Alison Berkley: The Princess Palate
August 27, 2008
The other day I walked into the river with all my clothes on.
Anyone who saw me must have thought I was crazy. It looked like one of those scenes out of a movie, an adult baptism or maybe the ghost of a dead person or a monster or a superhero, someone who submerges themselves into the depths as if they can breathe underwater. It was the way I did it that made it look that way, I think. It’s not like I stopped at the water’s edge, took my shoes off and stuck a toe in to see if it was the right temperature or jumped off a rock into a cannon ball splash. I just walked in steadily until I went under with all my clothes on, even my socks and shoes.
The story behind it isn’t really that glamorous but I’ll get to it later.
In the meantime, my Dad is going in for another hip surgery on Thursday.
He just had hip surgery back in June. I remember the day exactly because we were
in Denver for The Police concert. I called him in the afternoon on the day of the surgery and my mom picked up. She did not sound good, as if she was the one who’d had her femur sawed in two. But I guess that’s what happens when you are married to someone for 40 years.
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I was relieved when she put my dad on. “Hey sweetie!” he said, his voice all giddy and hoarse like he was at a party instead of the hospital. “Guess what! The doc said my leg is an inch longer with the new hip. And my dick is five inches longer too!”
“Wow!” I said, laughing. “I’m surprised more people aren’t getting this procedure done.”
“No kidding!” he replied. “Hey, that’s great you’re in Denver! Are you going to come visit me?”
No, I said. We had a concert to go to at Red Rocks. I felt like an asshole saying it, like
I was still nothing more than a stupid teenager with my own selfish agenda. I guess in a lot of ways that’s true.
This surgery came fast on the heels of Dad’s bike accident in Costa Rica back in March. He’d been air lifted to Denver where he spent a precarious week in the hospital waiting to see if the hole in his head caused by the fractured skull would heal on its own. I went down for a week and mostly tended to my mother, who survived the whole episode thanks to a daily lunch of white wine and Xanax. Somehow we got through it, as people do in these situations. I kept telling myself if this is the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life, then I’m pretty damn lucky.
So Dad has this psychotic over-achiever’s drive. He’s always pushing himself and somehow manages to turn everything into a contest. I guess you could say he is a little competitive. His drive has only gotten worse as he’s gotten older. Being semi-retired gives him even more time to put into his various sports. For many years it was marathons (he ran more than 20, his personal best was under three hours).
When his bad hip put an end to his running career, he got into road biking and of course he had to go the distance, with the $5,000 bike and the century rides and the Carmichael Training Camps.
Unlike Lance, it is all about the bike for my Dad. So that’s the first thing he did as soon as he could walk again after surgery. He rode his bike 17 miles, and then decided to take Psycho Paws for a walk. We’re not sure if it was the ride that did it, or the dog (he lunged at some helpless creature he wanted to kill and Dad fell) but he fractured the hip and is going back in for surgery this week.
“He’s just like you are with guys,” my brother wrote via e-mail. “I don’t know how many trips to the hospital it’s going to take him or how many loser guys you’re going to date before you both learn from your mistakes.”
There’s nothing like getting lectures from your baby brother, but I’ve gotten used to it.
So the other day I decide to go for a long run in the middle of the day on an empty stomach. I’d just been dumped (for the second time since June, it just so happens) and am on a mission to do exactly what I said I wouldn’t do a few weeks ago (hey, it’s practically my M.O.), which is to go on the revenge diet. But when a guy who is 20 pounds overweight and spends his weekends swilling beer and watching golf on TV tells you he’s not attracted to you anymore, you get mad enough to do something about it.
I’m about five miles from home when I start to feel dehydrated and hot. My heart rate kicks up and won’t come down. My only lifeline is the half-mile markers on the Rio Grande Trail that tell me I’m a little closer to home, but I’m going so slow at this point that the distance between them is excruciating. I’m literally foaming at the mouth by the time I get to the Stein Bridge and can finally get a little rest on the short downhill to the river.
On the other side of the bridge I see an eddy that looks deep enough to swim in, so I just walk into the water. The cold depths blanket me with such profound relief I almost cry, but don’t. I have to keep going.
That’s when it hit me. The men in my life might come and go but I will always be my father’s daughter, for better or for worse.
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