Perceval Press which led to the publishing of the critically acclaimed book "SKIP". SKIP is a tribute in images and words to his family and the landscape of Idaho & Wyoming. David's work has since been shown in numerous galleries across the country, and his work is in collections around the world.