Thursday, November 11, 2010

Face the Face

The View from 2 East, 2010

Faces are on my mind. A photographer was here yesterday to take a picture of me for a newspaper article. This isn’t the first time I’ve been photographed for a newspaper or magazine. But since I’m usually on the other side of the camera this shoot got me to thinking about the face I show other people.

Also in the back of my mind is the face my nearly 90 year-0ld mother has been showing lately. She fell and broke both of the bones in one of her legs almost two weeks ago. In the course of treating them, the stress on other chronic conditions has taken her to death’s doorstep and back. Two surgeries in a week’s time have also left her with a tenacious case of post-operative confusion, a hellish twilight zone where confusion, dementia, hallucination and fear cross paths.

Over the past five years, the onset of senility and an accompanying decline in short-term memory have made my mother into a generally sweet and content little old lady with a good sense of humor.

But that’s a memory now. It’s as if someone took that lady away and replaced her with her evil twin. The loving face, the one I’ve known all my life, has been replaced by a hostile face. When my mother’s in distress, I’m the one she usually looks to for protection. I’m usually the face that calms. But for several days now, the face that looks up at me from the hospital bed is one of absolute hate.

I know this is dementia I’m seeing and that I shouldn’t take it seriously. But when the face that has nurtured you from birth suddenly turns mean and nasty and full of invectives, it’s still a tough slog.

But just to prove that sometimes life can throw moments at you just when you need them, I happened to hear the old Pete Townsend rock & roll chestnut Face to Face while driving home from the hospital the other morning. I don’t care if it’s almost thirty years old and the early 80s haircuts and dress look funny. The constantly repeated line face the face, combined with the right mix of brass, sass, back beat and catchy lyrics shook me out of my funk and got my body and mind back in gear to do what had to be done. Click on this link and see if it doesn’t do the same for you. As Pete sings:

We must race the race

So we can face the face.

We got to race the race

We must race the race.

So we can face the face

We got to face the face

We got to race the race

(Lyrics by Pete Townsend)


  1. Oh, this post is powerful, Chris--really touching. I imagine it must be really hard to face the face right now! Man--Whoever thought Pete Townsend would be helping in this way, years ago, eh? I saw the Who at my high school in the 70's, back when they were destroying their instruments after each concert! (We had awesome groups at my high school--and I went to a Catholic regional high school!)

    Congratulations on the article--where will it be? I'll have to watch for it!

  2. So sorry to hear about your mother and what she and you are going through. Life is just hard.

  3. This really strikes a chord with me, Chris. I wrote a Veteran's Day tribute to my father and that brought back memories of his slide into Alzheimer's. The thing is, most of the time when I think of him it's about some silly thing he did or practical joke he pulled. Dad and I butted heads when I was in my teens and 20s, then became more like friends as we both aged. Then, towards the end, I always got the impression that he wasn't really sure who I was but he'd never admit that. I also saw fear in his eyes for the first time; not fear of death but fear of no longer being in control of his life. I imagine it might be somewhat the same for your mom. People deal with fear in strange ways.

  4. this is mother will be 95 next March, and we're always wathing over her... no rugs in the house...

    Rogerio (flickr's cariocando)