Category Archives: Marriage

#trypod – Dating Advice and Tim Harford

If anyone were to ask me for dating advice…

No one ever does, one of the benefits of repeating the story of how I met The Wife almost 30 years ago. I have to say, this is an unexpected side benefit from knife skills and stories of knife skills, not being bothered with requests from single people asking “how can I be as happy as you?” I mean, knife skills have their own benefits to you and your partner, such as the person who has your six in a bar fight having the ability to gut anyone who comes at you from behind. That is a very useful skill, but I never thought the story itself had a benefit until I started writing this post. I’ll have to remember that.

…anyway. Dating advice. I hereby vow to never give any. If I’m ever tempted to I will simply tell people to listen to this one episode of Planet Money,


Then I will tell them to subscribe to Why oh Why and listen to Episodes #8 How Will I know  and #12 Oblique Strategies specifically to get to the end of the story started in the podcast linked above. Why would I do that? Because a single girl like the host of Why oh Why is going to know more about dating than any guy who is breathing, and I’d be a bigger idiot than Tim Harford to offer any suggestions of my own.

Not that I disagree with Tim Harford. I’m rather fond of him. I’m currently listening to his 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy podcast, and I’m loving it. I’m noticing a pattern with Tim Harford, and that pattern is his love of the Oblique Strategies approach to answering really hard questions. Hard questions that don’t have right and wrong answers, like most things in life.

I mean he uses Brian Eno’s deck of cards in another (enjoyable) episode of Planet Money,


He mentions Oblique Strategies again in this TED talk,

Personally, I don’t think he did the host of Why Oh Why any favors by pulling out Oblique Strategies as a way to answer her questions about dating. Reverse (the card he drew) is a particularly cryptic concept to apply to the notion of mate selection and dating. You can’t really reverse. Asking herself why she started the dating and the podcast about dating (her interpretation of the meaning of reverse) leads her essentially to the question of discovering who she is before trying to find a mate. Life is to short to worry about finding out who you are before getting on with it. Part of finding out who your are is taking the journey through life. Picking a mate or even a series of mates if need be is also part of that process.

What follows is as close as I will ever get to giving advice on this subject. When you are doing things you like, you tend to find people you like. I think that is why so many people suggest “get a hobby” as a way to meet people. I think that is also the wrong advice. Get on with living your life, and then notice who you are living it next to. Across from. In competition with. Have conversations with those people. You might discover your very own knife-wielding love of your life. Or not, as the case may be.

Why #trypod? Clearly you didn’t listen to the episodes. NPR and other podcasters are running a promotion this month trying to get people to promote podcasts using the hashtag trypod. I’ve promoted four podcasts in this blog post, not that I’m counting or anything. I routinely post what I’m listening to (if it is good) to my Google plus profile. What I look back on and really like gets spread around to other social platforms. So nice try NPR. I’ll play along. Been suggesting things for people to listen to for years now.

Partnership by Any Other Name

Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.   

On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him.  But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. Trying to stick to the legality issue here.  


It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial; that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex.  Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.

I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don’t see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.

I know, I know, I’m a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I’ve heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?

The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually.  I know that I wouldn’t have to make that deal with a business partner.  But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them.  This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.

Most people don’t even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We’ve discussed so many different scenarios that I’d be hard pressed to name an event we haven’t discussed and what her wishes would be.  Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy.  Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years.   The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.

That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.

Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction.  That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.

I’d like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.

Courtesy Girl Du Jour & Jim Wright

The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they’re making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.

As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I’ll leave that to Jim over at Stonekettle Station.  He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could;

You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from. — Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station


The NYT article that debunks the 50% divorce rate myth (yes, it is a myth) has a lot of good information in it on the subject of marriage and divorce.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist

 Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.

It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70’s persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.

Fewer people marry these days.  That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce.  Can’t get divorced if you never marry.

The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.

Courtesy Coffee Party

The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement.  She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I’m sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal.  Their rejection of this observation doesn’t actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor’s benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them.  Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970’s.  That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.

When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn’t even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial.  If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.


The SCOTUS did render the correct decision and not force the people at large to add marriage equality to the long list of changes we’re going to have to make when the Constitutional Convention is called to reverse Citizens United.  It would have been nice if the court had made its decision based on the unconstitutional sexual discrimination which all the objections to same-sex marriage exhibit, as discussed in this article on Salon;

The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.

But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.

No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week.  We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place.  Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.

One way to get that might be to hold certain attorneys feet to the fire.  Attorneys like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz who have violated the ethical rules for their profession;

The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.

Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz’s behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.

The Wife

(This was originally posted here. I’ve edited and expanded it a bit)

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Yes, she does. Thanks for asking. It’s just that there’s this minor detail of her not wanting me to refer to her by name on the blog, or when I reference her in other online forums. Probably doesn’t want her name associated with her like the name “Margaret” has been associated with an amazing ability to argue about anything. I started calling her the wife because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way (several years ago in a previous working life) So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since. She has always referred to me as her significant other, which I find clever and cute at the same time. Probably why we are still together after 26 years.

That is the difference in 9 years passing (the time since I first wrote this narrative, and now) I no longer think that the 3 years before we tied the knot matter that much anymore.  The proverbial “I can’t remember when we weren’t together” moment has occurred for me. I know those moments existed, and that they mattered at the time. My life is now defined by the beautiful woman I’ve been married to for over a quarter century. Defined by the two children we’ve raised together. Well, not really children anymore. One of them is an adult, but we can’t seem to get her out of the house (teasing you, don’t bridle) the other is in high school.  That fun age.  Does this mean that I’m old?  The children keep me young. That is the truth. They keep me young, while reminding me just how old I really am. Reality is a bitch like that.

Twenty-six years ago today, we got married. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. The wedding was planned by several friends. It was beautiful, right up to the point following the kiss, when they realized that they hadn’t planned how to exit the arbor we were in. “Weddings over, see you at the reception.”

Did you notice the ‘arbor’ reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. Not much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. But still, it did rain on our outdoor wedding.

My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony. In their tuxedos, on the way to the wedding, they stopped for donuts. Of course, there was a delay getting the breakfast, so they were late. The-soon-to-be-Wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (remember, moving next day?) I was instructed to aim for his head (brother or best man, who knows?) when opening champagne later that day.

When my brother was married a few years later, we wrapped their wedding present in donut boxes. I don’t think either one of them appreciated the joke.  The Wife and I laughed for weeks.  Joy is in the ears that hear, or maybe revenge is a dish best served cold. Like donuts.

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. Her garter fell off (more than once) and had to be retrieved, so that it could be removed properly at the reception. I could go on, but I’d like to save some blackmail material just in case I might need it.

We met four years prior to that day. Like most people, we met at work. We both drove test cars. Yes you read that right, but it’s not the job you think it is, trust me. Every tire on the road today was tested on the route that we drove. From San Angelo nearly to Del Rio and back; and then North of San Angelo to Robert Lee and back. Some of the most tedious work I think I’ve ever done. Convoys of four cars, maintaining correct 4 second spacing, traveling at a dead level 55 mile an hour rate, for 8 monotonous hours 5 days a week.  If I can point to a job that broke me of my love of driving, it was that job.

My best friend at the time drove lead (the car in front, the guy in charge) on the convoy that I drove tail on.  (how we ended up working at the same place at the same time is a story in itself) Some of the areas we drove through were pretty remote…

[One night, down on the Devil’s river, we came across a jeep that looked like it had been on the loosing end of a bear fight. Blood, bullet holes, no windows, dented, etc. On another night we came across a wreck in the clearing stages. Car hit head on with a tanker truck. As I’m sitting next to the wreck waiting to be allowed to go, the cop wanders over and casually kicks a shoe, with the foot still in it, back over towards the wreck. Won’t be forgetting either of those nights.

At least I never hit a deer. The wife hit three. Well, technically she ran over one that jumped onto the road in front of her and fell down, got hit by one that ran into the side of her car while she was passing, and then actually hit one in the test car she renamed ‘rocky’ because they had to wedge the headlights back in with rocks so that she could make it back to the shop. Ask her about the cow sometime. That’s a funny story]

…And since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly; and if you were the lucky one you were stranded with a broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you. Some of us were a little edgy about this situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun myself, so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

Well, my buddy who ran the convoy got to talking one night and discovered someone that I needed to meet. Our follow-on teams lead driver had a larger version of the knife I carried, and she knew how to use it. The next night, he takes me over to introduce me to her as we are trading cars at the end of the shift. She whips out her knife with a gleam in her eye (have I mentioned that I’m a bit skittish around knives? There was a reason I didn’t know how to use it) and proceeded to flip it around and demonstrate how you gut your opponent with one smooth motion. All the while grinning like the proverbial cat with the canary.

What did I think of her, I hear you asking? She scared the living shit out of me. I thought I was a dead man. If I ever got away from her, I was not going to be looking back. I told my buddy as much afterwards.

Never did manage to get away from her. Drove in her convoys a few times after that when one of her drivers failed to show up. San Angelo is not a big place, so we ended up running into each other outside of work as well. So I married her instead. True story.

26 years ago today, babe. Happy anniversary.

The Wife

(This was originally posted here. I’ve edited and expanded it a bit)

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Why yes, she does. She just doesn’t want me to use it here. Probably doesn’t want her name associated with her like the name “Margaret” has been associated with an amazing ability to argue about anything. I started calling her ‘the wife’ because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way (several years ago in a previous working life) So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since. She has always referred to me as her ‘Significant Other’, which I find clever and cute at the same time. Probably why we are still together after 25 years.

That is the difference in 8 years passing (the time since I first wrote this narrative, and now) I no longer think that the 3 years before we tied the knot matter that much anymore.  The proverbial “I can’t remember when we weren’t together” moment has occurred for me. I know those moments existed, and that they mattered at the time. My life is now defined by the beautiful woman I’ve been married to for a quarter century. The two children that we both simultaneously love and want to kill. Yes, two children. One of them isn’t much of a child anymore, but we can’t seem to get her out of the house (teasing you, don’t bridle) the other is in high school.  That fun age.  Come to think of it, that isn’t much of a child either. Wait, does that mean I have adult children?  That I’m old?  Bullshit, I’m not buying that.

Twenty-Five years ago today, we got married. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. The wedding was planned by several friends. It was beautiful, right up to the point following the kiss, when they realized that they hadn’t planned how to exit the arbor we were in. “Weddings over, see you at the reception.”

Did you notice the ‘arbor’ reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. Not much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony; none of us had breakfast, all were famished. They stopped for donuts, there was a delay getting the breakfast, they were late. The-soon-to-be-Wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (remember, moving next day?) I was instructed to ‘aim for his head’ when opening champagne later that day.

[we wrapped ‘his’ wedding present in donut boxes when he got married a few years later. I don’t think he ever appreciated the joke, myself]

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. Her garter fell off (more than once) and had to be retrieved, so that it could be removed properly at the reception. I could go on, but I’d like to save some blackmail material just in case I might need it.

I start our time together from the first moment we met driving test cars rather than the wedding day. Yes you read that right, but it’s not the job you think it is, trust me. Every tire on the road today was tested on the route that we drove. From San Angelo nearly to Del Rio and back; and then North of San Angelo to Robert Lee and back. Some of the most tedious work I think I’ve ever done. Four car convoys, correct 4 second spacing, dead level 55 mile an hour rate of travel. For 8 hours.

My best friend at the time was ‘lead’ (the car in front, the guy in charge) on the convoy that I drove ‘tail’ with.  (how we ended up working at the same place at the same time is a story in itself) Some of the areas we drove through were pretty remote…

[One night, down on the Devil’s river, we came across a jeep that looked like it had been on the loosing end of a bear fight. Blood, bullet holes, no windows, dented, etc. On another night we came across a wreck in the clearing stages. Car hit head on with a tanker truck. As I’m sitting next to the wreck waiting to be allowed to go, the cop wanders over and casually kicks a shoe, with the foot still in it, back over towards the wreck. Won’t be forgetting either of those nights.

At least I never hit a deer. The wife hit three. Well, technically she ran over one that jumped onto the road in front of her and fell down, got hit by one that ran into the side of her car while she was passing, and then actually hit one in the test car she renamed ‘rocky’ because they had to wedge the headlights back in with rocks so that she could make it back to the shop. Ask her about the cow sometime. That’s a funny story]

…And since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly; and if you were the lucky one you were stranded with a broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you. Some of us were a little edgy about this situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun myself, so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

Well, my buddy (who ran the convoy) got to talking to other leads one night and discovered someone that I needed to meet. She had a larger version of the knife I carried, and she knew how to use it. The next night, he takes me over to introduce me to her as we are trading cars at the end of the shift. So she shows me her knife with a gleam in her eye (have I mentioned that I’m a bit skittish around knives? There was a reason I didn’t know how to use it) and proceeds to flip it around and demonstrate how you gut your opponent with one smooth motion. All the while grinning like the proverbial cat with the canary.

Honestly? She scared the living shit out of me. I thought I was a dead man. If I ever got away from her, I was not going to be looking back. I told my buddy as much afterwards.

Never did manage to get away from her. Drove in her convoys a few times after that when one of her drivers failed to show up. San Angelo is not a big place, so we ended up running into each other outside of work as well. And so I married her instead. True story.

25 years ago today, babe. Happy anniversary.

Husband and Father

Two more words that, when I looked, didn’t have definitions that came close to describing the meaning of the word.

My dissatisfaction probably stems from the need to have the emotional weight (sometimes referred to as gravitas) of the name be communicated in the meaning.

A husband is more than just the male half of a marriage. A father is more than a sperm doner, less than god himself.

This rant is not finished. There will be more.

The Wife

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Why yes, she does. She just doesn’t want me to use it here. Probably doesn’t want her name associated with her like the name “Margaret” has been associated with an amazing ability to argue about anything. I started calling her ‘the wife’ because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way (several years ago in a previous working life) So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since. She has always referred to me as her ‘Significant Other’, which I find clever and cute at the same time. Probably why we are still together after 20 years.

I say 20, she says 17 (I’ve said 20 for two years now. I’m preparing myself for the shock of it) Because “the time before we got married doesn’t count”. Not in her book anyway. In her book it all began 17 years ago today. Seventeen years ago today, we got married. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. The wedding was planned by several friends. It was beautiful, right up to the point following the kiss, when they realized that they hadn’t planned how to exit the arbor we were in. “Weddings over, see you at the reception.”

Did you notice the ‘arbor’ reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. Not much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony, hadn’t had any breakfast. There was a delay getting the breakfast, they were late. The-soon-to-be-Wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (remember, moving next day?) I was instructed to ‘aim for his head’ when opening champagne later that day.

[we wrapped ‘his’ wedding present in donut boxes when he got married a few years later. I don’t think he ever appreciated the joke, myself]

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. Her garter fell off (more than once) and had to be retrieved, so that it could be removed properly at the reception. I could go on, but I’d like to save some blackmail material just in case I might need it.

I start our time together from the first moment we met. Driving test cars. Yes you read that right, but it’s not the job you think it is, trust me. Every tire on the road today was tested on the route that we drove. From San Angelo nearly to Del Rio and back; and then North of San Angelo to Robert Lee and back. Some of the most tedious work I think I’ve ever done. Four car convoys, correct 4 second spacing, dead level 55 mile an hour rate of travel. For 8 hours.

My best friend at the time was ‘lead’ (the car in front, the guy in charge) on the convoy that I drove ‘tail’ with. (how we ended up working at the same place at the same time is a story in itself) Some of the areas we drove through were pretty remote…

[One night, down on the Devil’s river, we came across a jeep that looked like it had been on the loosing end of a bear fight. Blood, bullet holes, no windows, dented, etc. On another night we came across a wreck in the clearing stages. Car hit head on with a tanker truck. As I’m sitting next to the wreck waiting to be allowed to go, the cop wanders over and casually kicks a shoe, with the foot still in it, back over towards the wreck. Won’t be forgetting either of those nights.

At least I never hit a deer. The wife hit three. Well, technically she ran over one that jumped onto the road in front of her and fell down, got hit by one that ran into the side of her car while she was passing, and then actually hit one in the test car she renamed ‘rocky’ because they had to wedge the headlights back in with rocks so that she could make it back to the shop. Ask her about the cow sometime. That’s a funny story]

…And since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly; and if you were the lucky one you were stranded with a broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you. Some of us were a little edgy about this situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun myself, so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

Well my buddy, who ran the convoy, got to talking to other leads one night and discovered someone that I needed to meet. She had a larger version of the knife I carried, and she knew how to use it. The next night, he takes me over to introduce me to her as we are trading cars at the end of the shift. So she shows me her knife with a gleam in her eye (have I mentioned that I’m a bit skittish around knives? There was a reason I didn’t know how to use it) and proceeds to flip it around and demonstrate how you gut your opponent with one smooth motion. All the while grinning like the proverbial cat with the canary.

Honestly, she scared the living shit out of me. I thought I was a dead man. If I ever got away from her, I was not going to be looking back. I told my buddy as much afterwards.

Never did manage to get away from her. Drove in her convoys a few times after that when one of her drivers failed to show up. San Angelo is not a big place, so we ended up running into each other outside of work as well. And so I married her instead. True story.

20 years ago today, babe (yes, I know, 17) Happy anniversary.

An Atheist Marking the Untimely Passage of a Family Member

Ok, I give up. I don’t know if this is writer’s block or some internal need for catharsis, but I haven’t been able to make myself sit down and write anything of any significance since learning that my father-in-law had passed away four weeks ago.

Well, calling him my ‘father-in-law’ is simplifying things quite a bit, but that is what he was. Grandfather to my children, husband to my wife’s mother. True, the man that my wife called ‘father’ died several years ago, an event that changed all our lives quite a bit. But does that fact make the passing of this man less than her father’s passing?

This was a good man; a man of the earth, and a man of deep faith. A widower who was just as alone as the woman he met at church one Sunday. After a few years of friendship they decided to spend the rest of the time they had together; and they were happy together. My children enjoyed spending time with G-ma and Grampa Henry; would it be wrong to observe “more than when Grandma lived by herself?” Henry reminded me of my own long departed grandfather in many ways. He had a sharp wit, and a gentle disposition; someone who was sure of who and what he was in life.

Looking back, I wish “the rest of their time” had been more than it was. Four short years after we witnessed their marriage, Henry was gone from us, taken by a disease that none of us had heard of before. My son, now about the same age as his sister was when she had to say goodbye to her first grandpa, looked at me with the same questioning eyes; what does it mean, where did he go?

Questions I don’t have any answers for. Other people comfort themselves with stories of a beautiful afterlife that is much like this one; fanciful visions of angels and visiting loved ones who are long gone. Though I never spoke to Henry about his beliefs, as a practicing Catholic, I’m sure his views of the afterlife were similar. I hope that his beliefs were comforting to him; in the end, that is the purpose of religion.

The answer I offered my son was similar to the one I offered my daughter, “he’s in a better place”. Since both men were in constant pain (when un-medicated) before their deaths, it’s a fairly safe bet that the observation would be true. But what does it mean? I don’t want to delude my children, nor do I want to crush them with the weight of harsh reality. For me, the meaning of “better place” is somewhere between non-experience (the ending of this consciousness that is ‘me’) and surfing the cosmic flux, and I don’t really know which end it will favor when the time comes. Nor, after reading some of the weightier reflections on the subject, do I find that I really care. Having decided that spending time in fear of being sentenced to hell by a vengeful god was a waste, I instead actually try living my life; so that when it’s “Times Up” I don’t experience the “I should have’s”.

Which is perhaps the reason why I’ve been absent for the last month. Just making sure I’m spending my time wisely.


As an afterthought, the other thing that these two wonderful men had in common is they both trusted MDs at the local hospital to diagnose their maladies. And in both cases, the doctors failed them miserably. The wife’s father was killed by overdoses of radiation used to treat a non-existent tumor. Grandpa Henry was killed by the failure of these same doctors to properly diagnose a disease; a disease that ‘the wife’ correctly identified just using the symptoms and looking it up on the internet, a process that took less than an hour. Not that knowing what it was did any good. Cancer is like that when it is in it’s advanced stages.

The MDs could possibly have averted it if they had done their homework when they were first presented with the problem. I only wish that we had realized that he was going to the same doctors earlier than we had. Perhaps we would still have grandpa Henry with us. Probably not. Cancer is like that.

“Righteous indignation”

I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile. I dragged myself out to vote November Eighth. I do this every time an election rolls around, not because I think my vote will be counted properly (another rant in the making) and not because I think it will change anything (most of the issues go the other direction by hefty majorities. I blame it on education) I do it because it gives me a license to bitch when the will of the majority goes awry. As it has in the past. As it will this time around too.

With the passage of Prop. 2 here in Texas, the majority has officially endorsed the end of “equality before the law”. What do I mean by that? Quite simply, they have stated that certain individuals have more rights than others, according to law. That if you cohabitate with ‘A’ member of the opposite sex, you can declare what you have a ‘marriage’, and claim the privilege that come along with it. Things like tax exemptions, health insurance coverage for ‘family members’, etc. Things not available to people who happen to cohabitate with any number of other people (no matter what sex they are) for whatever reason. Prop. 2 writes into the Texas Constitution that a household formed of one man and one woman has rights that others in the state don’t have, setting up preferential treatment for a specific portion of the population. Some of us (and since I’m one of the special people who happens to cohabitate with a woman, I’m one of ‘us’. Go figure) have more rights than others, and it’s written right into the ‘law of the land’. Equal before the law? Not any more.

How dare they put their faith above everything else? “Marriage is Sacred” they say. Then why can it be performed by a judge? It’s just another contractual arrangement now, no matter what it was in ancient times. If they wanted to retain the ‘sacred’ rites of marriage, then they should never have allowed the government to take part in the rites at all. It should only be performed in a church.

Back at the dawn of the internet, I used to spend time arguing on various forums on CompuServe (back when I was simply known as 71613,115@compuserve.com, before AOL bought the company and gutted it of it’s hardware) on the Gay and Lesbian forum I had several arguments with well intentioned people who were convinced that they needed special laws to protect them. I only ceased arguing with them when they provided proof that they were still persecuted in modern day America. I ceased to argue with them, but my views have not changed. There should not be ‘special’ laws for any group in America. Not for Gays, not for Women, not for Minorities; and most definitely not for ‘Marriage’.

I was, and still am outraged at this; especially in light of the ‘straight’ majority in Texas having now added one more misbegotten and meaningless amendment to the Texas constitution (a document that with each passing election shouts it’s need for complete replacement; just try reading it sometime) that will most likely backfire as have most of the ones before it. And I really hope it does. Just waiting for that case that opens the can of worms. “What do you mean, no marriages are ‘legal’ in the state of Texas? How could that be…”