Even if you don’t buy this (dirt cheap at $anything for 17 tracks), if you like it even a little, please share it. I’m trying to finance putting together a better record of new music, but i’ll need some help to do it. Thanks!
We got one of those giant Stouffer’s lasagnas and it says “11 servings,” so now I only have to solve the goddamn Poincaré Conjecture so I can cut the fucking thing.
As an unbeliever, i’ve pretty much been riding on Santa’s coattail (a stoic stowaway) for a pretty long time (some might count that in decades), but this year i finally got to put my money where my mouth is and have zero xmas whatsoever. Less than zero. A particularly negative xmas. No doubt this won’t be the last time i was disappointed that i got what i’d always stupidly wanted.
Driving home from the hospital where my beloved wife is going to be spending the next week, listening to (now on Spotify!) The Beatles’ most absolutely zonkers 1967-1968 cuts, the window cracked because it’s too hot outside not to (in Ohio, no less), a full moon – burstingly pregnant and drooping perilously low on the horizon – waving me onward, all my wife’s family working tonight, my own known and acknowledged family (minus my sister, who severed ties a few months ago) around 95% dead, no friends in a new city… and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life” churn up such close-to-the-bone memories of the dead father i’d forsaken, and also of my dear old friend BB who literally boozed his body to death this past year (just the way i always figured i’d lose my father; and also my old, estranged friend TD, whose obituary i’ve been fearfully awaiting for years now).
All thoughts which inevitably lead to the same old tired, boring conclusion that i’m such a fucking broken human after nearly a half century of stanching against the loss of emotional blood that i’m finally, at last, alone on my island, my own private Ohio, and i can’t even think straight for all the staggering whirlwind of monumental regrets mowing my mind down like a December tornado.
Regrets made possible by the letter F – Failure, Frustration, Fear, Freakouts, Feebleness, Futility, Forgetfulness, Fault, Fragility… my formidable list of flagrant flaws is frankly so fucking full it’s almost fantastic.
Thankfully, i’m so dead inside, fighting back tears wasn’t actually the most difficult thing i’ve done recently. But i do think i’ll have that drink i’ve been putting off.
So i recently created a banner for use in my forum signature for Vaping Underground. It’s dynamic; it displays how long it’s been since i’ve been quit smoking in years, months, and days, plus how much money i’ve saved in that time (with a rough accounting for how much i’ve also spent on vaping gear), and how many cigarettes i’ve avoided in that time also. There’s also a random quote at the bottom just for fun. Here’s what it looks like:
Somebody asked me how i did it, so i posted the code there. I cobbled it together from code i found across the internet. Eventually i ended up replacing all the code i found with snippets from php.net. Note that this is really only for vaping enthusiasts.
This is probably very inefficient code. It’s… been a while since i’ve coded anything at all. As the Department of Homeland Security says, “If you see something, say something.” Feel free to alter it – i’ve licensed it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
And here we go.
Last Monday, after staying up all hours Sunday night hearing about how bad my dad’s health had slipped, and so quickly, i got in the car to make the two hour trip up to New Carlisle, to see him in the nursing home.
He was only there for physical therapy, because he’d been in the hospital the full week before, with pneumonia and a very high and erratic heartbeat. He was only going to be there for about ten days. It was going to be a step up.
Only it wasn’t. I think, him being familiar with the place, from a clown’s perspective, it freaked him out to find himself there. Then again, he had wasted away and was down to around 130-140lbs. He couldn’t eat anything. When i saw him the week prior, he was alert and talkative, but rail-thin, and ate only a few thin slivers of yogurt.
So i get there. I pull up, and try to remember where the front door was to the place (around back, more or less). I walk into his room and his wife is there and she’s not looking real happy and he’s not looking real good at all. He’s struggling and trying to move around, while rasping out vague syllables. The syllables weren’t too vague; they made the following sounds:
“Help – help me – help me – help – help me – help”
Talk about horrifying. No, you really had to be there. To hear your father say that, in that way. Like this frightened, helpless, frail, incredibly vulnerable creature. It took the wind out of me.
I won’t get into the politics of ambulances and which hospitals they steer towards here, but that’s what happened next, after all the “uh, well i mean i don’t know i mean… what?” about the question posed by the nursing home staff: hospice care? Or hospital? (Strong emphasis on the former – but it all depended on how he wanted to be treated should the worst happen: full code (rib-cracking CPR and all), or nature-plus-nice, soft, warm, billowy opiates.)
So we get to the hospital, and he’s kind of vacillating between the desperate, sad rasping for help and laying calm and relaxed (they gave him sedatives, but not much, since he needed oxygen badly – his CO2 was dangerously high; he’d come in with ~100 mEq/L, versus the 30 which is normal… they were able to get his down to around 50).
His wife is there and her sister, and we’re all really quiet and just trying to keep him calm and be there for him, and lobby for whatever moisture he might be allowed to have in his mouth. (When we could understand him, it was usually him asking for water.)
Pretty quickly, he became much more difficult to understand. I asked for paper and pen for him, and a staff member brought us a clipboard with blank pages and a pen. I asked if he could write what he was trying to say, because between the space-chimp oxygen mask and his dry throat, he was just too difficult to understand, i explained.
This is what he wrote. I quickly uploaded it to Facebook to crowdsource a translation, although i wasn’t able to check back until much later.
Hours of this sort of thing went by. I was going crazy. I don’t really know his wife that well, and had only met her sister a couple of times. But more than the terrible awkwardness was the horrible reality of my father’s situation. Around 5:30 i asked my girlfriend if i could come pick her up from work and take her to the hospital to be my emotional support during these harrowing hours. I assumed that, although he looked like he could make it a few more days, maybe, he might not. I needed her there with me. I am thankful she agreed. But it would be at least another hour and a half of driving before i could get back (he was in Dayton; she in Cincinnati).
I took too much time. Not long after i got a text from his wife that he had been moved into a room in the ICU (preferable to the ER), i got another text from her: “Jeremy, Craig is gone.”
The relationship between my father and myself has rarely been what anyone might rationally call “normal” or “good.” He was never around. Being gone was always the baseline. I pined for that man throughout my whole childhood… but he was always either in another city far away, or (as i’d come to find out later) in jail, or crashed out in somebody’s apartment, boozing, or living under a bridge down by the river. You might be able to imagine the top of the iceberg of words we never exchanged. You might. But that would be as a photograph compared to the real thing.
That iceberg has risen now and the god damn thing is crushing me. Although i tried to comfort him by telling him how cool and spacey his oxygen mask was, and by holding his hand and stroking his head and touching his shoulder, and although i did tell him i loved him, there was so. much. more. which i wanted to say to him before he slipped away.
Whoever said that crying for the dead was really just for the “benefit” of the living must have believed in an afterlife. As near as i can tell, there is simply no evidence which suggests that any sort of life after death is anything more than wishful thinking. Not to parrot Sagan, but it’s true. I don’t like that idea any more than anybody else would. But my dad didn’t deserve to die so scared, so helpless. He was so brave for the vast majority of his battle.
And he deserved to hear me say some things, finally. He’s gone now, forever, and he won’t be able to know any of this, and that kills me. But here’s what i think i would have liked for him to understand before we parted for the last god damned time:
Dad, i’ve been awfully hard on you. You were a terrible father, even though you were generous beyond your means. But no matter what resentments i harbor or how outspoken i’ve been about them; no matter how much rejection i’ve thrown at you as an adult, the fact is that i love you. I have always loved you. I never loved you any less, even when i hated you. My whole childhood was defined by my longing to be with my father – to be in your company. My most precious moments were when you were around, and my worst were when you had to leave (or get taken away by mean old bastards with guns and badges).
I love you, and i’m sure you kind of know it, but really: i love you more than you probably ever suspected. I needed you. I idolized you. You were the most important person in my life, absent or present.
And i forgive you. I forgave you long ago, actually. That much should have gone without saying all this time. Unfortunately, it has. And i should have goddamn said it out loud. I do, and i did, forgive you.
And i will always love you and remember you and, lastly and again, miss you terribly.