Wednesday, March 28, 2018

So, what's new then?

My dad died back in January.

In one way, it had been coming for a long time. He'd had early-onset dementia for close to a decade and his condition had been in a steady decline.

In another, it came as a shock. Although he'd been in a "secured perimeter facility" for over a year, at his last birthday he was still walking, still talking, still noticeably a person, even as his ability to communicate had waned considerably, now being completely unable to follow a conversational thread and what he did manage to say way mostly nonsense.

He'd been increasingly cranky and self-isolating before he took a nasty fall in mid-December, one that he never really recovered from. He stopped getting out of bed. Then he stopped eating. He was put on hospice, then hospice nurses came to stay with him 24/7. We met with Ophelia, who was the first of the hospice nurses. She was extremely nice, we chatted about whether to leave the blinds open, whether we should talk to him, what was likely to happen. We listened to the Grateful Dead (American Beauty and Workingman's Dead). I think it was New Speedway Boogie where he was moving his legs and arms slightly back and forth. We joked that he was dancing.

"Of course *he* would!" said his ex-girlfriend, when we talked to her several days later. She was the first person to notice that my father was declining. She called me, concerned, noting that while my father was never the most straight-forward thinker, he had recently forgotten to send the second mortgage payment in a row, something that was completely out of character for a blue-collar Irish-American from Oakland who had always counseled me to avoid debt, to calculate how much savings would be necessary in case of emergency, and who never bought cars new, taking excellent care of them and driving them for decades. That she was right became readily apparent during my sister's wedding.

My father loved weddings as they provided three of his greatest joys, dancing, eating good food, and interacting with small children. Their infectious, unfettered joy, I speculate, reminded him of his own emotional freedom before he got caught up in Serious Adulthood (in his case, delayed until he turned thirty) and all the Evil involved there. This time, however, he was tentative, spooked, and while many friends and relatives have stated that they loved the swing dance he did with my sister, you could tell that he was not there, that there was something wrong.

After spending most of the afternoon, we said our goodbyes, including several minutes each by ourselves, talking to the figure in the bed. "Is he a stubborn man?" Ophelia asked and we laughed and agreed that he was stubborn, yes. "Probably a few more days then."

The next morning, my sister called me while I was on my way to work. Seeing her number on my phone screen was enough to know what had happened before I'd called her back. If it had been anything else, she just would've texted.

The last few months have been confusing as I'm working backward through my relationship with him. For so long it was me taking care of him, often against his wishes, that I'd forgotten the decades where the relationship was nominally equal, and then back to him being my father, which becomes more powerful and recognizable as I negotiate my relationships with my own children.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Like a Rising Shadow from the Depths; Like a Green Shoot in an Ashen Field; Like a Fish Floppin' Around

Once in a long time, we look up to that black sky and we see something, moving, sparking, bringing itself into being within our very gaze, and we understand why we were looking in the first place.

Bedraggled and clumped together by the elements, Diregard hunched his way along the street, each crevice of glass and stone, those entryways and staircases, each a temporary oasis against the constant atomizing blast of particulate existence, the invisible eroding of self via being. Leaning back against himself with a self-regarding groan, his breath expelled into the night air as useless evidence of his temporal vitality. The air moved through him, an ethereal sandstorm eroding his consciousness as it wobbled through the well-worn patterns of self-recrimination and eventual acceptance of his wretchedness before lurching back toward more practical matters, like whatever food might be found when the relative comforts of home were realized. He felt sick.

This evening had started as many do, with a flimsy excuse to drag himself to a local watering hole to await the arrival of friends and/or acquaintances and/or whatever he could get, none of which were in attendance. The loud music, illicit cigarette smoke, and dribbling away of money that could not, in all good conscience, be spent, the bobbing faces of those half-known or falsely recognized, and the acrid, armpit smell of fear of not belonging had drifted away now in the long lonesome trip home, replaced only by the pure animal control of not pissing yourself in public.

The streets were all wrong. For someone who had lived in the area for almost a decade, to be turned around like this was alarming. Edifices that at first triggered a warm glow of familiarity twisted into strange configurations, unwelcome sheets of concrete and brick and iron window bars guarded rooms lit from within only with the blue flickering of a television. His footsteps became titanic, their scuffs echoing through the streets, the only other sound the sepulchral rattling of leaves as they skittered and eddied along the empty streets. Thoroughly spooked, Diregard started repeatedly checking behind him to see if anybody was following him and the sixth time that he did so, he had turned back around before realizing that this time somebody was.

Synapses now suddenly firing with shocking lucidity, he increased his speed, the sound of his passage drowning out anything from behind him. The figure, glimpsed only momentarily, was that of another man of average height, wearing some kind of overcoat, otherwise an indistinguishable silhouette.


It was a male voice, slightly uncertain, a certain quaver causing a pause and a turn, to discover that the stranger was almost on top of him. Wild-eyed, with a corona of gray hair blazing outward from a rat-like, unshaven face, bearing a heavy funk of mildew.

"You dropped this back there."

One hand, cupped, held outward, completely distracted him from the other, seen only in retrospect, a quick flash of light and then darkness.


Diregard awoke in a sparsely-appointed, windowless room. He was sick in a pot containing a defenseless bedraggled palm of some sort. There was a painting in here, that he felt drawn to, that he couldn't look away from.

The painting was small and square and mostly gray, it depicted some sort of shed, set in a backyard. The style was clearly attempting to be realistic without much success. The door of the shed was open and an indistinct figure was halfway through it, and bent over. It was unclear whether this was because the figure was carrying something or whether it was just a bulky individual with particularly poor posture.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A shiver down your back, a tingle up your spine

Here comes midnight with the dead moon in its jaws

Songs: Ohia - "Farewell Transmission"

To write, you need to write. Constantly. Every day. It's what everybody says, so obviously, it must be true. Also, it's hard, so that doubly indicates its veracity.

I'm going to write here. It'll be bad, mostly; that's okay though because it's for me.

The man who wrote the above line, Jason Molina, is dead. He's, or he was, a singer-songwriter who had a bunch of projects and a bunch of albums and he wrote that line that's an emotional gut punch that sent me reeling when it was served to me randomly from the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist feature. Admitting to that, rather than having heard him in a tiny bar or given the album on vinyl from a trusted friend while we were doing drugs, feels like an admission of defeat.

That's okay though, because we're defeated all the time. We never ever want to admit to it because nobody else does either.

This is for me. I guess in a sense it's for you; it doesn't really matter who you are, or why you're here. Pull up a seat. Have a drink. Make yourself at home.