Rescues

Who is the rescued and who is the rescuer?

They were found tied up in a bag on the bank of a creek. A litter of mongrel puppies that someone had tried to drown, found by a local shelter volunteer and brought to the animal shelter for evaluation and adoption. Just another unwanted batch of puppies created by pets whose owners were criminally negligent in allowing their animals to breed when the products of that breeding were unwanted.

That’s where we found them, at the shelter. Every child should have their own puppy to raise. Dogs and children go together like sunshine and rainbows. Our geriatric nearly 20-year old Shusky Aurora was blind and deaf and would barely live two years past the day that we went to the shelter to adopt puppies for the children to raise as their own. Old dogs are for old people. Children need puppies.

The Wife and I have been animal shelter volunteers off and on over our many years together. We would take strays that we picked up down to the San Angelo animal shelter, and invariably we’d end up with a rescue that we just couldn’t leave behind coming back home with us. Whether it was a litter of kittens that would starve without our feeding them, or a doofus of a Springer Spaniel that we eventually traded to an acquaintance, the pets would come and go through our involvement with the animal shelter until we moved to Austin.

In Austin the shelter is much more regimented and much more expensive to do business with. Consequently we don’t take strays there like we did in San Angelo. Here we find them homes if we can’t find where their home is. Mostly we fend off feral cats here, and take in the odd parakeet that we find perched on the gutters when we come home.

Aurora truly was of the old guard, she migrated with us to Austin from San Angelo. She never had puppies of her own, and she was the last surviving member of the last litter of puppies we got from Muffin-Puff Chevas (she had a Regal name) and Budweiser, two previous rescues that were probably shepherd-husky crosses themselves. There might have been some recent wolf in Budweiser, he had a ferociousness that isn’t found in most dogs these days. But he was protective to a fault, and he gave his piercing blue eyes to most of his puppies that he sired with Muffin.

Muffin was a dream dog. She liked nothing better than to be where ever you were. If you were swimming across the lake, she was swimming right beside you. If she got ahead of you she would expect you to grab her tale and let her pull you to shore. She loved tug of war and fetching balls. She loved chasing tennis balls so much that she would shove her head through cinder blocks to get them, and ended up getting her head stuck in one once. Undeterred, she managed to lift the block while still holding the ball in her mouth, and stiffly walked back over to us with a cinder block hanging around her neck. We couldn’t take the ball from her when she offered it to us because we were laughing too hard to get up off the ground. I have those pictures around here somewhere. I had to carefully chisel the block off of her head after we took the pictures. She was full of life and play until the day she died. It was complications of an undiagnosed corn allergy that got her, common in dogs. She lost all her hair and had constant skin sores for the last few years of her life. She was the first dog we let sleep with us, we were so concerned for her health those last few years.

But she made beautiful babies with Budweiser, little blue-eyed, white, black and tan and black and white balls of joy that everyone wanted. We never had any trouble giving those puppies away, even charging for a few of them. But she died young, fourteen, and her puppies and Budweiser lived on. Bud made it to eighteen before a stroke took him, Corona the second to last of that last litter made it to seventeen herself. This left poor Aurora alone. We had a lapdog that isn’t part of this story since we didn’t rescue her, but Aurora was alone out in the yard and no dog should be alone just as no child should be alone.

So we took a trip to the Lockhart animal shelter looking for puppies for our growing children to adopt. When asked what kind of breed we were looking for, we said German Shepherd. They took us to the litter that had been brought in, the litter that some soulless human had tried to drown. They did look like German Shepherd mutts. They were a little large, but not overly so. The orange puppy immediately bonded with my daughter, and the brindle-coated one plopped down in my son’s lap and wouldn’t leave. So the puppies picked the children, just as it should be.

On the way home from the shelter the children settled on names. The daughter’s orange and white coated pup would be named Marshmallow, after the color of a marshmallow properly grilled over an open flame. The brindle-coated pup that adopted my son would be called Pearl because of the white overcoat and black undercoat that winked through when she moved.

We discovered within days that these dogs might be shepherds of some kind, but they were definitely not German Shepherds. They were not the six weeks of age that the shelter thought they were. Pearl couldn’t eat solid food and so we had to soak her food in milk for the first couple of weeks of her life. They were probably only four weeks old, making them much larger dogs than we had planned on in the end, but a welcome surprise. They grew up fast, getting larger than Aurora’s measly thirty pounds in a few months. As far as we could ever tell, they were at least partially Anatolian Shepherd, a breed of dog I had never heard of before.

We almost lost Mellow to sarcoptic mange in her first year of life. We only managed to keep her alive by force-feeding her a topical treatment for pests on a veterinarians orders (we thought he was crazy when he gave us instructions to do this) this left her legs scarred with white fur where it had been orange before, and I remain convinced that it made her the epicure she remained throughout her life, eating rocks, bricks, steel and masonite whenever she got bored or agitated.

Muffin used to keep the yard empty of sticks. She would forage around the yard on an hourly basis, looking for a stick to chew on. when she found one she would reduce it to splinters, and then look for another stick. In the same fashion, Mellow would rip the siding off the garage and eat it, leaving no trace of its existence anywhere in the yard. She went through forty linear feet of siding before I gave up and paid to get the garage resided in hardiplank. Apparently concrete was too tough for her to chew through. We caught her chewing on rocks so frequently that we ended up taking all the rocks out of the yard, and I don’t want to talk about what happened to the red clay bricks that used to be stacked up in the back of the yard. We can only find a few of them any more.

They never made a kennel that could hold that dog. She chewed her way out of a steel wire cage more than once. She destroyed so many kennels we finally decided to quit trying to keep her in one. Quit trying to cage her up at all, which was exactly what she wanted in the first place.

In contrast, Pearl was a watcher and a thinker. While her sister blunt forced her way through everything, Pearl studied any situation from a safe distance. She was snappier than Mellow, who could have been an excellent bird dog if I could only have managed to teach her to bring anything back to me. She like her space to be empty unless you were family, and she let everyone know this by raising her hackles and exposing the black fur of her undercoat on her shoulders. I never felt threatened when I was with that dog, and I trusted the children to go play in the park without me as long as they took their dogs with them. It is amazing the respect that a 100 pound dog can command, even if that dog is not visibly threatening. Pearl never bit anyone that wasn’t trying to feed her something, don’t get me wrong. She just never quite could figure out where the food ended and where your fingers began.

It was because of this that I kept unfamiliar people at a distance from Pearl, knowing she would bite, and instead let them pet Mellow who never set her teeth on anyone, ever. But Pearl was a clever dog. She worked out how to open doors and gates when she wanted to. If no one was looking. She would raid the recycling bin and eat the resulting mess on her sister’s bed so that it looked like Mellow had done it. Her favorite prank was going over to the fence and barking at nothing until she got her sister to bark, then she would slink away and leave the idiot Mellow barking by herself to get chastised for making noise for no reason.

She did have the bane of shepherds everywhere, hip dysplasia. It may have been her inability to move as gracefully as her sister, because of her bad hips, that made her think about how to get things done with as little work as possible. The less time standing, the better. For all of her problems moving, though, there was never a dog that liked taking a walk more than Pearl.

I discovered early on that if I wanted to keep Mellow from eating parts of the house she wasn’t supposed to eat, I was going to need to take her on a regular walk. Mellow would always start out fast, pulling on the leash. Pearl would start off slow, setting a slower pace, forcing her sister to slow down. By the time we’d done our mile of walking, Mellow would be dragging behind while Pearl, nearly lame, mincing, almost prancing, Pearl would be leading the way home.

For years we repeated this behavior. Me and my floppy hat, two giant dogs on leashes wandering the neighborhood, sometimes for hours. It was like this when the Daughter was in high school and then went off to college. When the Son started high school. When the Daughter came back from college. When we started looking for colleges for the Son. My dogs and me would be out two or three times a week, depending on the pollen and the weather, walking the neighborhood looking for new smells to smell.

I knew they were starting to get old when they started insisting on taking breaks before we got back to the house. Giving them water didn’t help. It was time to sit and pant. So the walks got shorter. Shorter and farther between. Then the day came that Pearl couldn’t manage to walk anymore. She could get herself up off the floor and out to the yard to pee, but just barely. Then she could barely do it while on enough pain meds to make me sleep for a week. Mellow and I continued to walk without her, but it was torture for her to be left behind. I could see it on her face, that she wanted to come with, but just couldn’t get up to do it.

Last spring, Pearl finally left us, surrounded by the people who loved her. Mellow and I went on even fewer walks after that. Now I’m starting to feel the age along with Mellow. Me pushing sixty, she’s pushing fifteen. The Daughter started taking her on more walks than I did. Exercising indoors means I don’t cough up a lung from allergy irritation. It’s boring as hell, but less life-shortening.

Yesterday we came home from a marathon round of doctor’s visits to find that Mellow didn’t want to drink or eat. Then she started to exhibit signs of pain. Labored breathing. Excessive panting. We tried a pain pill, but it just knocked her out, it didn’t help her breathing. About midnight we bundled her into the car and the Wife and Daughter took her to a 24 hour animal hospital, something else I didn’t know existed. I figured they’d be back in a few hours with some horror story about something Mellow had eaten while we were gone. Something she had eaten that had finally refused to sit in her stomach peacefully. Nothing could kill that dog, in my opinion.

One thing could, and I should have known what it was. Cancer could kill her. Cancer can kill anyone. I should have remembered. A tumor ruptured on her spleen, causing her to bleed out internally. She was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I really hate that. Mellow joins the long list of pets that I’ve known before her, the only dog the Daughter has ever owned. Joins her sister, the only dog the Son has ever owned. By the time I was their age I had known no fewer than five dogs and countless puppies starting with a chocolate Poodle that founded a line of Poodles that probably still exists somewhere in Kansas, and the last being a Golden Retriever I named Buddy. None of them were mine, although dad told me Buddy was mine. He didn’t fetch birds for me, just for dad. That makes him dad’s dog, and dad mourned his loss when he was gone. Mourned him far more than I did.

Corona was my dog, more than any other dog I’ve ever known. She picked me, and like the Daughter who was born a few years after Corona, I didn’t spend the time I should have spent with her while I had her near me. I only appreciate how much that dog and the Daughter bonded in my absence, in hindsight. It was Corona’s being attacked and killed by a stray that dug its way into our yard that made it imperative to get new dogs to blot out that memory of violation. Not only because children should have puppies, but that because death, especially violent death, should be answered with unashamed hope. A recommitment to the future. A dedication to time, life, continuing unapologetically.

We will be taking a trip to the animal shelter soon, I imagine. Not today and not tomorrow. But soon.


NYT Op:Ed – What it means to be loved by a dog

Angioplasty

It’ll all be fine.

That’s what they always say. Medical professionals. They’re always keen to reassure their patients that all will be well. They don’t want the patient to freak out and do anything crazy like killing themselves or canceling the procedure out of fear of the procedure. That is so not me; and I am way, way beyond the ability for comforting words to assuage any fears or disquiet.

Nope, I’m already certain that the end has come. I’m gonna die on the table. That’s the worst possible outcome. The next most likely outcome is that I’m going to wake up with a zipper chest like so many of my relatives have. Of course, I don’t tell anyone else that, not even the Wife. At least I don’t say that in those specific words. The Wife knows my mental acrobatics. She helpfully exclaims to the cardiologists nursing staff,

See what I have to put up with?

I know my own genetic history. I know what is in store for me because it is what happened to my direct genetic ancestors. My maternal grandfather had a heart attack when he was about my age. They cracked his chest open and sewed six bypass arteries into his heart in order to keep him alive. The procedure was successful. He lived for another thirty years before his gut killed him. When I started getting that weird sensation in my chest, I knew what that feeling meant, I just couldn’t jump to conclusions about what it was. No, I had to go through the experts and ge their opinions. I could have been wrong, but I wasn’t wrong. This time.

The feeling? It was like two solid objects rubbing against each other in the area around my heart. I’d never felt anything quite like it before in my life. After the sensation repeated itself several times during exercise, I decided I probably should take it seriously. So I did. I cancelled the physical therapy appointment I had the next day and booked an appointment with my cardiologist for as soon as he could see me.

He’s the one who offered the platitude it’ll be fine after saying the word angiogram and then watching me pale. What he didn’t know was that I have had nightmares about things crawling through my veins for most of my life. it’s part of my fear of needles and why I nearly faint every time someone sticks me with something. An angiogram is exactly that fear come to life.

I cringed every time an older relative would go in for one of the procedures. The Wife’s foster father had one done back in the dark ages, back in the 1980’s when an angiogram was still experimental. His was the first one I had ever heard of being done. They went in through his groin. They went in through that artery in the thigh that if cut you can bleed out in a matter of seconds. Not minutes, seconds. That artery. The femoral artery.

The catheter that they introduce into the blood system through the artery allows them to run a camera up through your arteries to study blockage from inside your body, and they can use it to introduce dye into your blood system, near the heart, so that they can use x ray imaging to study blockages. Which is what they wanted me to agree to. We’re going to slice open an artery and run tubes through your bloodstream. But don’t worry, we do this all the time.

They don’t know that worry is what I do eighteen hours a day, every day. If I’m not worrying about something, then I’m probably not actively thinking at the moment. I even worry when I dream. This is why driving a car every day of a working life is a special kind of torture for me. Anything more than a half-hour of driving, and I’m already worrying a hole in my stomach. I gave myself an ulcer inside of six months when I briefly flirted with driving for a living, bringing to an early end any kind of career driving trucks or test cars.

Over the course of the next week, while waiting for the procedure to happen, I say my goodbyes to everyone and make sure my karmic debt is paid off. I don’t want to be surprised in a potential next life by being reborn as a cockroach or anything. Just covering my bets. When the day finally arrives I’m under so much stress that if you scared me I would probably have a heart attack on the spot. That’s me trying not to worry.

Luckily I wasn’t going to be awake for the procedure. I made sure of that before agreeing to it. No, I do not want to be awake. I want the good drugs. The kind of drugs that keep you from remembering anything. I definitely do not want to be reliving the memory of crap crawling through my veins when I go to sleep for the rest of my life, if there is a rest of my life. Knock me out, or as close to out as I can get and still be responsive to commands or questions.

The doctor showed up early. He checked my wrist to see if it was large enough to get into easily. He was planning on accessing the radial artery rather than the femoral artery. I was initially thrilled at the notion that I wouldn’t have blood shooting out of the artery next to my junk the first time I went to the bathroom after the procedure. Then he left the room to allow the prep nurse to get to work. They prepared both the femoral artery area in the groin (so much hair!) and the right wrist as possible surgery locations. Had I known they would need to shave my groin anyway, I could have used the trimmers on it beforehand. Manscaping is a foreign concept to me. If hair grows somewhere on my body (on your body, even) it probably grows there for a reason. I see little need to trim hair that no one sees but me and the Wife. If she doesn’t like the hair, it usually gets snatched out by the roots anyway.

Talking to the surgery nurses is the last thing I remember before the procedure. I remember that both arms were strapped down (we don’t want you moving. Yes, I understand) The surgical shields were put in place. They were cold, but in place. The nurse said they do these kinds of procedures eight times a day on a normal day. They wouldn’t be doing eight of them on that day because the cardiologist I had been referred to had already dealt with two emergency procedures before he got to me in the mid-afternoon, and I had been scheduled as the first cardiogram of the morning when I walked in that day. He’s a busy guy. He earns his pay, without a doubt. He definitely earned it working on me that day.

The good drugs started when the doctor entered the surgery and verified everything I’d agreed to for about the fourth or fifth time (the thoroughness of modern medical procedure is reassuring if slightly tedious) and I don’t remember much after that. I remember the imaging system suspended over my chest like the upper hammer in a forging hammer press. I remember voices, but not words. I do vaguely remember something rounding the corner in my shoulder at one point, but I definitely do not remember the amount of work they had to do once they had done the initial scan.

…because it was as bad as I imagined it was. I didn’t die, so the worst outcome was averted. They didn’t have to crack my chest, something that would have been required had I been undergoing the procedure even ten years ago. Second worst outcome avoided by simply being born in the place and time that I was. No open heart surgery. Just three stents. Three stents, in three different arteries, and then the second set of tests to make sure that blood flow was restored to the blood starved areas of my heart.

What would have been weeks of bed rest and a lengthy hospital stay reduced to overnight observation and three months of cardiac rehabilitation. I’m a big fan of science-based modern medicine. It has once again kept me alive to see another day. From that perspective, what is there not to like about it?

I start remembering things after I’ve been in the recovery room for a bit. I remember the Wife’s usual amusement at my slowly dwindling confusion. I remember the cardiologist (now my favorite person in the world) visiting to let me know what they found while crawling through my arteries. He also let me know that I needed to stay for observation for at least a day to make sure that there were no complications. I also remember sitting in the recovery room until they had a hospital room ready for me, sitting there waiting until the cleaning staff was impatiently waiting for me to leave so they could clean up and shut down the surgery wing for the day. At least I had Looney Tunes to keep me company.

The pressure bandage was removed from my wrist at some point during the wait, and then there was a brief panic while I bled through quite a bit of gauze before the nurses got the bleeding to stop. Nurses pressing on the fresh surgery site to stop the bleeding, that was the most intense pain I endured that day. A mercifully brief pain considering the amount of pain that open heart surgery entails. Pain for months on end.

NPR – Invisibilia – The Fifth Vital Sign

I could bitch about the inability to get my betahistine cleared through the hospital administration while I was laid up at the hospital for the night, but that seems pretty trivial in the scheme of things. We’ll just pretend I didn’t take the betahistine anyway because that would be against the rules. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own drugs into the hospital? It was news to me. If you have drugs that aren’t available in the US unless they are compounded, you probably should get your drugs approved by the hospital you might be staying in before you find yourself stuck there with no treatment for your weird diseases. It will save you the frustration. In my case, it would have kept me from requesting a Xanax from the staff in order to keep the vertigo at bay. They didn’t want to give it to me, but I convinced them they didn’t want to see a full blown drop attack in the middle of the night. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just a problem patient. Ask the Wife.

The only real surprise I experienced post-recovery was that I didn’t expect to be one-handed for such an extended period of time. Had I realized that the bruising would hang around for as long as it did, I would have told them to go in through the groin. I would have missed a wedding anyway, as it turned out (thunderstorms will do that) But I could have done everything else I normally do while laid up in bed for forty-eight hours. Not having two hands meant I missed raiding in World of Warcraft for two weeks. But the worst part was not writing. Not writing much of anything for nearly three weeks. Slow torture for anyone who loves to write. As I said previously, I watched a lot of television.

This brings us to today in this little story. Today, where I’m stuck in the near-endless repetition of cardiac rehab three times a week. Exercising while wearing a heart monitor with nurses always hovering nearby. Me and a whole lot of people twenty years my senior sweating as a group and wishing we could be somewhere else. I’m beginning to understand what it means to be handed the short end of the genetic stick now. I hope to survive my genetic handicaps long enough to see a crispr application that will fix what is ailing me, whatever that is.

A Deadly Belief

This is part three of a Meniere’s page I’m slowly editing together. Part one is here. Part two is here. This is tangential, but still part of the story.


Then there was the effect of Christian Science on my family. I’ve struggled with where and when to mention this little gem of understanding, because mentioning it is fraught with tons of angst and potential explosive feedback. But understanding how I got to 40 without a diagnosis of Meniere’s, how I’ve never been diagnosed with dysgraphia even though I have had all the symptoms of it for the entirety of my life is a direct result of my mother’s early childhood indoctrination into Christian Science. Because of this fact, Christian Science has to be discussed here as part of this story.

Christian Scientists aren’t scientists; they pray to Jesus to cure what ails them. Jesus is their science, and they exercise their science in prayer rooms across the US. They still do this all across America to this day. When a child dies from lack of medical care, and the state where that child dies cannot prosecute the child’s parents, the law that allows this was lobbied for by the followers of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. My mom and her immediate family were members of this belief.

Her distrust of doctors and medicine lead directly to her demise February 9, 2018. One of the mantras she took to her grave was doctors don’t know anything. It was her most repeated comment over the last months of her life, as doctor after doctor told her she had cancer and needed chemotherapy. You couldn’t dissuade her of this or pretty much anything else she believed at any point in her life.

This is a hallmark of most of humanity, I have come to find out. If you think you can change the average person’s mind you simply don’t know what you are thinking. People survive as long as they do by believing things, and sticking to those beliefs. My mother survived to the age of 77 and raised four children to adulthood based on her doing exactly what she deemed best at the time, and you won’t convince someone who has lived successfully by their own judgement for 70 years and more that what they believe is wrong. So give that idea up now and save yourself the life-shortening frustration.

Christian Science. If you are a Christian Scientist you don’t take drugs. You don’t see doctors, and if that religious upbringing was all there was to my mother’s belief, I think she would probably have gotten over it eventually. However, over the course of her life she has been nearly killed by well-meaning doctors more than once. All her life she’d been told gibberish by people who didn’t have the sense to pour piss out of a boot with directions written on the bottom (not that she would ever utter such a low phrase. In her estimation) so she knew that people believed insane things and discounted what other people told her almost by rote. She knew what she knew, but that left her vulnerable to the things she thought she knows but was wrong about.

Mom knew the value of modern medicine and never hesitated to get me antibiotics to treat the frequent illnesses that I had as a child, but she never stopped believing that doctors were pulling a scam on the sick. It all had to be a scam, somehow. She was never clear on how or why, but it was a scam, she was sure of it.

She never stopped believing that people would get better on their own if they just lived a better life, ate better food, got the right kind of nutrition. It was the failure of this belief, that healthy living was all you needed to keep from getting cancer that killed her a decade early. Had she not had encounters with believing doctors who proposed treatments that proved near-fatal, treatments that were fatal to her mother. Treatments that decreased the quality of life for the patients she tended. Patients that died anyway. Had she not watched time and again as things were labeled bad be relabeled good with more study and more time. Had she had different experiences with the medical community, she might have said yes to the promising new treatment the doctors wanted to try. The same treatment that saved president Carter’s life. But she didn’t have those experiences, and so she didn’t get to live that extra decade.

Who should be blamed for that?

Struggling = Poverty

This was the headline that the Texas Standard chose to run for this story. It’s soft-pedaling hogwash, that’s what that headline is. Forty-two Percent of Texans Are Poor is how that headline should read. That is what the coded word ‘struggle’ represents. Poverty.

Texas Standard –Despite A Booming Economy, 42 Percent Of Texans Struggle

Though the state’s economy is experiencing relatively healthy growth overall, a new report by the United Ways of Texas shines a light on the surprising number of Texans who are struggling financially. The new report, “ALICE, A Study of Hardship in Texas,” says 42 percent of all households in Texas cannot afford basic needs such as housing, food, transportation and health care.

Texas Standard, January 30, 2019

Don’t believe me? Here’s the definition of ALICE from the secondary link,

ALICE, an acronym which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation.

United Ways of Texas, ALICE

Asset Limited. Poor. Poverty. Now, the federal government and most especially the state of Texas will tut-tut that and say that those people are well above the poverty line established by government. Again I say, hogwash. Federal guidelines and especially guidelines from the state of Texas will not be truthful, if by truthful you mean accurate. This goes for anything that touches on the sacred beliefs of the average American, most especially the delusion that poor Americans aren’t poor. They just aren’t wealthy yet, and they never will be wealthy. But don’t tell them that.

This is well trodden ground for me these days because I’ve spent the better part of two months arguing with an in-law about this very subject recently.

I don’t think you know what poverty is. I was born in it and raised in it. The only thing that got me out of it was hard work. I had no intention of raising my children the way I was raised, therefore they had better than I had. And I do pretty well now only because I work hard to better myself. President Trump is making it so people can work and better themselves and get off the coattails of the government. I do not understand how anybody could think putting people back to work is a bad thing. Obama on the other hand closed down factories and put millions of people out of work and on food stamps.

Facebook comment

I had to block that poor fool because he kept calling me stupid. This exercise would be me once again wasting my time, convinced I can somehow reason with someone who refuses to think. The uninformed political opinions he’s throwing around I will dig into somewhere else, have already dug into somewhere else before (Obama, Caveat Emptor) But the poverty stuff? I don’t talk about that very often (Greece, Bootstraps) However, I’m pretty sure I have a general understanding of what poverty is and what it can do to people. I’m positive I understand it better than that in-law, because poverty has been my constant companion throughout my adult life.

That in-law is better off than me, but he’s still right on the margins of poverty. He’s middle class but not comfortably so, and not likely to stay part of the middle class unless he can keep working for another twenty years. The proof is in the statistics cited above, 42% of Texans are poor. That is just under half of all Texans being poor. Half. No one who isn’t independently wealthy will stay middle class without working, and independent wealth is built up through generations of hard work. Something I know neither he nor I come from.

There was a brief period of about two years in my adult life where I wasn’t poor. And when I wasn’t poor I never struggled for anything other than struggling to keep my job so I could keep paying for things. People of means do not struggle. They see a shrink and work it out, because they can afford to pay to have someone listen to them and help them work out their problems. Having a job that generates enough money to live on is not struggling in the way that the research demonstrates. The struggling that the United Ways is highlighting comes from having too much work and not enough money. A uniquely post modern development. Gainfully employed and still starving.

I keep linking this video in the vain hope that people who think that a dollar has work value attached to it would watch and learn a few things. It’s not like it’s a long video. It’s not a huge investment in time to watch.

Politizane – Wealth Inequality in America – Nov 20, 2012

I’m sure it’s quite painful to watch if you are a conservative. Conservatives and conservative economics have created this problem. Have created it more than once. Thinking you have to work to survive, to deserve to survive, is outmoded thinking and has caused the kind of crisis we are living through today. Has caused it repeatedly down through time. Today’s system throws off enough wealth all on it’s own to eliminate poverty completely if we simply set ourselves to the task of eliminating it. And even if we do eliminate poverty we’ll still have people wanting to work, and even more people capable of doing that work, because poverty is a man-made ill. Poverty is something we created to justify ourselves and our assumed status in life.

“Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.”

Thomas Paine Agrarian Justice The Writings of Thomas Paine pg 331

Poverty is looked down upon as being caused by the behavior of the poor themselves. This is patently not the case, as the OTM series Busted: America’s Poverty Myths (Bootstraps, again) goes to great lengths to spell out. But that doesn’t change the beliefs of most Americans. Poor people are more hated now than they have been in generations, and this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just in America.

If you think of yourself as white and you are poor in modern America, the fact that you are poor grates on you so much that you go looking for people who suffer more than you. Having a paler skin color is seen as a sign of status, has been seen as a sign of status down through the ages. Being pale means that you don’t have to work out in the sun. You have leisure time. you can throw this assumed status around, use it to your advantage in social interactions.

Unless you are poor. If you are poor, there is no question that your paler skin doesn’t convey advantage any longer, because there are demonstrably people darker skinned than you that have more status than you. They have more status because they have the conveyor of modern status, money. This is a corruption of the natural order in the mind’s eye of a racist. And we can’t just allow the natural order to be corrupted now, can we?

This is how we get to the point where the party of Lincoln, the party of the man who lead the Union through the Civil War and destroyed the slavery based economy of the Southern Confederacy; this is how the Republican party has become the party of people who wave the stars and bars of the confederacy and demand that they be given privilege over the brown-skinned. Republicans see everyone who is darker than they are as other, outsider, illegal. They couch their arguments in law and order, just like Nixon coded it in the seventies. But Nixon was a racist, too. They don’t even know that what they are promoting is racism. The Orange Hate-Monkey’s naked attempt to create a white American royalty.

Why Is This Happening? Organizing in Trump country with George Goehl

How can Democrats win in deep red America? During the midterms, momentum behind progressive candidates in red states garnered national attention — Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. These were no overnight successes. They were the culmination of, among many things, including the tireless efforts of grassroots organizers.

We are going to have to go out and prosthelytize to the poor, rural, white voter. We are going to have to go out and explain to them the harsh nature of the reality we are faced with. Because we cannot go where they want to go. We have to explain to them that we are losing access to good drinking water. That even the air we breath is under constant threat. Will lax regulation on businesses turn every Texas town into another West, Texas? Or will we go the way of Oklahoma and let  hydraulic fracking activate long dormant tectonic faults, triggering earthquakes?

But it is even more basic than that. Will our children and their children go hungry? Will they have access to shelter from the cold or the heat, especially given the unpredictable nature of the climate change we are creating? Will there be schools to teach the children that all of us will rely on in the future to provide every single thing we need? Things we will need paid for with money we didn’t work for that day? We didn’t have to work for, because the system itself provides a mechanism (money) that allows us to not have to work every single day in order to survive? These are real, hard questions that have to be answered today, so that we can have access to those things tomorrow. All of us, not just the 1% that currently receive all the benefits of modern society.

Or would you rather that your children starve for want of food when fortunes turn on them as it does on everyone? Sleep out in the cold because they can’t afford shelter? Rather that they die of preventable diseases because there was no profit in researching cures or vaccines? All of these things require public investment, something that you won’t learn from the worship of robber barons that pervades what passes for conservative ideology these days.

“The liberals will always do what they can to hold you back”

Conservatism is about adhering to the past, not looking beyond what our ancestors did, the rights they claimed for themselves. That is the sum total of conservatism.

Liberalism is about experimentation. Liberalism is a friend to entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. Liberalism promotes new ways of thinking and new ways of dealing with the world. That is the definition of liberalism. Look it up anywhere aside from conservapedia, and you will find that I am right on this subject.

Liberals accept that society and its inventions, things that we all inherited, belong to all of us. Because none of the living invented any of the technologies that provide the food for our tables today. We stood on the shoulders of giants and thought ourselves tall. Liberals understand that the only way to do justice to those who came before us is to see that those that come after us have what they need to thrive, just as we had what we needed to thrive.

Our rights include things like clean air and clean water. Health care is a basic human right since it takes the wealth of the entire nation to maintain the system, it has to be available to everyone, not just those who can pay.

If you want questions answered, you have to ask questions. Ask questions which are answerable. Declaring that everything you don’t understand is a plot to take the little you have to your name now is nothing more than a paranoid delusion. You can’t lose something you don’t own, and most of what we deal with today are things that don’t belong to us alone. The internet is useless without other people to talk to. You can’t tend to your own physical injuries if those injuries require expertise to remedy. If you have that expertise and try to doctor yourself, then you have a fool for a patient. It takes others to do anything meaningful in life. Spitting on the state, on government, and turning your back on progress in the name of preserving what you have now is to settle for less than you could have had, if you only have the sense to look around you with eyes that aren’t clouded by fear.

Modern farming would be impossible without federal research grants, federal subsidies, federal mandates. The ability to get a mortgage and own your own home was a federal mandate. Every single scientific endeavor survives on federal seed money. There would be no internet without it. There would be no handheld computer to read this message on without NASA. There would be no vaccination program without federal mandates. No science-based medicine without government oversight and consequently no way to know what medicines work without government involvement.

So yes, I will rely on government. So will you, even if you don’t think that’s what you are doing. Government touches everything. And in the United States, we are the government. We can pay ourselves enough that none of us need starve, and still leave room for entrepreneurs to profit off of their ideas, giving them motivation to create, to work. Contemplate that for as long as it takes to sink in.

Superbowl? Not Really.

I’ve watched one football game since I stopped sharing an apartment with a football fan. The last roommate I had before getting married was a Dallas Cowboys fan. He loved those Cowboys. Since the TV was his, and it was in the living room, we watched the Cowboys play every week, and I would be the devil’s advocate every week. “Who are the Cowboys playing this week? Yeah, I love those guys.” It led to some good natured rivalry, especially since I really didn’t give two shits about the game in the first place.

When I was living at home with my parents, back in the stone age of the 70’s, my dad would never miss a game that was being broadcast. Football. Basketball. Baseball. Hockey. If it was a sport and it was being broadcast, my dad was watching it. He lamented that I was too small for football myself because he wanted me to play like he played in high school. He did get me to try out for basketball. I didn’t make the cut, which was no surprise to me or Mitch, my wingman in that foray into sports. I wrestled for a few season. A had a perfect record. I was pinned every time I got on the mat. I even played baseball for a few seasons. I have my jersey around here somewhere to prove it because mom saved it. I was terrified of being hit by the baseball every time they’d send me out onto the field.

…And with good reason. I have the worst hand-eye coordination, come to find out. Dad played softball every summer until his health degraded to the point he couldn’t play, and his participation in that game lead me to try playing softball myself on one of my employer’s teams. For one season. During warmup one afternoon I was holding the mitt too low and the ball tipped the top of the mitt and plastered me right on the lip. I can feel the tingle where the lip split on the inside of my mouth to this very day. Between that and the gravel raspberry I got all up and down my left leg sliding into base one time, I decided that sports really just weren’t my thing. I’d be better off sticking to video games. The finger and wrist sprains are more easily dealt with.

We watch so few sports in this house that we joke that the TV is broken, sports-wise. We tell guests “Nope. It won’t tune sports. No idea what’s wrong with it.” The one time we had a guest insist on watching her game we banished the fans into another room so that they wouldn’t interrupt our movie watching. I will admit to occasionally keeping half an eye on baseball scores. I like baseball, even if I can’t play it. Baseball is the real American game, not football. American football is rugby played with helmets and pads.

George Carlin – Baseball and Football George, as usual, has it right.

But the Wife always liked the Seattle Seahawks. She didn’t know anything about football, the game, but she had studied statistics for some fantasy football league that she was part of one year, and Seattle had the best all-around players at the time. She won a lot of matchups that year because the individual players all did really well, so she never forgot them. Years later when the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl for the very first time and she decided she had to watch that game because her boys were in it. Consequently I spent the next two hours explaining what a fourth down was. What the ten yard line meant. I mean, I knew all the mechanics of game play because dad had drilled all this crap into my head, so I can watch and follow a game even though I consider the games just slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.

There is one thing that I do care about. Injustice. Bad calls by referees. Players cheating and getting away with it. Teams that don’t deserve to lose, but end up losing anyway. That is what happened to the Seahawks in the one game we had ever bothered to watch together in thirty years of marriage. The Seahawks lost because of a bad call. The Wife was pissed, I was pissed, and we’ve never turned on a football game since. It was Super bowl Sunday yesterday, and I did notice that cheatin’ Tom Brady won again this year. That makes this just another game I’m glad I didn’t watch.

Facebook comment posted to the blog.

September 11, not 9-11

This is adapted and expanded from previous articles.  I intend to keep updating and reposting a version of this article annually until the US collectively demonstrates learning something from history, or I pass from existence. Given prior evidence, I’m betting on the latter.


My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Every year on this day we bathe in the blood of that day yet again. We watch the towers fall over and over. It’s been 15 goddamned years, but we just can’t get enough. We’ve just got to watch it again and again. -Jim Wright, Renegade 9-11

Every year.  Every goddamn year.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  Dad didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said.  I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, in a nutshell. He never elaborated more, but that view has stuck with me ever since.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in this sentiment;

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born. -Jim Wright, 9-11 Thirteen Years On

I’m reclaiming today and every September 11th after this one for my father.

Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.

I am reclaiming it for my father and for all the young Americans born since that day. People who deserve more than to be dragged into battles that have been going on since before they were born. I promise to spend more time thinking of him and of them than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?

Jumpscare

David Gerrold on Facebook

All of my friends thought scaring me was funny. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Because they told me scaring people was funny, I started scaring people to see if it was funny. Weirdly enough, it was funny. It was funny when someone else other than me danced around like a stroke/heart attack victim.

I hate horror movies. The Wife has worked on close to ten horror movies now, so I have learned to deal with light horror in order to watch what she has been working on. At least appear to watch it, enough to be able to appreciate the art that goes into making a horror film. I still have nightmares from watching The Ring a decade ago, so I don’t do extreme horror anymore. The Wife and Son go watch horror movies together now, I stay home and play World of Warcraft with The Daughter.

But when I was a teen, all my friends loved horror movies. When they would watch horror films, I’d try to humor them and watch with them. It never worked out well because they knew I was jumpscare prone and so would do things like grab my leg when say, Jason came up out of the water in Friday the 13th. They still laugh about that one.

The first time I found out there was a thing like jumpscare videos was back in the early days of the internet. Some forgotten website challenged you to study some photograph of a typical dining room and try to figure out what didn’t belong there. At some set frame in the video two or three frames of the screaming face showed up and screamed at you, from an image that you had been told was single frame NOT a video. Everyone knows MM GIF now, but back then it was a new thing.

When that face popped up I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I was across the room climbing up on the desk to get away from whatever it was. The sad part was, I still thought it was funny and showed it to my kids. The thing that broke me of enacting jumpscares was discovering I was related to someone with anxiety issues, and having to condition myself not to scare them. This revealed anxiety issues in myself that I never realized were there before.

There is a vicious child somewhere in the lizard brain that wants to scare people. I don’t know why it wants to scare people, but it might be missing that dopamine fix of being terrified itself. There was some part of me that was terrified by Star Trek as a child. The salt monster really gave me a fright. I was terrified of the crawling hand for years after watching that film one Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I can still picture the hands crawling toward me if I try. I had nightmares about talking possessed dolls long before Chucky was a thing because some grade school friend insisted that some show he saw with a possessed doll in it was real. As if anything filmed is real, and not merely the POV of the cameraman. Most Science Fiction still terrifies me on some level, but I keep coming back to it for the thrill. For the unknown, the unthought of, the beyond comprehension.

Jumpscares are cheap entertainment by comparison. The people who make those things should take up bungee jumping or skydiving. Platform diving. Stand a hundred feet above the water and jump in, like I have. Before I knew how dangerous that was. Those are real thrills. If you are into jumpscares, scaring other people, turn off the computer and don’t come back till you’ve got your adrenaline fix in. The rest of us will thank you for it.

Facebook comment backdated to the blog.

Separating Families? #ImpeachTrump

No one who’s read this damned and damnable executive order, has read it and isn’t a stormtrumper, seems to think that anything will change tomorrow. Frankly, I don’t see how anything can change tomorrow, which means that the outrage and lawsuits have to continue until we #ImpeachTrump, because the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) doesn’t know what the truth is. If there is one thing we can say for certain about the OHM, it is that he does not have a personalized conception of  the truth beyond whatever the words coming out of his mouth at that very moment are. Some people would call that stupid, some people would call that moronic. I simply refer to it as Real Estate Developer’s syndrome, something that everyone of them I’ve ever met seems to have in common.

For days I’ve been reading and posting news stories about the Trump administration’s policy of family separation. This policy is the most inhumane and unAmerican thing that the OHM has done to date, but I don’t think he’s done with the outrageous behavior on the subject of immigration yet. Not by half, even. He can’t stop. This is exactly what he campaigned on. This is why people voted for him. This is what his base wants him to do, punish immigrants to whatever level it takes in order to make the immigrants leave. To make asylum seekers go elsewhere. This is what his cabinet officers and advisors who have spoken on this subject have been saying for weeks now, that punishment is the goal and self-deportation is the desired outcome.

NPR POLITICS PODCAST, Trump Signs Order To End Family Separations June 20, 2018

So he can’t be done and this practice will continue in some form, possibly in exactly the same way it has been going on for months. Going on in our name. Rachel Maddow broke down on national television Tuesday night just reading about the tender age shelters, the Trump administration’s euphemism for places where they put babies they’ve torn from their parent’s grasp, or tricked them into surrendering voluntarily. So we’ve gotten to a place where talking heads, people trained in the art of maintaining calm in the face of anything the news throws at you, talking heads breaking down in tears at the news that babies have internment camps that they are being sent to. Babies. In internment camps. Let that idea sink in for a few.

The defenders of these policies have a few valid points. The first one is that the parents in question are breaking a law, it is a misdemeanor to cross into the United States except at border crossings. A misdemeanor that would not even get you arrested were it not involving the convoluted subject of immigration in the United States. This law has almost never been subject to prosecution until now, but the OHM is correct that he can have these people prosecuted, and does want these people prosecuted. That is the job of the executive branch of the federal government, 100% his policy in spite of every protestation he has made to the contrary.

The second point is that there are many American children who go to sleep each night in worse conditions than these children in internment camps on the Southern border. This is also demonstrably true. I myself had days when three hots and a cot were more an aspiration than a reality when I was a child. However, the fact that many children face worse treatment and housing conditions in the US is not a justification for treating the children of asylum seekers as badly as we treat our own citizens; rather, it is an observation of just how far the poor in the US need to be elevated in order for them to meet the standards set by governing bodies all around the world for treatment of refugees, let alone what the citizens of the wealthiest nation on the face of this planet should be able to expect from being among the chozen few who get to live here.

There should be a backlash by Americans over the treatment of children who had the misfortune to be born outside the US in a time of global unrest. People who are no different than we would be if we were forced out of our homes and made to seek charity from the tender mercies of the more fortunate. Let us hope that the people we are faced with, should such a misfortune befall any of us, are more forgiving than we have been. We need to send a clear signal to the rest of the world, and we need to do it now. #ImpeachTrump. Do it now. Do it before more horrors are committed in our names.


The OHM’s administration failed to meet family reunification deadlines set by the courts today. So the torment of children and their parents at the hands of the US government continues. These are our dollars at work here. This is our government. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this to happen. Understand the horror you have created here. Child abduction is not a political issue. Abducting children and imprisoning their parents for crimes they were given no alternative but to commit can’t be a political issue because there’s nobody out there aside from slavers that think that stealing children is a good idea. I will go so far as to say that I don’t even think immigration should be a political issue.

You live here, you work here, you pay taxes here? Welcome, citizen. I don’t know what other requirements for citizenship there should be aside from saying I want to be a citizen and proving your upstanding status (again, live, work, pay taxes) I’m singularly uninterested in there being an underclass that can be subjected to lower wages and fewer rights so that I can get my tomatoes a few dollars cheaper. I’ll pay more for produce. Institute a guest worker program with a path to citizenship, screen everybody and then let them get to work. It certainly isn’t rocket science to make the immigration system function, we just have to admit that we need the workers and that we want to do right by them.

Asylum seekers are being stripped of rights under the current regime. It was bad enough when Obama allowed ICE to house children in detention centers when they were coming over the border unaccompanied (and with parents) back in 2014 seeking asylum. But at least those kids got asylum hearings and were dealt with in a legal fashion. This travesty has to end, and it isn’t just Trump to blame. Every Republican in congress could have stood up and fixed this problem back in 2010 and every year since. They haven’t. They haven’t even tried, aside from Rubio, who backpedaled from his own bill so fast you’d swear someone else had written it. Shame on them, is all I have to say. Shame on them and everyone who voted for them.


Like the article on Puerto Rico, this article and the other open-ended #ImpeachTrump articles will be updated as I run across more substantial stories that alter or strengthen their core arguments. The hashtag that should be trending if you think this is the election issue to motivate voters? How about #TrumpInternment2018? That has a nice double-entendre to it.

Beto O’Rourke Facebook Live video outside ICE processing center in El Paso, July 21, 2018


In testimony given in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, it was revealed that the kinds of trauma we are witnessing in the children seperated and now reunited with their parents, was detailed to the Trump administration officials who wanted to carry out these policies, before they put the policies into force,

“There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.”

Commander Jonathan White, PBS Newshour July 31, 2018

This is 100% on Trump. Nobody else. His administration, his policies, his fault. Not to mention the hundreds of other children not reunited, that the US will now be sued over because of Trump’s ham-handed policies that violated international and US law. Grounds for impeachment, yet again.


LatinoUSA, The Port of Entry, JUL 31, 2018

At the Nogales pedestrian port of entry in Arizona, some families with small children waited for up to two weeks before a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer allowed them to come through and ask for asylum, according to the Kino Border Initiative, a binational organization that gives aid to migrants along the border.

On a recent visit to Nogales, four families were waiting. Two had spent the night on the makeshift camp at the port of entry. All of them waited for at least two days to be seen by a CBP officer. And on that day, agents processed only two families.

This inaction is what is forcing asylum seekers to cross the border illegally.

On The Media, Journalism To The Rescue, August 2, 2018

This summer, in a project designed by ProPublica, 10 news organizations are sharing information to flesh out the hidden details of families separated by the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. Bob speaks with Selymar Colón, digital managing editor at Univision News, one of the organizations involved in the collaboration, about how the consortium has investigated and reported on some of the 200 tips it has received —and about the four families that were reunited after their stories were published.

Perhaps this was what the Trump administration was thinking they would rely on when they tried to fob off the chore of reuniting these poor people with their children. As usual, when it comes to the OHM’s lack of thought on a subject, they mistook this effort for the efforts of the ACLU. Perhaps if he read things instead of relying on visualizations, he would look less ignorant to the outside observer.


LatinoUSA, Torn Apart 1: Sign Here, AUG 14, 2018

After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy in April, the U.S. government faced a national outcry. This new policy meant all adults crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. A consequence of that shift has meant that thousands of immigrant children have been torn apart from their parents.

Since then, and under a judge’s mandate, the federal government has been scrambling to reunify families. In part one of a two-part episode, Latino USA breaks down the aftermath of the family separation crisis and explores what happens to the hundreds of kids who still aren’t reunited with their families because their parents have been deported.

LatinoUSA, Torn Apart 2: The Moral Dilemma of Juan Sanchez, AUG 17, 2018

Juan Sanchez first gained national notoriety back in June of 2018 when Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley flew to Texas to try and tour a shelter that he believed was housing children who had been separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy. Senator Merkley was denied access to the shelter and was even questioned by police who were called by the shelter’s staffers.There seem to be two opposing narratives when it comes to Juan Sanchez. So host Maria Hinojosa and producer Antonia Cereijido travel to Austin, Texas, to see which one was the correct one.


Some five hundred and sixty children are still separated from their parents, including twenty-four who are five years old or younger, and the parents of more than three hundred and sixty of them have already been deported. Between seven hundred and eight hundred other children were reunited with their parents in detention, where their situation is especially confounding. About half of the reunited parents have final orders of deportation—in many instances, because they’d been pressured to sign papers waiving their rights to pursue their immigration cases. As a result, families face a choice: either a parent and child can agree to be deported together, or the child can stay in this country alone while her own case is decided. Last Thursday night, Sabraw issued an order temporarily blocking the deportation of reunited parents so that they could have more time to weigh their legal options with immigration lawyers. As Dara Lind wrote, at Vox, “The question right now is when they will actually be deported, not whether they will be.”

The New Yorker, Will Anyone in the Trump Administration Ever Be Held Accountable for the Zero-Tolerance Policy? By Jonathan Blitzer, August 22, 2018

To date (as the article details) no one in the administration has been held to account for their administration’s policy of kidnapping the children of asylum seekers with the intent to profit off of keeping these children in the US illegally. Someone must answer for the Trump administrations crimes, and we know where the buck stops in this country. #ImpeachTrump

Mother

There is something about this introduction to This is Love that freakishly makes me think of my mother.


Introduction to the This Is Love podcast

Freakishly, in that I wonder if other people have similar flashes on the things their parents gave up for them? It’s not that my mom ever quantified her sacrifice for the children she had, at least not consciously or as an attempt to persuade. I know some people have had that experience, I’ve had the experience myself with other relatives. Our grandmother would tell us she was dying each year around Christmas, and oh, this might be your last chance to see me. Don’t you remember how I made time for you when you were growing up? We would laugh and roll our eyes, and then try to make time to visit at some point during the season.

But not mom, at least not when she was parenting us. Guilt never seemed to work for us. I remember distinctly her wanting us to clean our plates at mealtimes while I was still in primary school, and so she put a coin jar in the center of the table labeled for the starving children in other countries. We had a great laugh at that as we crammed food into the slot on the jar. That is the one time I remember her attempting to guilt us into anything and it failed, spectacularly.

When I was a teenager and could finally drive and own my own car, I would take long, meandering drives in the country, sometimes for several hours at a time, just listening to music. I’m not sure what I was looking for out there on the road. Release from the pressures of herding three other children around, most likely. On a few occasions mother grew concerned about my spending so much time alone, and so I invited her to come along on a drive with me, just so she could see what I was doing.

While we were out there together, me just driving aimlessly, we would talk. Mom and I could always talk. We’d talk for hours on the phone sometimes. I never could recall the particulars of any of our conversations, it was always small talk. Just impressions of concerns of the day, plans for the future. Musings about the days gone by. It is these times that come to mind when I listen to the story of the mother spider calling its children to itself, sacrificing herself to them so that they could survive. Feeding herself to them on purpose.

Mom was an artist before we children were born; or more precisely, before I was born. She left college to travel with her then-husband, my father, going overseas for the first time in her short life. I can imagine what her hopes must have been like at the time. Visiting places in Europe, possibly even going to Paris. She did talk to me about wanting to visit Paris, as I sat in vigil with her over the last months of her life. It wasn’t the first time we had talked about her young dreams, I know. I know because in those long drives as a restless teen she had told me of her dreams when she was a restless teen. Traveling. Painting. Exploring the world. I can picture her in Europe right now if I close my eyes, sipping coffee at a cafe near a river, trying to decide which scene deserved her artistic attention.

But that never happened. Instead she had me, and her husband didn’t prove to be much of a father, so she left him within six months of my birth. She married the man I called father for my entire life and eventually settled with him in the middle of the Kansas plains, pretty much as far away from the lights and glamour of Parisian culture as it is possible to get. She set about raising me and the three children that followed me, burying a miscarriage somewhere along the line. When dad’s wayward eye got him in trouble about the time I turned thirteen, she simply switched to the next person she thought could keep her children fed. And so on.

She worked her fingers to the bone at odd jobs as a single parent at the time that inspired this writing, when I was a senior in high school and then attending the local trade school. Two, three jobs at a time if required. She never complained, other than to say how tired she was. Never guilted us about what she gave up so that we could live. She just set about getting from where we were today to where we would be tomorrow, a progression in time that saw us all graduate high school. Some of us went on to college and all of us eventually had children of our own. She helped raise those children, none of us ever asking her if this was what she wanted to spend her life doing. Never once.

Until the end of last November, when her world crashed down around her. Stage four transitional cell carcinoma. Months to live. She could have gotten treatment. She could have still been here with us. She couldn’t pay for the treatment. She wouldn’t even dream of asking us to pay for it, and she didn’t want the government to pay for it. In some weird way, she thrummed her web, and we great mass of the living consumed her without even questioning why things had to be this way.

Now she’s gone. I have become the eldest of our little band of misfits, a natural leadership role that I never wanted and go to great lengths to avoid when I can. What form is the web that I’m now the center of? Will I be called to sacrifice myself to the greater good? Do I want that to happen? Do I have a choice? …And I can still see her youthful, hopeful face among the crowd that I envision along the banks of the Seine. Sipping coffee and deciding what to paint next. If I could tell her one thing now, what would that one thing be? Paint as if your life depended on it. Because ultimately it does.


I wrote this article shortly after mom’s death. At the time I was consumed by the dilemma of knowing that she was going to die months before it actually happened, but constrained by legalities, unable to shorten the time she suffered agonizing pain and loss of self-awareness as her body cannibalized her brain for a few more hours or days of life. By the same token, she was legally unable to ask us to help her end her own life when she decided she was ready to go, even knowing in some portion of her brain somewhere that she was indeed dying. Adding to my internal conflict of her suffering which we could only buffer by giving her drugs to render her unconscious, was the personal belief that she could have accepted treatment and not had to suffer and die this way. But the system works the way it works, and her refusal of treatment combined with Texas law preventing humane treatment for the dying resulted in a month long vigil that ended the way it was always going to end, with her death.

Mother’s suffering. The trauma of losing our mother in this way. The personal costs to health and welfare and the effect on her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of being forced to watch her wither away this way unable to do anything to end it. The waste of it all will probably haunt me to the end of my days. I will not go out the way she did, if I have any say in it. The form her death took cheapens the near-flawless nobility of how she sacrificed herself for her children for years virtually without complaint. Without burdening her children with the weight of the crushed dreams of her youth.

Her noble sacrifice inspired my willingness to give my children as much room to become what they wanted as I could afford to give them. I did not want them to have to look back on a life that they spent doing things that they had no interest in doing, just so they could pay the bills each month. I wanted them to be able to look back on their lives and be thankful to have lived, the same way that I can because of her sacrifice. If only her kind of nobility were more common than it is, all children would grow up this way.

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

This poem ran through my head for weeks as I watched my mother slowly fade away. As I watched my dad die. It is the only answer I have.

Dylan Thomas reciting his villanelle ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953
Copyright © 1997-2002 by The Academy of American Poets

(Yes, I realize that posting the poem here constitutes a probable breach of copyright. The widget that allows for embedding the poem does not function. I would happily have used that function if it worked. It would have been easier.)