Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In the drowsy stillness of a Monday afternoon, as a few of us sat around Her hospital bed, as Her pulse grew fainter and fainter according to the two who were holding Her hands, one on each side, She raised up and She breathed Her last, gasping breath.

And She left us.

And She began whatever new phase of life awaits beyond this mortal moment.

Never have I been there, at such a time, in such a place. Never will I be the same again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The reaper is indeed grim

The movies never get death right.

They make it sudden and dramatic. Or as if one simply went to sleep one day.

In truth, death is more often a tortuous, slow decline. Good days and bad days. Hopes raised, then dashed.

Reminds me of the very words used to describe war, by those who truly knew war: A mingling of terror and tedium and numbness. No glamour. Nothing to write home about.

Death is paper-thin skin splotched with purple bruises from the IV needles. It is itching from the morphine drip. It is night after night keeping vigil, never knowing when the moment will finally come. It is frustration, exhaustion. It is laundry piled up at home and Christmas lights still on the roof and knowing the routes through the hospital hallways virtually blindfolded. It is a parade of relatives that ebbs and flows, day in and day out, withering by nightfall to only the closest of loved ones.

Happy picture

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Maintaining the vigil ... and a new theory on assault

...So we take turns going to the hospital, sitting by my Grandmother-in-law's side, marveling at Her continued lucidity and humor in the face of the inevitable ...

...and life goes on, or some semblance of it.

I was looking for news on the Senate race in Mass., and stumbled somehow across a shocking interview on a very sensitive, very important subject: sexual abuse of children.

The interviewee has been made a pariah for Her controversial new theory, as are so many people who dare to confront the scientific/medical establishment. Her revelation is this: In the vast majority of cases, children who are abused are not traumatized by the incident, they are confused. There is in fact often physical pleasure in what takes place.

What occurred is still very, very, very wrong -- absolutely a loathsome, horrific crime, the author is quick to note -- because a child cannot give consent. But by insisting that a child who has been molested, is always traumatized and feels no pleasure in what is done, as if the scenario were always a violent rape by some stranger in an alley, we do an injustice to many victims of the crime. Namely, those victims who did not feel raped or terrorized. Who felt only confused at what their bodies told them during the molestation and who may have been well-acquainted with, and even cared for, their abuser.

What happened to them was still a crime and they need to know that, and that they were not wrong or abnormal or sick in how they felt about it at the time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dealing with it for the first time

Up until now, I have led the wandering life. When older relatives passed away, I was either too young or too far away to be greatly affected. When two of my siblings lost children in infancy, again, though older this time, I was too far away, out of the regular loop, to do much or to feel much – I never laid eyes on that nephew or that Niece.

Today, my Wife called me at work to tell me that Her Grandmother’s kidneys are failing, on top of the congestive heart failure that She is already experiencing. She’s in the hospital, going down.

We all know what is coming. And for the first time, death is calling on someone I know well and love well. And I will be right here in the middle of it all. And I don’t quite know what to do other than to be a shoulder to cry on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brilliant behavior

My morning has been quite busy, keeping administrators in the know about some junior high school pea-brain who called in a bomb threat to his school.

... From his school.

On a cell phone.


His cell phone.

Not some stolen phone that could be tossed in the trash without a trace.

Not a corner pay phone from which one could walk away anonymously.

His own phone.

In the school.

Yeah,he's been arrested. Ought to be charged with egregious, felonious public stupidity.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Twitter temptation

Somebody named "Tracy" sent me a request today to join Her in the world of Twitter.

Okay, first off, the new verb "twittering" just feels annoying upon my eardrums and in my brain. Twittering is an activity that should be reserved for birds.

Secondly, Facebook alreadys chaps my hide enough with its limitations on length. Twitter would be more salt in the wound.

So I could just hit the delete button, like some old luddite with hair in his ears slamming his door shut so as not to hear the neighborhood noise. Or I could acknowledge that "Twitter," like the Internet itself, is not going to go away, and give in and give it a try.

Doubt I will use it much. Famous last words, those.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Evolution Revolution

When history began, when people first began to write, the consequences were tragic, at least from one perspective. The ancient art of the oral account, the prodigious memories that were required to be a teller of tales or a wise man/Woman of any repute, withered away and something was lost from humanity.

Only in what few great sagas were transferred to writing, such as Homer's Iliad; and in the captivating tales still told by peoples on the fringes of "civilization," peoples for whom literacy is still rare, do we gain a glimpse into that lost world.

Today, the pundits and purists fret about a new onslaught: The electronic word, displacing paper and ink. Nearly extinct is the grand art of great letter writing; gone from popular magazines and many newspapers are the erudite essays that used to entertain and enrich us all. Popular culture today aspires to the low height of the picture book.

Each new invention seems to squeeze expression a little more dry, in the name of speed and efficiency. Already, teachers fume about students using electronic shorthand instead of actual words in their assignments: 24/7, B4, lol, etc. Alas, they "kick against the pricks."

Progress will be progress and one fights it in vain.

I wrote actual pen-and-paper thank you notes for my birthday gifts recently. I fully intend to write a letter to my uncle this week, in response to his recent query. I love to write and if that makes me a silly old-fashioned fool, so be it. I shall to my dying day cherish the feel of a stout, heavy pen in my hand, a sheet of fresh paper beneath it and my thoughts becoming loops and lines of ink. It is a peaceful art, far more soothing to the pysche than the nervous clicking and clacking of a computer keyboard.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The writing blues

This has been an odd week.

I have been asked by a Facebook friend to translate a letter from Hungarian to English on behalf of two families that I have never met;

to write a customer-service playbook page in football coach format for someone who works at a bank - -and I know little about football and nothing about banks;

and, speaking of football, to write a recommendation letter on behalf of a coach I have never met, who is employed in another state.

And the number one best invention from a jail cell is ...

The toothbrush.

William Addis of England is credited with creating the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. In 1770 he had been placed in jail for causing a riot. While in prison, he decided that the method for teeth brushing of the time – rubbing a rag on one's teeth with soot and salt – could be improved. So he took a small animal bone, drilled small holes in it, obtained some bristles from a guard, tied them in tufts, then passed the bristles through the holes on the bone and glued them. He soon became very wealthy. He died in the year 1808 and left the business to his eldest son, William II.

From Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dreaming again...

I dream …

I dream of a world where every human being has clean water to drink, food to eat and a home to call his or her own. Where the needs, too, and the habitats of other beings, whether a palm tree or a panda bear, are no longer threatened.

Where there are no more borders, to keep anyone out or in. Nor any reason to do so.

Where there is no war. No tyrants who oppress. No bullies, no criminals, no abusers of any kind.

No need for armies, navies, lawyers, police, courts and judges. No locks on doors, no alarms.

No slums, no blighted inner cities.

Where people help each other by choice, not governments by compulsion and taxation.
Where resources are neither wasted by the cold hand of capitalism, nor made scarce through the schemes of socialism.

Where both security and freedom are present in equal measure.

I love the heritage of humanity, from the noble notions of the Jainists in India to the plays of William Shakespeare. I love English fish and chips, the rich breads of Germany and noodles from Vietnam. How delicious is a Magyar porkolt, and a Salvadoran-style papusa; and a glass of frothy, spicy Indian lassi!

What I know and have experienced, is a moment and a droplet. How little I still understand of Mani, the Yazidi, the Tao; of the poets of Mongolia, Malta and Madagascar. Unknown to me is the bite of a Dakota winter wind or a drift through the foggy fens of England or the sunrise in the Serengeti!

I have never seen the snowfields sparkle in Iceland, nor tasted kalamari in the Italian seaside sunshine. Nor have I walked through the ancient ruins in Iran, ascended the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan or climbed the craggy mountains of North Korea.

It is a dream. Just a dream.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I feel good.

A little short of breath, a little sweatier than preferable with the rest of the work day still before me, but good.

They say the human species evolved as walkers, epic walkers, and today I walked. Not to epic proportions, but for a good half hour.

In summertime, the stroll from your car to your office will kill you in my part of the world, when the temperature and humidity goes out of control. But right now, the air is brisk and chill and great for a lunchtime walk.

I observed a backyard full of rosemary, a bird that sounded like a rusty gate swinging back and forth, and way too much litter, including a plague of plastic bags swimming downstream on their way to kill marine life.

Now, it's back to work.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stupid little boy

Looking back upon my life so far, I see a few moments that make me proud. I also see great heaping piles of things that I have said or done that are at best amusing, at worst simply awful.

Though I feel plenty mature at the moment, so did I then. Six months, six years, six decades from now, some of my thoughts and actions of today may look just as stupid to me.

Wisdom is a will-o-the-wisp, a light ever dancing away into the darkness, never grasped fully by any mortal man or Woman.

I cannot use youth as a carte-blanche excuse, nor mere ignorance. And yet, they cannot be completely exonerated as accomplices.

"Crime is a young man's game," someone noted recently. So, as well, are stupid pranks, the tendency to walk off your job in a silly rage and the acquisition of bad habits that one battles for a lifetime.

It is a New Year. I have made resolutions. I am not of the crowd who refuses to do so because of the likelihood that they will break them. When I stop trying to self-improve, when I give up Death-of-A-Salesman-style on my dreams and determinations, I might as well head for the exit door of life.

I hope that I will be kinder this year, raise my voice less, waste less time, work harder, be better.

But I will surely at this time next year look back upon the annum and still wonder, "What in the WORLD was I thinking?"