Saturday, November 29, 2008

Recurring memory

As we've all been thinking about the struggles we face with my grandpa who is sick, I've been thinking about the memories of my other grandpa, who had Parkinson's disease since long before I was born. Throughout my childhood, I knew him as a sick man. His body shook, hence his voice shook. He had trouble walking. As grandchildren, we all loved him, but we were unsure how to interact with him because he was hard to understand. As a result, we all too often avoided conversations with him. I'm sure that hurt his feelings as it does mine today when I think back on it. I try to remember that I was just a dumb little kid, and he probably understood that. Still, though, he probably wanted to get to know us as any grandpa would, but we did not make that easy for him.

When I was about 12 or 13, we had to move Grandpa into a nursing home. We would go visit whenever we where nearby, but I still remained shy around him. Maybe even more so because of the nerves that accompany being in a nursing home for most of us, young and old. I have several memories of sitting in the nursing home, listening to Dad and Grandma talking with Grandpa, trying to figure out what Grandpa was saying. Dad and Grandma were much better at that than I was.

The last time I visited the nursing home, when I was 15, was no different from this pattern. We were sitting at a table in the lobby area, talking and probably eating. At one point, Dad, Mom, and Grandma wanted to run back to Grandpa's room for something, leaving me alone with Grandpa. I had no idea what I would say to him, so we kind of just looked at each other and smiled. That was something we both could understand. Then he said the last thing I can remember him saying to me before he went to the hospital where he passed away.

His false teeth didn't fit quite right, making him even harder to understand. But I clearly heard him say this to me: "You're a pretty girl. Such a pretty girl." Then he smiled again.

At the time, I just shrugged, said thanks, and smiled back. At 15, no one could really convince me that he was telling the truth, but it was nice of him to say. After he got sick a little while later, I remembered that moment and realized it might be the last thing he ever directly said to me. My last personal, one-on-one interaction with him was a lovely compliment from the man I had spent too much of my childhood ignoring. I probably didn't deserve it, but I am so grateful that's what I got.

So now as I visit my other grandpa in the hospital, I wonder: what will be the last interaction I have with him? What will those last words be? Will I remember them as vividly as I do with my other grandpa? Will I still cry 16 years later when I think of it?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ending good, ending bad

Things end. All of them. And sometimes that's just perfectly okay with me. Other times not.

For the good, my first semester as a prof is wrapping up. Overall, it's been a great semester. I've had almost exclusively good students, the pressure has been manageable, my colleagues friendly and helpful. But I'm still glad it's almost over. I am ready not to be new new new at everything everything everything. I'm ready to start fresh, having learned some lessons during my first run-through at the university where I teach. This ending is good.

Other endings? Not good. Not in the least little bit good. My grandpa is really sick, and I fear the end of his life is going to approach sooner rather than later. The poor man is in pain, and it probably won't get better. So it's not like I can ethically or humanely ask him to stick around forever. But dang it. I can't emotionally allow him to go. I can't emotionally accept that the inevitable is inevitable.

I've heard all of it: without pain we wouldn't know joy. Blah blah blah. That does not change the fact that pain and sorrow suck. Suckity suck suck suck. Suck.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fave new Obama quote

Two posts in one day: unprecedented. But I found this quote from Newsweek, and I laughed my ass off. It's another reason to like Obama, IMO. Here's the quote with a setup from Newsweek before it.

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'.

Ah, honesty. If only he could have said it live. Maaaaaaaaybe without the f-bomb, though I personally find that to be the piece de resistance.

Link to full (and interesting) story:

I will not tolerate change.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not the world's biggest fan of change. And when you're not a big fan of change, little insignificant things can remind you in a big way that change is all we know. It's just that we quite often ignore changes in order to provide the necessary illusion of constancy.

I went to visit my cousin, Molly, this weekend (Hi, Molly.), and we had a nice time visiting, shopping, and eating (eating--now there's an actual constancy in my life. Seriously...I'm eating right now. It's not even anything good, but I'm still eating it.). On Saturday we shopped, mostly for household stuff--not anything fun or exciting. I didn't tell Molly at the time because I wanted to process it, but at one point, while we were looking at fruit, I had another gut-slam moment. We were buying stuff for our own houses. Little household necessities and food and stuff. We were buying our own stuff with our own money for our own houses. With each other--we used to play house and pretend to do all that stuff. Now we were really doing it--no more pretend.

Of course, I've become accustomed to buying my own stuff for my own house. I've been doing this for more than 10 years. But once in awhile, particularly when you're with someone you've known since before your brain could even process rational thought, you think about it in a different, long-term-implication kind of way, and that's what happened to me. And after that, all weekend long, I kept going back to it...I was visiting Molly at her house. I drove myself there in my own car. I was using Molly's shower, sleeping in her spare bed, eating her food, and using her dishes. Goofing around with her kids. It was not her mom's stuff. It was Molly's stuff. Her own stuff.

When the heck did we become the adults? And when did it become so normal that we were the adults??

And when will it stop? I want my illusion of constancy back, please.

Monday, November 3, 2008


A bunch of people are going to be happy, and a bunch will be unhappy. While I hope I'm in the happy camp, I do worry about what happens next. Will we be able to come to some understanding as a nation? I have expressed my fear of the angry and violent rhetoric that has been spewed in this election, and my greatest fear is that the anger and fear will continue to overpower at the expense of the greater good.

No matter who wins, we have to trust that we will be okay as a nation. Neither man is perfect, but neither man is the devil the opposing side has made him to be. I believe both have the best interests of the country at heart, even though I disagree with some of the views of what that means...frankly, on both sides. No candidate is ever going to match us 100%. Neither matches me 100% this time, for certain.

I just have this sinking feeling that we have built too many fortresses around ourselves. In an age where we can get the news filtered through any and all lenses to match our ideological perspective, we lose sight of the fact that there may be reason and legitimacy in other perspectives. When we don't seek out information that opposes our own view, we stunt ourselves intellectually. And I have seen an awful lot of people in this election season stick to their ideology, forsaking all others. The result is a poorer, less rational, angrier, and less capable society.

And that is what makes me terrified for the coming years. If we continue to allow ourselves to hole into our ruts at the expense of reasonable, logical discourse with others, we will fall as a nation. No president can do what we will do to ourselves if we don't try to understand one another. No president can destroy our nation--only we can do that to ourselves.

So, whether you're happy or sad tomorrow, my genuine hope is that you'll look on the positive side and try to intellectually engage your brain with different perspectives. Let's see each other as the human beings that we are, not the monsters we've created.