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On the cusp of a New Year. . . December 31, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Liberal Hypocrisy, Personal, Politics.
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and I cordially invite this year of 2006 to step the heck out the door and never come back.

This past month, most notably, I have been faced with the terminal diagnosis of my father, followed by his nevertheless sudden death and the increasing fragility of my mother-in-law.

And to see that the end of the year the news is all agog with the execution of Saddam Hussein (which is not a source of glee for me.  I grieve that a man such as he can live such a wretched life, die unrepentant, and what is worse his executioners gloat over his demise. . .), and some gloating over the Democratic takeover of Congress, despite their not having one single idea of their own other than “Republicans suck”, and finally Bill Amend stops publishing Foxtrot. . .well, 2006 can’t end soon enough for me.

The Best Write-Up I’ve yet seen on my Dad December 25, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
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Here.

Best quote:

If I had to choose one word to describe you, it would be leather. Stiff on one side, soft on the other. And very cowboy-ish.

And I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that it was written by my 16 year old son.

Great, poignant piece.

AI’s trade to Denver is not a good choice for him December 19, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Sports.
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Philly finally offloaded the talented but troubled Iverson to the Denver Nuggets, just in time for the Nuggets to fill the 15 game void provided by the suspension of Carmelo Anthony.

This is not the best placement for Iverson, in any way.   He needed the following two conditions to be truly successful:

  1. A coach that can live with his notoriously lax attitudes regarding practice, and
  2. A fellow player who not only is willing to share the ball but can also reign in Iverson’s me-first arrogance; the same arrogance that has both invigorated the Sixers and in the end ruined them for this season.

Regarding #1, George Karl is a very bad fit for Iverson.  He regularly punishes players who do not hew to his team-first method of coaching.  This is not going to turn out well.

Secondly, Anthony is much too young to serve as a proper accomplice for Iverson, and I see Anthony being damaged by AI’s notably thuggish attitude.

The best place for AI would have been Minnesota.  There, playing with the passionate, selfless -but also intolerant of bullshit- Kevin Garnett, Iverson would have not only blossomed, but likely helped lead that troubled franchise to its first playoff victory.

Think about it; AI and KG working together?  The Timberwolves would run riot in the West.  No one could stop them.

Sadly, worse-than-no management by Kevin McHale has essentially ruined the T-Wolves, and condemned Garnett to a career of playing for mediocre teams, becoming the NBA equivalent of Ryne Sandberg.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how AI responds to Karl’s first benching of him for blowing off practice.

And now, the Meaningless Car Poll December 19, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Polls.
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I’m a Chevrolet Corvette!

You’re a classic – powerful, athletic, and competitive. You’re all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

A song. . December 18, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
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. . .that indulges my current melancholy and illustrates in some ways the thinking of my dad.

We Used to Know. . .

Jethro Tull

Whenever I get to feel this way,
Try to find new words to say,
I think about the bad old days
We used to know.
Nights of winter turn me cold —
Fears of dying, getting old.
We ran the race and the race was won
By running slowly.

Could be soon we’ll cease to sound,
Slowly upstairs, faster down.
Then to revisit stony grounds,
We used to know.

Remembering mornings, shillings spent,
Made no sense to leave the bed.
The bad old days they came and went
Giving way to fruitful years.

Saving up the birds in hand
While in the bush the others land.
Take what we can before the man
Says it’s time to go.

Each to his own way I don’t mind.
Best of luck with what you find.
But for your own sake remember times
We used to know.

-Ian Anderson

Perfect for my Dad.

Mom’s Redeeming Act December 18, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
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There continues to me much to write about regarding Dad’s death:  Cleaning out his apartment, his decorations focussed almost entirely on his grandkids, the unbelieveable callousness of some agencies, demanding a death certificate before cutting off service.

Yes, that last one is for real. Bresnan Communications, my dad’s cable supplier, demanded of my brother a death certificate before they turned off his cable.  One of the stupidest, most insensitive things I have ever heard.  He called again today, and commons sense now reigns. . .but he also told them that they need to track down the worker who told him to provide a death certificate, and make sure that worker removes his/her head from his/her rectum and rejoin the human race.

But I wanted instead to talk about my mom.

I’ve been more than a little impatient with Mom for over ten years.  You see, back in 1996, she filed for divorce from Dad.  Arguments may certainly be made that she was justified; Dad was hard to live with.  He was incredibly stubborn, often emotionally abusive, and he drank quite a bit for many years.  But by the time Mom finally left him, he had stopped drinking, and this had taken the edge off his other negative attribute.  A very large edge had been taken off.  Coupled with the fact that he had increasing health concerns, I felt Mom was being insenstive -and a crappy Catholic- in seeking the divorce.

To make matters worse, Mom asked me if she could serve the papers to my dad at my house, while my brother was visiting.  In other words, she wanted to use the opportunity of our being together as a family for the first time in over five years to put a formal end to her marriage.

In my house.

I asked her in tones of incredulity if she was nuts, and absolutely forbade her from serving those papers in my house.  (she did have the grace to ask my permission. . .but I can’t imagine what type of response she was expecting. . .).

I’ve been in a state of low-grade piss-off with her ever since.  Dad was no angel, but I don’t believe that Mom treated him with any dignity back then.

Fast forward to last week:  Dad is seriously ill and the possibility of his dying alone hundreds of miles away from me and my brother is very real.  We are scrambling desperately to get him re-located out here. . .and a running undercurrent in my hindbrain is some real resentment towards my mother.  She took a vow back in 1964 to stick with my dad “for better or worse”, and she chose to bail on that.  Now that the bill has come due, the burden of dealing with my dad in times of worse has fallen on my brother and me.  I’m fantasizing about a conversation I will have with my mom about abrogating responsibilities and leaving already over-worked sons to clean up the mess she and my dad made for us.  It was a passionate speech I had prepared, and not very polite.

But my mom, God bless her, restored my faith in her.

The day before Dad died, Mom called to ask me what our plans were for Dad’s relocation.   I said that we would like to move him in with us immediately, while we searched for a nursing home placement.  But since Dad had already put the ixnay on such a transitional arrangement, my brother and I were trying to find an immediate placement.  Finances were an issue, as Dad was pretty much living off of Social Security, some minimal  VA benefits and the meanest possible pension from his old employer, International Harvester.  Since we weren’t willing to settle for the wretched type of care, it was taking time and I was considering raiding my own retirement funds to finance Dad’s care to speed things up.

Mom then stepped up and said that she would cover whatever costs SS/Medicare and Dad’s other income would not cover.

It was a lovely gesture, one she did not have to make and frankly I had thought her incapable of making.  It did a great deal to improving my image of her.  She was willing to help Dad in his final days, after seemingly cutting him entirely out of her life ten years ago.

Then, when Dad passed so surprisingly quickly, she offered to fly out to Billings to help me and Jay clean things up.  We ended up telling her that wasn’t necessary -as Dad had not much to clean up, it only took us one day of solid work to empty out his apartment-, but even then she was always available on the phone to answer any questions we might have had and to offer advice.

——————————————————————————————–

The death of a close loved one is never fun.  But like pain itself,  there are some blessings that reveal themselves.  Dad suffered for a very limited time, as I know he wished to be spared much suffering.  And Mom showed that she is in fact compassionate. . .and at the most helpful time.

Thanks, Mom.  And I am sorry for having been so cold with you for your treatment of Dad ten years ago.  Thanks for proving me wrong.

The Call December 13, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Catholicism, Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying, Family, Know Thine Enemy, Liberal self-loathing, Personal.
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Ah, Great God. Where to begin?

There is the dreaded Hunt for the Nursing Home.

There is the Mother’s Redeeming Act.

There is the Universal Realization that there MUST be a Higher Being, be it God, in the midst of suffering. Without that God, suffering paints the universe most starkly as a slavering beast intent only on devouring its own progeny. No hope. No love. Only root, hog, or die. (Or life is nasty, dull, brutish and short. Take your pick) I cannot accept this. Logically I cannot accept it. I have seen and felt too much love in my life to think that it is all a rabid, monstrous will to power; the Law of Club and Fang triumphant at last.

If Dawkins, Myers, Dennett and Harris are correct, then they are are promoting the ultimate oxymoron: They claim to be able to love in a world that they claim is devoid of love.

Those perhaps, are topics for another day. Instead, I am going to dwell for now upon The Call.

We’ve all, any of us over the age of 20, spent at least a moment’s trepdidation when the phone rings at an unGodly hour.

2AM. The phone rings. The questions ensue: “Who’s died? Who got hurt? My God, is it Mom? Dad? My wife? My child?”

My dad got that call over 20 years ago. Both my brother and I were gone for the night, Dad didn’t know where we were. He got the call, this one at 4AM. Dad knew the moment the phone rang. Was it me? My brother? He knew it was one of us, as Mom was asleep upstairs.

“C’mon up to Evergreen. Your son is here. He is hurt.”

“Which son?

My brother, they responded.

Since they didn’t sound agitated, Dad took his time. Cleaned up. Went to the 7-11 for some coffee. Moseyed up to the hospital. Found my brother in the ER with a nasty gash on his forehead and no comprehension of who my father was, talking the at-once hilarious and alarming, utter gibberish that only the victim of a serious concussion can babble. That’s when Dad really got scared. My brother had been in a car accident -as a passenger- where the car got into a terminal argument with a tree, facilitated by high speed, slick roads, that indomitable sense of invulnerability that possesses all teens, no substances, and one helluva lot of luck for my brother.

Dad talked for years about That Call, and how loopy my brother was when he found him.

My wife and I feared for a brief while that we were getting The Call.  For five years, we kept getting calls from a local drunk that mistakenly believed that our phone number was the same as his estranged wife. This fellow would call at all hours, piss drunk, babbling the most pathetic and heart-rending self-pitying nonsense. We simply heard him out, gently told him he had the wrong number. He would then apologize (in the most self-pitying fashion imaginable), or if he was really ripped would either hang-up or repeat his harangue.

Needless to say, this somewhat anesthesized us against The Call for some years. But it’s been awhile, we’ve moved, that poor drunk has another number to confuse with his wife’s and the tension felt at late-night calls has been allowed to increase.

Last night, I finally got The Call. From my brother.

“I’m sorry, dude. The nurse checked in on him about 3 hours ago, and he was fine. Then they checked again about an hour ago to turn him over, and he was just gone.”

“3-6 months,” they told me last week. They were off by multiple degrees. Not months.

Try days. He lasted exactly six days from my discovering he was sick.

Ah God, I reply. He was gone, huh?”

My wife gasps next to me.

Yeah. I’m so sorry, dude.”

And we talk about the aftermath of death. What to do with the body. His apartment. How fast can we get out there to Montana. We discuss the speed with which he left us; the pain of not being able to see him again. We use muted tones, hushed voices. Calm and straight, though. No whispering, no tremor in the voice. We’re men, godammit, don’t show any weakness to each other.

Even if he is my brother.

Maybe because he’s my brother.

We say goodbye, firm up plans to meet tomorrow so we can travel together to go to Montana and pull down the final curtain; removing any evidence of Dad’s presence. Take the car, clean out the apartment, close out the checking account.

Hang up, and lay back, walleyed, staring at the ceiling.

I’m supposed to cry.

I don’t feel like crying.

I feel some relief, actually. Dad was really uncomfortable on the phone. It was evident.

Where’s the agony? The recrimination?

Am I going to be miserable because I didn’t get out to see him as soon as I heard? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have children, and he was not willing to come out unless we had the right place for him already established.

But it does continue to gnaw at me that it has been over two years since I or my family have seen him. . .and that gnawing I suspect will continue for some time.

—————————————————————————————

What does one do after The Call? Stare at ceiling. Wonder when the tears will come. Hold the hand of your lovely, devoted spouse who is a little worried about how you might react. Hold desultory conversation. Go to work? Take leave for grief? Wonder where the grief is. . .

Finally, go downstairs and take up the long-neglected Rosary, and pray a desperate set of decades from the Sorrowful Mysteries for the salvation of Dad’s soul.

Did I mention he’s not Catholic? Baptized Methodist, he hasn’t entered a church out of real desire in probably 60 years, and died in the state the pre-Vatican II church called, “unshriven.” The state of his soul in real doubt.

Terrifying.

One can only hope that what I teach my religion students is not only theoretically true but actually true as well: We have no idea who is in Hell, if anyone. It may be unpopulated; yes, not even Hitler. We do not know what happens to men’s soul’s as they depart their bodies. Perhaps a final reckoning may result in the deathbed conversion.

I fervently hope and pray that I am right.

The Crankiness that comes with age December 12, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Death and Dying, Family, Personal.
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Aside from the obvious topics that come about when one’s father is dying (grief, illness, musing upon one’s own mortality. . .this last topic likely the focus of another post coming up sometime) comes this little snippet:

My dad currently lives in Billings, Montana, about 10 hours and 1000 miles away.  He has no family there to speak of.  My mother divorced him about 10 years ago (that is ANOTHER topic festering away) . My brother and I, Dad’s only real remaining family, both live in Washington.  We would like to transport Dad here to Washington, either close to me or my brother.  He is not opposed to the idea, but is absolutely insistent that he not be placed in either of our homes.  He feels (somewhat incorrectly) that he needs 24-hour  institutional care, and does not want to be a burden on either of us or or families.   ANd he is angrily insistent on this point.  If we cannot find a proper nursing facility, he will simply stay in Billings for the duration.  And finding a proper nursing facility (that is, one where the caregiver/patient ratio is something less than 20/1) given my dad’s financial state (he is nearly a pauper) is extremely difficult verging on the impossible.

We can get him into Hospice here, but that -for the most part- requires that he spend some time in my home before the Hospice bed opens up.  AND HE WILL NOT DO THAT!!!  Meaning he stays in Billings. . .and in all likelihood dies there.

Alone.

Needless to say, my children are not thrilled with this idea.  Neither am I.

I cannot speak to the motivations of the aged.  I am barely past 40 and consider myself to be in average to good shape for a man my age.  The slings and arrows of age and decrepitude have thus far spared me. . .and ought to for some time.  So I cannot sympathize through experience with my dad’s plight; we have no common experience.

Nevertheless, I begin to try to understand his motivations.  (really knowing why my dad does what he does occurs maybe 15% of the time)  Is he embarassed by his infirmity?  Do my loud children annoy him?  Is he really not wanting to be a burden?  Does he not care at all that he may never see his loved ones again?  Does the idea of being nursed by his own children humiliate him?

I’ll probably never know.  And because of this, I can do nothing to allay his fears and achieve what I believe to be the paramount goals of this situation:  re-uniting him with his family and facilitating a dignified death.

He’s been an ornery, stubborn coot for my entire life.  Age and infirmity have only exacerbated that orneriness (sp?).  I wish he could set it aside before it becomes too late.

Another mindless poll December 10, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Polls.
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Your Five Factor Personality Profile

Extroversion:
You have low extroversion.
You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.
A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.
You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.
Conscientiousness:

You have low conscientiousness.
Impulsive and off the wall, you don’t take life too seriously.
Unfortunately, you sometimes end up regretting your snap decisions.
Overall, you tend to lack focus, and it’s difficult for you to get important things done.

Agreeableness:

You have medium agreeableness.
You’re generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.

Neuroticism:

You have medium neuroticism.
You’re generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there’s a few emotional bumps you’d like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there’s no way you’ll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.

The Five Factor Personality Test

 

My only challenge to this is the conscientiousness scale. . .doesn’t ring right to me.  Then again, almost none of these polls are worth a fart in a whirlwind anyway. . .

Just who is good and evil around here? December 10, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Humor, Polls.
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On the one hand, there is me:


How evil are you?

On the other, there is PZ:


How evil are you?

Now, is ANYONE surprised?  (Actually, PZ scored as plain “evil”.  I tried to re-construct his evilness. . .didn’t quite get it right, but was close.)