First Christmas

What if we remembered our first Christmas? Even babies born in the last six days of December lacked the verbal skills by their first Christmas to be at all prepared for the smorgasbord of stuff suddenly pressed on them accompanied by a showering of gleeful attention from those big people we’re learning love us. Remember, up to a certain age, young children think anything that moves is alive. I don’t remember getting a train that would flip every time it bumped a wall and move in the opposite direction until it hit another wall and flip again and head to a next wall until its batteries drained, but I’ve seen videos of me sitting up with chubby legs and tracking it enraptured.

Then we attach this magic to a guy named Santa Claus, who is either a myth or a lie. The choice is ours. The myth is a stand in for Christmas Spirit, itself a stand in for holiday cheer and good feeling, people doing nice things for each other. When we discover there is no Santa Claus we aren’t surprised. We kind of knew, not all along but by then, that our parents were behind the whole thing. Our parents have conjured magic for us at maybe the only time in our lives we’re capable of fully buying in. After we realize Santa didn’t bring us anything, our parents, maybe sometimes with money that didn’t come easily, bought us this stuff and gave Santa the credit so we would believe in the magic, the curtain is drawn back but the magic remains.

This will be my first Christmas with both my parents gone. That’s been on my mind pretty steadily since about two weeks before Thanksgiving. People say the holidays are tough when you’re grieving, but I keep thinking back on how great my parents made every Christmas. The TIE Fighter I found under the tree the year I woke up at three in the morning and snuck into my room to play with for five minutes before going back to sleep, the electric train set going around the tree I know my dad must have been excited to buy his only son, the copy of Infinite Jest my mom got me a few years ago after I dropped only one hint about wanting it more than a month before Christmas. I keep thinking of how magic Christmas felt long after the illusion of magic was gone because my parents always made it special not with stuff but with effort and care. That’s the magic that lets me, about as anti-commercialism as one gets, work in retail and not focus on shopper frustration around the holidays but see mostly people in good moods excited to buy stuff for people they love to make them happy by the thought behind the gift. That’s the same magic that lets me, a not religious or even spiritual in the typical way person, feel like my parents are with me this Christmas.

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The Electoral College Should Vote Clinton over Trump because They Can

Clinton won the popular vote. Trump’s supporters’ constant reminders about the Electoral College are designed, whether consciously or not, to diminish the significance of Clinton winning the popular vote but it is significant. More people who voted wanted Clinton to be president. The Electoral College was probably never a perfect system, it was probably arrived at through a series of compromises among people all dead now to balance the voting in a country that looked much different. Now we have people who work for the same 10-20 companies in identical clusters of businesses in different states whose votes have more weight by a factor of as high as five. This made sense when some sparsely populated regions made up most of the nation’s farmers or plantation owners. (Remember, the South used to count slaves, considered property, as three-fifths of a person when figuring voting influence, so clearly this was being patched together as they went along.) It makes less sense now.

This isn’t enough to seriously argue that the Electoral College vote in Clinton over Trump because that’s simply changing the rules after losing, but it’s all important context for the argument. Trump is a security risk to the nation. He is fragile and his response to feeling wounded is to attack. It appears to be his only move. His campaign demonstrated this but people still voted for him based on a combination of his lies and false promises and an attack on his opponent fueled largely by misinformation, we now know propagated, in part, by Russian interference. But here’s what Trump’s done since he became president-elect. He’s claimed he would have won the popular vote but for the millions of people in California who voted illegally. He stated this with no evidence. The CIA said they have overwhelming evidence that Russia tampered with the election to try to help him win, and Trump’s response was simply, no, they didn’t. We learned through his campaign that even little things that hurt his easily hurt feelings he claims are just made up. Now the stakes are higher. He is not holding up well to the pressure. And he’s falling back on his same character flaws and lashing out. Lashing out at the CIA of the country he’s about to lead. Again, with nothing but the fact that what they found hurt his feelings. People have said if his collusion with Russia could be proved that would be enough to prevent him taking office. Well, we all heard him tell Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. I have a friend that likes to say “Words are important.” People want to dismiss Trump’s outrageous comments as Trump being Trump. This is the president-elect. Why are we not holding him accountable? His responses are never measured, they’re all about how he feels, and that is a gigantic security risk. Numerous checks and balances are built into our government. The Electoral College is one of our protections. The Electoral College should recognize that Trump is unfit to be president. What’s missing is public support. Trump’s supporters are cheering themselves for their accomplishment of getting an anti-establishment candidate all the way to the presidency. They view the criticism of him as criticism of them and I’m sorry for that, but an honest evaluation of Trump needs to finally be done by the people who voted not for Trump but against Hillary. A president wins the presidency and becomes a civil servant. He or she may hold the highest office in the land but still serves the citizens—all of them. Trump serves only himself. People who begrudgingly voted for him need to admit that’s true and then voice it. We need them.

The Stigma of Suicide (A Pale King Metaphor)

We have a lot of compassion for people feeling suicidal but often too little for those who have taken their own lives. With good intentions, we use phrases like “giving up” or “throwing your life away.” The goal is to remind the living that their lives have value, but the result is a pressure on those struggling to persevere as they suffer emotional turmoil. They feel guilty for not appreciating life, the way others do but really the way emotionally healthy people enjoy life, which exacerbates their anguish.

David Foster Wallace voluntarily left this world, also leaving a novel-in-progress. They found close to six-hundred pages of completed, publishable chapters and notebooks of ideas and free write chapters all bundled under the title The Pale King. I think of the passion and dedication and perseverance required to do all that work and I don’t think of someone for whom “giving up” or “throwing his life away” fit. This was someone who recognized the value of his life but was driven by inner turmoil to the escape suicide seemed to offer during a moment of crushing despair. The Pale King isn’t proof of his value but works as a metaphor. The Pale King isn’t evidence his life had value, each of our lives has that. We don’t need accomplishments—not books or children or jobs we enjoy, not even relationships with other people—to have lives we value; we just need to each find our unique way to make our mysterious presence resonate.

From what I’ve read, David Foster Wallace didn’t discuss his mental health much, publicly, but according to an interview his parents gave, after his death, he suffered from panic sweats in high school. The Pale King includes a character who agonizes over starting to sweat and how starting to think about starting to sweat will make him sweat but trying not to think about starting to sweat is too much like thinking about starting to sweat and so he starts to sweat—we’re talking visibly dripping sweating sitting in a lecture kind of sweating. Often his characters experience occasional bouts of mental anguish, which doesn’t make those characters him but it seems likely he was drawing on his own experience. In Infinite Jest there was a line that people don’t jump out of buildings to die, they jump out of buildings because the building they are in is on fire and then they die.

The existence of The Pale King, what we have, makes me think of the many times David Foster Wallace must have rescued himself from his severe anxiety and depression and from the brink of suicide rather than the final time he didn’t. We’re indoctrinated to the idea that life is a gift, which translates to an obligation when our troubles feel insurmountable and unending. Life isn’t a gift or an obligation. Life is an opportunity for discovering our reason for choosing to be here. This is the beauty of a human life, is that we know we’ll die but we don’t let that marginalize our time here. We celebrate it. This is easier for some than others. The message to those feeling despair and tempted by suicide shouldn’t be “Don’t do it,” the message should be “Delay. Seek help.” This is why suicide guards on bridges are proven effective because delaying suicide increases the likelihood that the person will seek help. (That bridges often don’t have them despite how cheap they are to install reflects the stigma of suicide. The Golden Gate Bridge, a suicide destination for some twenty people annually, still doesn’t have one.–See link below for an older blog about The Bridge, if interested–People don’t understand the point of them because they can’t believe someone wouldn’t simply find another way, but suicide is an impulsive act. Even when suicide follows a period of despair, within that period suicide was resisted, delayed, and then committed impulsively. Sometimes a delay of twenty minutes can result in a change of perspective that might prevent suicide.)

I understand the temptation of the flip side. He was in the middle of a great book. How could he not finish it? Even on the selfish level of me wanting to read it, I can feel angry. On the less selfish level of America needing his voice now more than ever, I can feel angry. I can imagine his friends and family, who loved him, experiencing grief and think, Why? But I just don’t go there. Not because I think having empathy for him is the right response, this isn’t the equivalent of “being politically correct,” but because I do have empathy for him. I’ve glimpsed what maybe he was feeling because his immense talent as a writer showed me characters experiencing anguish utterly unknown to me as an emotionally healthy person. So anger just isn’t my response. It would be wasted anger, anyway, except worse than wasted because it would feel directed to people living who are experiencing those levels of anguish and would be internalized as a threat: Don’t do it because we’ll think less of you afterwards, which would add to their struggle.

These are just my opinions and I’m not an expert. Thinking about suicide isn’t a sign of a problem. Typically people will think fleetingly about suicide, this is actually life affirming. We’re reminding ourselves we’re choosing to be here. Contemplating suicide could be a sign of a problem. Seek help, now, and acquire coping skills so that if an impulsive moment comes delaying will be easier. Avoid keeping a gun in the home. Call this number, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

I’ve touched on this subject in both my review of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and in my review of The Bridge. I’ll link both below.

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/infinite-jest-brilliant-and-hilarious-tedious-and-self-indulgent-five-stars/

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/the-bridge-thoughts-on-suicide/

Links below from wordpress. Thank you for reading.

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A Peaceful Exit

Mom made it easy for her doctors to deliver bad health news. I was with her on one of her scan days when her doctor had to tell her the treatments for her liver cancer weren’t helping. There was such care in the look on her face she gave him to ease his burden of informing her, probably the least favorite aspect of his job but also something he does frequently. She picked him up or she was picking her husband and me up. That was St. Patrick’s Day and on the way home we stopped at Mavis Winkle for dinner and then hit Steak and Shake for Shamrock shakes. I told her despite the bad news I enjoyed celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and she said so did she.

The doctor offered her a next medication less likely to work and more likely to include side effects. She wanted opinions from all of us but promised to made her own decision. We didn’t give them lightly, not entirely sure our mother would be capable of deciding to discontinue treatment if her children and husband wanted her to continue. We were unanimous in wanting her to take the treatment which wouldn’t be a cure but might give her two or more years more of good quality of life. She seemed to be leaning that way, too. She wasn’t lucky, but she was a little lucky in that her first treatment made her sick but they were able to treat those symptoms and take her off the drug with limited, lingering effects.

We started planning final visits. My sisters and all their kids were out the Christmas before, expecting the possibility that it would be the last opportunity for a Christmas and New Year’s Day with her. They all came again in the summer. Mom worried she’d feel sick and that her illness would pervade and lead to a somber gathering, but she felt well enough or felt well enough to seem well enough that we had a wonderful visit. This is the visit that included the Yahtzee game where Mom scored a few points shy of the max possible in a game whose magic felt symbolic of our union, as you might imagine. (Sometimes real life resembles roll-your-eyes fiction.)

Mom gave these intensely sad goodbyes to things and then let them go. Places, first: a last Seattle trip took place in the fall, a last Florida visit in the spring. (My sisters’ homes) Mom’s basement steps were absent a handrail. We looked into putting one in. Mom was still walking pretty well but was just unsteady enough that I worried about her on those steps, but she didn’t want to give up washing clothes. I asked her not to go down alone at least until we got a handrail installed. But next time I came she had passed this chore on to her husband. She said she was done going into the basement.

Another weekend I was over, she asked me to move a chair up to her bedroom. She was already limiting trips up and down the steps in the house and knew she’d soon be done going down those stairs as well and would want to receive visitors from her bedroom. She worried her husband would, understandably, put off taking the chair up feeling like the action was moving us toward where we were going anyway. I was able to isolate these tasks. I could tell myself I was just taking a chair up to a bedroom. I almost took on the persona of a hired furniture mover to accomplish this. My next time over we spent all afternoon up in that room. We discussed spirituality, we looked at old pictures. She had me read a passage from a spiritual trilogy she’d been reading. It was a fictional account of the devil describing how he/she/it talks people out of a relationship with God. Starting with using atheism as a tool and progressing up using people’s religion against them. The essential point being that a relationship with God is the ultimate goal, religion being the tool. So the devil would keep people stuck at the tool stage. This being a Catholic book, the sort of top tier religion, in this devil’s mind, was Catholicism. So the interviewer’s last question was about how the devil managed to keep even Catholics from God. So the devil, who from the dialogue one got the sense had to wipe his horny brow, answers as though these Catholics are his greatest challenge. But gives the same answer about keeping them stuck in the tool stage.

So realizing my mother is weeks from death and spiritually preparing herself for a journey she would rather delay, is afraid of but is also partly excited for, I understand she’s just shared a passage with me because it meant a lot to her and while I mostly liked it, that bit about the Catholics being “a tough nut to crack,” which the devil actually said, in this fictional account, gave me a pretty significant eye roll moment I didn’t think I could leave out of my comments about the passage Mom was waiting for. I did think about it. But I told her the full truth. I told her that I liked it and the idea reminded me of Joseph Campbell but that the part about the devil treating Catholicism as nearly an invincibility shield against temptation seemed a bit much. She grinned. “Yeah, that got a little embarrassing.” We had several nice laughs about that.

When I left that day, I hugged her goodbye. As I was leaving her bedroom, she said, “Greg, this was so pleasant. This is just what I imagined it would be.” I looked forward to a repeat of that long afternoon but the next time I stopped over she spent most of the time asleep. I told her goodbye and she apologized for being so tired. I told her not to worry and get her rest and I would be back the next day. That weekend my one sister was flying in. Both my sisters had flown in since the family visit over the summer and visited with Mom sick but well enough to enjoy visiting. Really she never got too sick to enjoy visiting. They wanted to be there for the end. My other sister was planning to fly in early the next week but a hospice worker told me to have her come now.

Sunday morning Mom woke up wanting hugs. I went in to greet her and I asked her if I could get her anything. She said, “A hug.” I hugged her and asked her if I could get her anything else. She said, “I still need that hug.” I hugged her again. My sister came in for hugs and then she wanted her husband. We called him up. She said after repeat rounds of hugs, “I think I’m going to die today,” with a serene singsong intonation.

I told Mom I was leaving to pick her other daughter up from the airport. I followed up to see Mom’s face light up when she saw her. She was reasonably alert and coherent through the morning but slept through the afternoon and into the evening. I told my sisters mornings were best for catching her most alert. She spoke that next morning and even ate a little. The hospice nurse told us it could be that day or the next. By midmorning she had already slipped into that twilight mode, a combination of the morphine controlling her pain and the progression of her illness. That afternoon my sisters and I were all in the room with her. We’d all already told her goodbye, thanked her for being our mom, and given her permission to leave us. She’d given little indication of consciousness for some time. We had a portable CD player by her bed with her collection of Elvis Presley hymns. I played her favorite “In the Garden.” The three of us laid our hands on Mom, and Mom’s eyebrows lifted. They lifted and fell and lifted but the impression was that they kept lifting. She lightly moaned, a sound that didn’t seem pained and might have been her trying to speak, but she was done with words and we didn’t need any words. I put the hymn on repeat. I’m sure we were all crying and telling her goodbye and that we loved her and telling her it was okay for her to go, but my main memory is of her eyebrows, that illusion of them perpetually lifting.

We all went down to the family room, all of us except her husband who rarely left her side, for a break. Final moments aren’t exceptionally important. Mom felt us all with her and whether she died one moment or the next she was leaving this world with all the love in her life, which is really how it always happens. (Really death isn’t a happening at all, that’s a limitation of language.) Although I told my sisters that would have been perfect timing, had the end of her life coincided with one of those twenty-some repeats of her favorite hymn.

I found in Mom’s journal, from when she had lung cancer way back when her grandchildren were just babies, where she wrote that she hoped she was able to die as bravely and with as much dignity as her father. I hope she didn’t feel burdened by that hope. I told her many times I didn’t want her to feel like she had to be brave for us, but I don’t know that that would have stopped her. That evening, her labored breathing ceased, the quiet waking my one sister, who called me and my other sister up. Her husband said a prayer over her and we all cried and told her we loved her in case she was still there to hear us. It was very peaceful and a lovely memory. We were so well prepared. She prepared us so well, our mother.

So, How Long?/Bitter and Sweet

I shared on facebook, the other day, a story acceptance with a print journal. I’ve never had one of my longer stories accepted by a literary journal, and I’ve been submitting for over fifteen years. I immediately thought, people who know me well or people who have lost a parent must have wondered how long after I got that acceptance it was before I thought of my mother. The answer is that it was no time at all. It was simultaneous.

I’m so used to getting those emails and opening them and finding a terse rejection that I’ve learned not to open them with any hope. So my emotions weren’t engaged. I opened it and when instead of the terse rejection I expected I found an almost-as-terse acceptance, her absence in my life immediately swept over me. I almost said, “Oh, Mom.”

(this won’t end sad, I promise.)

I should explain that my mom was very supportive of my choice to be a writer. (That makes me very lucky.) But as someone who loved someone who writes, she had much more experience with the disappointments involved than the joys. This is why writing is a lonely pursuit. Not because you’re alone while you write, because alone is the last thing you feel while you’re writing. Because the intrinsic joy you’re experiencing is difficult to share with anyone. The extrinsic disappointments, on the other hand, are difficult not to share and easily observable. There were times my mom was pretty clearly trying to move me off of writing being such a large part of my life. She never suggested I give it up but she wished I was more rounded, which might have been code for making writing a less obsessive hobby.

These last years she came around, though. When I was first looking at the house I have now, she always said how she loved the front porch. “I can just imagine you sitting there writing.” Last spring, she and her husband stopped off on one of their visits up to the Cleveland Clinic at six in the morning to drop something off and she found me there.

This publication, in some ways, would mean more to her even than it does to me. Over the last several years I’ve shifted my goals more and more to the intrinsic. Last fall, I made a push to submit a lot and, in part, that was because I hoped I’d be able to share I’d received an acceptance with her before she was gone. After seventeen years to come up a month shy could feel awfully bitter but it really hasn’t. The joy in it is still right there. The feeling that I’m able to share that joy with her is still right there.

((I haven’t heard back yet regarding the issue but the surest way to get a copy of the issue that will include my story is to purchase a subscription. I understand the amount of money is substantial and I wouldn’t want anyone to overstretch to buy one, but you can feel good about supporting a literary journal. Particularly this one because they are one of the few holdouts to the current trend in the industry of collecting payment from submitters, which means they need to find funding somewhere else and selling subscriptions is the way any literary journal would most want to be funded because sales means readers. The issue alone will be cheaper. I’ll have more details when I get them.))

This is the link to subscription information for REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters:

https://regardingartsandletters.wordpress.com/subscription-information-2/

Any links below are from wordpress

Tweedledum or Tweedledee for President

The title of this post is meant to seem topical but I’m actually sneaking in a history lesson I learned from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. In the close election of 2000 that came down to Florida, Ralph Nader ran as a third-party candidate. His platform was that voting Democrat or Republican was a choice between Tweedledum or Tweedledee. He had a fairly successful showing as a third party candidate. Analysis after the voting showed had he not run, Gore would have had the votes to win Florida. However they figure these things out, whatever the margin of error, they don’t guess. Nader’s position that both candidates from the two major political parties are working for the system, just to varying degrees, is a common feeling among the population and why Nader got so many votes and probably why so many Americans don’t vote at all.

I immediately recalled a passage from earlier in the book that I copied out on a note card:

To give people a choice between two different parties and allow them, in a point of rebellion, to choose the slightly more democratic one was an ingenious mode of control. Like so much in the American system, it was not devilishly contrived by some master plotters; it developed naturally out of the needs of the situation.

This election year it looks like we’ll have two choices again. After strong runs from candidates with “anti-establishment” platforms, we’re left with the “anti-establishment” Republican and the Democrat who beat her “anti-establishment” opponent. We’re also left with Never Trump’s on the Republican side and Never Hilary’s on the Democrat side.

There is a saying in baseball: “You’re going to win sixty and lose sixty, it’s what you do with the other games that makes you a good team or a bad one.”

That’s kind of true without saying anything. What if you play really well for those other games but, oops, lose forty of your sixty you were going to win? They say every election year that the undecided voters will swing the election based on what they decide. That’s also kind of true without saying anything. This year the election will be decided by how many of the Never Trump’s vote for Trump and how many of the Never Hilary’s vote for Hilary. Again, kind of true without saying anything.

If it’s accurate that the two party system is used as a mode of control, and Howard Zinn certainly made a great case for it being true all throughout American history, then I guess it’s cool Trump made it as the Republican nominee and I do think it’s cool how far Bernie made it. My question for the Tweedledee or Tweedledum contingent is, do we want this to be the election year we break out of that mode of control? By writing in Bernie or refusing to vote if Hilary or Trump is the only choice. Is that mode of control something we can realistically break out of through a single election?

If the two-party system developed naturally as a mode of control then it developed as a result of pressures and it’s those pressures that need addressed before the two-party system can be abandoned. Gary Johnson might have some great qualities that would make him a great president but most of us don’t know about them. He feels picked out of a hat. Clinton or Trump will be the next president. Voting for a third-party candidate is one path to fighting out of our two-party system but it’s not the only path and it, alone, won’t be effective. I would rather see people accept the two-party system for this election and then begin the next day campaigning for a way out of that system. This election is too important.

This election might be closer than anyone expects and what I’m hearing is people working really hard to hate Clinton enough to rationalize voting in Trump. I liken it to hiring someone for a job. You have their resumes and an interview process. Clinton’s resume includes being a senator and the Secretary of State, which is fourth in line for the presidency. Trump inherited a fortune and invested it in questionable business ventures, many of which failed, and starred on NBC’s The Apprentice. Their respective campaigns have been the interview process. Does anyone think Trump has been nailing his interview portion or Clinton failing hers enough to make up for that giant, very real gap in employment history?

Of course no one does. Trump’s supporters are people who will vote for him because of that resume which proves, to them, he won’t be “more of the same.” What will he be instead? How many of them are looking that far?

“Politics as usual” is another vague criticism we use. A criticism of a system clogged up by too many pressures to be fixed by plugging in one “anti-establishment” participant, even if placed at the highest position in the country. Clinton’s resume might make her seem like “more of the same,” but it also shows a track record of experience with diplomacy. Trump’s approach, his only play, which he’s consistently demonstrated through this interview process, to other people who don’t think exactly like him—basically everyone he’ll deal with as our primary representative to other countries—is to lash out. That might sound like toughness to unsophisticated voters who actually consider “closing our borders” an option in an age when borders are more and more an illusion, but it could bring us to the brink of war.

And unsophisticated isn’t an insult, I guess it’s an opinion, but voters who are hearing “Benghazi” and “emails” and deciding from those buzz words without any independent research that those words prove Clinton can’t be trusted and that Trump would be a better choice as our next president fit the description pretty well. We’re all relatively unsophisticated voters because we have hundreds of concerns beyond politics, which makes us easy to manipulate, but this election will be decided by the people still working hard to think Trump is okay enough to elect because of a hatred of Hilary Clinton that feels largely manufactured.

I haven’t even touched, yet, on the effect misogyny will have on this election but I will. For me, “I wouldn’t mind a woman president but not this woman,” is the new “I’m not racist but…” almost always followed by something racist. I’m not accusing anyone of blatant misogyny but anyone not admitting our history of misogyny is gumming up their decision making in this election would probably benefit from a little reflection on how a woman is being perceived by all of us for daring to want to be president. Ambition would never be quite the mark against her that it is if she weren’t a her.

In this book I’m reading about John Adams, John Adams, a political life was considered service to the country. Adams didn’t want to go to France as a diplomat but when he was sent he went. I admit that was a different time. After his presidency Adams returned to his farm and struggled to make a living. These days politicians acquire significant wealth. Yet we have to count what she has given as service. In this age, to be travelling the globe as Secretary of State, she assumed a great deal of risk. From my admittedly little research on Benghazi, she was one of many responsible people who failed to address security opportunities there before a terrorist attack. Probably everywhere could benefit from increased security in this age of terrorism, but beefing up security everywhere isn’t possible. We offer soldiers slack in incidents of fratricide because we recognize they’ve put themselves in tough situations at great risk to themselves and we honor that commitment to their country. I think it’s reasonable to put Hilary Clinton in that category. Certainly it’s unfair to put all our country’s foreign policy errors on her and use them to prop up a candidate whose personal history demonstrates he’s cared about little else than his own wealth and fame, for all his life.

I want to cover everything in one post so I can have my views expressed. Whatever I say or don’t say, the outcome will be the same. This is for my peace of mind, and I love everyone who’s read this far. Trump has said terrible things. He makes sometimes the oddest, almost surreal, attempts to backpedal on them without apologizing for them but they’re all real, they’re all his words. Maybe the oddest part about his debate performance was when he genuinely seemed hurt that Clinton attacked him in her ads. “I don’t deserve that,” he said at one point, but the “attack” ads I’ve seen are all just Clinton airing Trump’s words.

Running for president is viewed as a farce, to many. We think of politicians as people who just try to say, over the course of their lives, things that will make them electable. I get that. It’s glad-handing obnoxiousness, it feels insincere, but the opposite of that as the next leader of our country isn’t some guy who’s been on Howard Stern and talked, on air, about how disgusting overweight women are. We can imagine the glad-handing obnoxious woman who’s dared to want to be president, maybe most of her life, isn’t who she’s portraying herself to be, but it’s a much better bet that the obnoxious man who has spent his life trying to use his inherited wealth to accrue more wealth (and largely failed) at the expense of anyone and everyone under him, who is willing to insult anyone and everyone if it will win him a moment’s air time on TV, who is playing to the unsophisticated faction of the country who imagine walls and xenophobia are easy answers, is exactly who he’s been all along.

It would feel pessimistic to end this post with Trump being the reason I’m voting for Clinton, though he’s more than reason enough, in my mind. I’m not a huge Hilary Clinton proponent. I expect the only president I will ever admire and want to have a beer with is about to step down after his two terms. But I think Hilary Clinton will make a good president. I think she will emulate her successor more than her husband. I think she wants to be a good president more than she’s arrogant and simply expects to be a good one. She cares what everyone thinks of her, which is a quality we want our president to have. She doesn’t just support The Affordable Care Act but plans to improve it. I could write a whole blog about how the idea we can keep getting by without a single-payer health care system is a lie perpetrated by the people who reap huge profits by our lack of one, while the sick can’t receive proper healthcare and so, sometimes, die. (I actually already did write that blog.)

She has experience and she’s learned from her experience. She has reasonable potential to be a good president. She’s not a bad choice just like the other, no matter how hard anyone works to view her that way.

Pre-Grief

Is pre-grief a thing? My sisters and I wondered this many times over the last year plus. We weren’t always sleeping well. We were stressed out; at times, unhappy. I would tell them we were pre-grieving, we were beginning the work that would lead to our acceptance of our mother’s death and her return to us in memory. Then I would realize I was guessing. Maybe the actual event of her death would bring that same acute pain of grief we remembered from our father’s death.

Probably too soon to tell but dreams are a great insight into how you’re feeling. My one sister and I both had recurring dreams of our father, corpse-like, wandering around and seeming not to know he had died. In one of mine, someone down the road was shooting off fireworks. My dad and I got into his truck to drive down to watch. I turned to him in the passenger seat and had to break it to him. “Dad, you can’t go. You’re dead.”

I wasn’t telling him, I was telling me.

I only cried once over my mom in pre-grief, after watching Inside Out, but I cried a lot after she died. I cried but I slept pretty well. I ate fine. I had my normal appetite, which I didn’t have after my dad died. Three nights in a row I’ve dreamed of my mom. She is her usual, cheerful, helpful self in my dreams. She had an opportunity my dad didn’t have to prepare to die, to prepare her loved ones for her death, and to say and hug us goodbye. She had that opportunity but she chose to use it and she gets the lion’s share of the credit (i.e., all of the credit) for any early peace we’re experiencing at her loss.

Love You Mom!

Mother died today. Or it might have been yesterday. I only don’t know because right now I’m enjoying morning coffee with her while she receives therapy from one of her Hospice nurses. I’m preparing this blog ahead of time linking some of the blog posts I’ve made over the many months since her diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. Months we’ve managed, following her lead, to make the most of. Sharing her through my writing is likely to be my path through grief.

I’ll link them short to long. If you feel like reading any, please do. I’m grateful for your thoughts, your comments, and your time.

1. Compiling A Reading List I Hope not to get to soon

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/compiling-a-rereading-list-i-hope-not-to-get-to-soon/

2. Awakenings

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/awakenings/

3. Dreaming of A Living Funeral

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/dreaming-of-a-living-funeral/

4. Bulk Popcorn

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/bulk-popcorn/

5. Hearts Connected by String

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/hearts-connected-by-string/

7. Integrating Sadness and Joy:

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/integrating-sadness-and-joy/

8. Scan Day:

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/scan-day/

9. Keeping An Eye on Her Grandchildren

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/keeping-an-eye-on-grandchildren/

10. This post I wrote about my father four years after he died:

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/four-years-today-thank-you-for-reading/

11. My Mother’s Simons:

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/my-mothers-simons/

12. Yahtzee:

https://myfreesentences.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/yahtzee/

Approaching the End

One of the nurses dropped off a pamphlet describing end of life. A succinct and informative, quick read, first published in the eighties, apparently widely circulated by hospice workers. “One’s” was used repeatedly as possessive, as in “one’s body.” I told my mom who has a knack for finding errors like that and enjoys pointing them out. She always says, “I don’t mind the mistake, I mind when the mistake isn’t corrected.”

“Shouldn’t it be ‘ones’ for the possessive?” I said. “‘One’s body’ would never be correct.”

She has that faraway look about her, that looking past you look the pamphlet describes and tells you not to take personally when someone you love looks at you like that. She made an oh sound that didn’t seem attached to anything I was saying, but I kept going. “Hard to believe as widely as this pamphlet must get distributed that no one’s caught that mistake.”

“There,” she said.

“What?”

“There, you just said it. That’s when ‘one’s’ would have an apostrophe.”

The one’s in ‘No one’s caught that mistake,’ she meant. That’s my mom.

Between a lifetime of love and guidance from a loved one and that person’s death there is a space of time where that person seems to be slipping. That sage guide is halfway out of your life, already. This can trigger pre-grief. Mom asked why my older sister took her sandwich and ate it. There was no sandwich. We just took it as her way of telling us she wanted to eat and got her ice cream.

We can choose to look sadly at each other about losing our smart, thoughtful, insightful, wonderful, kind mother, a little, already, or we can enjoy these last moments with her still here. What is pre-grief? It’s like the pre-release of a book. It makes no sense. We’ll grieve for her after she’s gone. These slips leading up we can focus on as signs of her inevitable departure or we can cherish as a part of our experience with her.

This morning I said good morning to her.
Good morning.
Anything you need, Mom?
I need a hug.
You got it, Mom.
Anything else?
Water.
You got it, Mom.
Anything else?
I still need that hug.
You got it, Mom.
Anything else?
I could do this all day long.